Now we can all rest assured. Iran’s nuclear weapons program has “stumbled badly” and is “beset by poorly performing equipment, shortages of parts and other woes,” the Washington Post proclaimed on Tuesday.
An alleged joint U.S.-Israeli cyber attack known as Stuxnet and other problems have taken “a mounting toll” on Iran’s nuclear centrifuge program that could “hurt Iran’s ability to break out quickly” into the ranks of the world’s nuclear powers,” the Post concluded.
In other words, it’s “peace in our time” when it comes to Iran. Obama’s policy of pressure and incentives (the old “carrots and sticks” approach) is working. We can all go home, pop open a good bottle, and relax.
In case you were wondering about his “administration” sources, the author of this good news story, Joby Warrick, jetted off to Libya with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as his story appeared on the front page of Post’s printed edition on Tuesday. Pravda has spoken.
To give his fairy tale the “audacity of hope,” Warrick cited two just-released reports by David Albright, who briefly worked as an on-site inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Citing fragmentary evidence gathered by IAEA inspectors in Iran, Albright extrapolated graphs for the production of low-enriched uranium (LEU) at Iran’s primary enrichment plant at Natanz, which many analysts believe was hit by the Stuxnet virus in the fall of 2009.
While overall production of LEU appeared to have remained stable, there appears to have been an abrupt drop over the summer. Albright attributes this to problems Iran is having with acquiring centrifuge production materials, and to the lingering impact of Stuxnet. “Without question, they have been set back,” he told the Post.
But at the same time, the IAEA data shows that Iran has actually increased significantly the number of centrifuges that are actively spinning. So if their setbacks are temporary, they quite feasibly could dramatically increase their production in the very near future. That is just the opposite of what the Washington Post wants you to believe.
Albright has a history of downplaying the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, and tried to get Rep. Sylvester Reyes (D, Tx) to call back a report by the Republican staff of the House intelligence committee in 2007 once he took over as committee chairman.
The report warned that the IAEA and the U.S. intelligence community were downplaying the seriousness of Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts, in particular, its successful procurement of centrifuge gear from Pakistani nuclear weapons guru A. Q. Khan, as I described on this website at the time.
The HPSCI report criticized then IAEA Secretary General Mohamad ElBaradei for firing chief inspector Christophe Charlier, a U.S. nuclear weapons expert, for raising concerns about Iranian deception. Albright defended ElBaradei for firing the Charlier and called on HPSCI to recall the report.
In a parallel report, released on Monday, Albright claimed that Iran appears to have abandoned using imported maraging steel to make the bellows of its new, more efficient uranium enrichment centrifuge design. Instead, they are using carbon fiber, a material Iran claims to be manufacturing locally.
There are several possible explanations for the shift. Albright says the most likely is that U.S. and international “sanctions may have forced Iran into choosing a less desirable technical centrifuge design.”
In fact, according to design information Iran provided the IAEA, Iran always intended to use carbon fiber for the bellows and rotors of its newer, more efficient IR-2 centrifuges, and is not resorting to a cheap substitute because of sanctions.
A fellow left-leaning analyst writing the “arms control wonk” website pointed out four years ago that Iran’s IR-2 (also known as P-2) centrifuges would be using carbon fiber, not maraging steel.
Despite this evidence, Albright concluded, “Constraints on Iran’s advanced centrifuge program have resulted directly from the effectiveness of targeted sanctions against critical goods necessary for the manufacture of centrifuge components.” That certainly warranted a front-page story in Tuesday’s Washington Post, since it gave the key to the “Peace in Our Time” theme that ran throughout.
But Warrick went even further by tying the apparent (and I believe, unsubstantiated) setbacks in Iran’s nuclear programs to the apparent stumble-bunnie plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, DC.
‘“We’re used to seeing them do bad things, but this plot was so bizarre, it could be a sign of desperation, a reflection of the fact that they’re feeling under siege,” said [an Obama administration] official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so he could discuss the matter candidly,” Warrick reported.
In other words, this attempted act of terror was not an act of war; it was the act of a desperate man that can be safely ignored.
To further enhance the impression that we have nothing to worry about, Warrick then hauled out a real whopper:
“U.S. officials have said that the alleged assassination plot originated from elements within Iran’s elite Quds Force, a covert paramilitary group. But it is not clear whether the nation’s top leaders knew about or approved the plan,” he wrote (emphasis mine).
Now the indictment states clearly that Gen. Qassem Suleymani, the head of the Quds Force, approved the plot. The Quds Force is the overseas expeditionary wing of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, the IRGC, and takes its orders directly from Supreme leader ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Gen. Suleymani is a close confidant of Khamenei. What more “top” leader could possible have approved such a plot?
The Obama White House believes that Khamenei feels trapped, and they are trying to give him some wiggle room. They argue that he is fighting for his political life against Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani, both of whom would like to unseat him, and that he doesn’t have a direct line to Washington so he can arrange a Kumbaya moment with our president.
So what we are getting is excuses for the Iranian regime’s murderous impulses. Next perhaps will be, “the devil made him do it.”
The IAEA has already told us that Iran has cold-tested the components of a workable nuclear weapons design. Forget this nonsense about some illusory “setback” to their program. All clandestine nuclear weapons programs, including our own in the 1940s, have had their setbacks. Our biggest worry should be the upcoming nuclear weapons test Iran is planning to conduct with North Korea, especially if they focus on a smaller yield but potent EMP warhead.
Peace in our time? Sure, we’ve seen that film before, and we ought to know how it ends.