The International Atomic Energy Agency is calling Iran and Syria out for their secret nuclear activities, specifically warning of Iranian work on nuclear warheads. The incriminating reports may pave the way for additional sanctions on the two rogue states that will, hopefully, delay Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb.
The IAEA says it has notified Iran that it has reason to believe its nuclear program has “possible military dimensions,” a phrase used to describe nuclear weapons. The agency says it has received new information showing secret activity since 2004 and as recently as 2010. The information is “related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” specifically the Shahab-3. This is the same missile that the regime has displayed in parades, accompanied with the words, “Israel Must Be Wiped Off the Map.”
The IAEA points out that Iran declared that it produced 3.6 metric tons of low-enriched uranium since 2007, but the real amount is 4.1 tons. This undeclared amount is enough for two nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the agency concluded that “Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” in 2009. The agency is demanding that Iran fully cooperate by opening up all suspected nuclear sites for inspection and allowing full access to technology and personnel.
The report comes as far-left reporter Seymour Hersh writes that there is no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear bomb. The Obama White House reacted with a “collective eye roll.” One senior administration official said, “[all] you need to read to be deeply concerned about Iran’s nuclear program is the substantial body of information already in the public domain, including the most recent IAEA report.”
Indeed, to assume that Iran is innocent in its “energy program” is to give it an undeserved benefit of the doubt to the utmost extreme. It has pursued nuclear activity despite severe international pressure. In November 2009, Iran even announced plans to build 10 more enrichment sites. It has refused to agree to reasonable deals to have its uranium enriched outside of Iran, choosing to instead endure sanctions. The scope of the program “far exceeds what’s needed to turn on the lights, but it’s also beyond what’s needed for a basic nuclear weapons program.”
In September 2009, the U.S., U.K. and France exposed the existence of a secret enrichment site inside a mountain in Qom under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. The site is designed to store 3,000 centrifuges, far less than what is necessary for a domestic energy program but enough to make the fuel for a nuclear bomb annually. In November, testimony aired of an alleged nuclear scientist kidnapped by the militant Jundullah group. The scientist said he worked for three years at another secret enrichment site 15 kilometers southeast of the Isfahan uranium conversion site. He boosted his credibility by giving away the names of other scientists and engineers and saying where they live.
Statements made by those tied to the regime also indicate it has weapons in mind. A top advisor to the Defense Minister wrote last year that “If the United States launches an unconventional attack, Iran needs to respond with a nuclear strategy.” Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, the spiritual guide to Ahmadinejad, has written that Iran needs to acquire the “special weapons” that only a few countries possess, an obvious reference to nuclear weapons. A top cleric in Qom said in 2006, “for the first time…the use of nuclear weapons may not constitute a problem, according to Sharia.” Ahmadinejad himself did not rule out building nuclear weapons if deemed necessary in an interview with a reporter in 2009.
Reza Kahlili, who spied for the CIA when he was a member of the Revolutionary Guards, is reporting that Iran has already constructed nuclear-capable warheads. Two of these have already been delivered to the Revolutionary Guards, and have a range of 2,000 miles. It is alleged that the designs came from the Ukraine, and the technology came from Pakistan and China. Eight more nuclear-capable warheads are to be received by the Revolutionary Guards over the coming 10 months, and at least two will be fitted with actual nukes by March 2012.
Syria is also likely to feel more heat from the international community over its nuclear activities, specifically in relation to a suspected nuclear site bombed by the Israelis in 2007 only three weeks before it became operational. The Assad regime has denied that it had any ill purposes. The IAEA has just concluded “that the destroyed building was very likely a nuclear reactor and should have been declared by Syria.” The IAEA has repeatedly complained that Syria has denied access to the site and three other suspected nuclear facilities, and has been uncooperative overall since June 2008.
The destroyed site looked very familiar to North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, and is thought to have been designed to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for one to two nuclear bombs per year. The Syrians quickly removed the debris, built over the site, and cleaned-up two other connected sites. A high-level Iranian defector claims that Iran paid the North Koreans $1-2 billion to build the site. It has also been reported that Syria received 45 tons of North Korean yellowcake in 2007. Satellite photos have identified other facilities connected to the reactor, including one hidden site in Masyaf, which happens to be one of the spots that Iraqi WMD was reported to have been shipped to.
The IAEA’s report on Syria means the Assad regime is in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Syria now says it will fully cooperate, but Secretary of State Clinton is calling for a stronger international response to the regime’s violence against its people. It is unlikely that the U.S. will miss this opportunity to push for international punishment on Syria.
The IAEA’s findings should remove any doubt that Iran seeks to, at the very least, achieve the ability to produce and use nuclear weapons. It is unclear if Syria is still seeking nuclear weapons since the Israeli attack, but it is unthinkable that the Iranian regime would not share its technology with its best ally. If the IAEA’s reports don’t force international action, then it is frightening to think how far Iran and Syria will go with impunity.