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Iran is busy building facilities deep underground to hide what it is doing and to better protect them. It has refused unrestricted inspections by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose recent reports have raised alarming concerns about Iran’s nuclear weaponization ambitions.
“The Agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” the IAEA said in its latest quarterly report about Iran’s atomic activities.
At Natanz, the IAEA report said 52 cascades – each containing around 170 centrifuges – were now operating, up from 37 in November. At Fordow, Iran’s underground facility, almost 700 centrifuges are now refining uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent and preparations are under way to install many more, the IAEA report concluded. Iran had now produced nearly 110 kg of uranium enriched to 20 percent since early 2010, according to the IAEA report.
Back in September 2011, the IAEA reported that it was “increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations.” These included “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”
In May 2011, the IAEA said it had evidence that Tehran has conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts say could be used for only one purpose, namely to set off a nuclear weapon.
President Obama is obviously aware of these facts. Yet he appears to ignore them. He has not insisted on even one confidence builder from Iran first, such as allowing the UN inspectors to examine all of its enrichment sites without restriction, before agreeing to more time-consuming, fruitless negotiations.
Even the logistics of setting up the talks will eat more time, all to Iran’s advantage. First, there will have to be preliminary discussions between European and Iranian diplomats to decide on details such as the location of the talks. That could take at least two weeks to complete. Then there will not be any formal negotiations begun before the New Year holiday in Iran this month, which pushes the starting date for the formal negotiations until the beginning of April at the earliest. And it goes on from there. During all this time, Obama will be trumpeting the opening of his “window of opportunity” for diplomacy to work.
While the window remains open we can virtually hear precious time ticking away and the whirring sound of Iran’s centrifuges.
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