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June 26, 2004

This is my fate they are talking about
Hossein Derakhshan  [info|posts]

quiet zoneIn his latest report, Seymor Hersh of the New Yorker suggests the strong possibility of either an American or Israeli attack to Iran's nuclear facilities. Both CIA and Israeli intelligence officials, Hersh writes, have little doubt that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, there has only been one voice coming out of Iran and it only belongs to those who have already decided to develop nukes. But the key question that can really affect what the world would take into account in respect to its approach to this issue is missing: What does Iranian public think of achieving nuclear weaponry?

Depending on how you ask this question, Iranians inside or outside Iran may answer in different ways. True that Shah of Iran had the same ambitious plans and people have been generally supporting the idea of a strong and technologically advanced military ? it may embody the old spirit of the Great Persian Empire, as Joe Katzman once suggested, however, the answer to a yes-or-no question on having nuclear weapons, can not represent the real attitude of Iranians towards it.

The right question, which has rarely been asked, is that whether Iranian people would like nuclear weapons in the hands of hard-line Revolutionary Guards who have recently shown their great appetite to control every aspect of the political power in Iran. (Last month they aggressively shut down the International Airport on the same day it was opened, and they captured the British sailors and paraded them blindfolded in front of their TV station, Al-Alam, last week.)

Whereas the National Security Council has effectively prevented Iranian media from any form of debate, Iranian expatriates all around the world have failed to discuss the issue, themselves. Thus the world would not be wrong to take this silence as a sign of the nation's satisfaction with the direction the Iranian regime is going ? or in fact, rushing.

The entire world is participating in the debate about the fate of Iranian nukes and the only voice missing is in fact the most important one: What Iranian people think about it. This is where we, as Iranian expatriates, should quickly and aggressively take action.

Creamus at June 26, 2004 03:53 PM [permalink]:

I really really doubt that Iranians are anywhere close to making a Nuke. I'm sure the government wants to finish the Bushehr nuclear powerplant project after all these years of effort and investment, but having a German-French-Russian-Built powerplant does not mean Iran will get a nuke soon.

I remember the explicit words of Dr. Mansoori of Physics department of Sharif University of Technology, when he said all the nuke carry on is propaganda made by the government to (1) exaggerate their technological achievements and get a point in their 25 year old career (2) scare off potential enemies (3) use the nuke thing as an Ace in international negotiations and politics. Dr Mansoori explicitly said Iran is nowhere close to any of the technologies required for production of an atomic bomb.

I can believe his words more than what people like Safavi or some ayatollahs say. It's not strange to see the gov using the nuke issue as an Ace, but if they go too far in lying then they might experience American or Israeli attacks.

Cough Medicine at June 26, 2004 04:03 PM [permalink]:

The whole nuke issue is something made up by parts of the US government (CIA?) and the Israelis, exactly in the same way the made up those stories about Iraq having the huge collection of WMDs, and took America with all his might into war with the bankrupt iraqi government and their scattered army (Saddam's army in its golden ages tried hard for 8 damned years but could not do anything against the largely unorganized Iranian military).

The Bush admin and Sharon's government LIVE on the fear culture, as do the Iranian fundamentalists. They point to an imaginary "nuke" to make excuse for what they do, exactly the same way Khamenei points at an imaginary "Doshman" to justify what his gang do.

There is no nuke guys, the Iranian hardliners dream about it, but they won't see it in their life time.

James at June 26, 2004 06:39 PM [permalink]:

Anyone who thinks the issue of nukes in Iran is made up is not following what's been going on and is either kidding themselves, very naive, or has something else going on that leads them to make such a statement, and I would include Dr. Mansoori in this.

First, the Pakistanis have admitted to helping the Libyans, the North Koreans and Iran with the development of their nuclear programs. Let us assume that they were all helped equally, in which case they all have plans to develop nuclear bombs the only difference is who has access to enriched nuclear materials. Uranium is indigenous to North Korea, and while it's not proven (only a full test of nuclear device would prove any nation having one) that the Koreans have such a device it's very strongly believed they do. Anything the North Koreans can do I am quite confident the Iranians can do. The difference here is that Uranium is not to be found naturally in Iran. Bottom line, when it comes to making a functional bomb all you need is some good engineers, which Iran has many of, and the materials; it's not that difficult a thing to do (not that it's that easy, either, but again, if NK can do it who'd kid themselves that Iran can't?)

I'd also hazard to say that it's very clear that the Iranian government (IG) is not just interested in developing a home grown nuclear energy program. They can do that now, there are nations, Russia and France top the list, that would love to sell them the processed fuel they would need to start up a program. The IG has instead focused on developing its own processing facilities by which they can enrich Uranium to use as a fuel, but moving from fuel to weapons grade material is easy enough, you just need special centrifuges and many of them and apparently Iran has moved to get these. If the IG were interested in having just reactor grade fuel it would have had it by now --- though with the understanding that should it go to this they would subject themselves to Israeli attack.

So I think that the IG has the capability to build a bomb, it merely lacks the material. If it had the weapons grade fuel it would not take them long to actually construct a bomb.

The IG is playing games with the IAEA. If it doesn't want to build a bomb then it should be totally open about what it's doing and demonstrate that it's not working on a bomb. Unfortunately the IG has been consistently duplicitous regarding what it's up to and what's most bothersome about this is that it hasn't even been especially clever about how it lied. Did someone in the IG really think that the IAEA wouldn't be able to determine the pedigree of the fuel they found traces of? Anyway, the IG is hiding something or certainly doing an excellent job of making it seem so.

Sohrab SH at June 26, 2004 08:07 PM [permalink]:

Firstly as an Iranian citizen I am totally against spending of national wealth on developing an atomic bomb. Secondly the amount of nonsense and rumors that goes around the globe about "Iran's technological advancement in nuclear technology" is unbelievable, and surprisingly people like James 100% believe in them. Most of the news about Iran's nuclear capability is made up for political reasons. I'm sure the Iranian government or part of it would love to get their hands on a nuke, but they can't even finish the nuclear power station without the help of the russians (and that's A LOT of Russian help). If Pakestan has helped Iran, Libya and N. Korea equally, then where is the result? James claims (with no evidence) that N Korea has got nukes but doesnt want to test. Libya - that has recently become a polite boy - apparently had developed nothing, maybe some stuff purchased from outside but no "scientific" progress. Why should Iran be 1 year or so away from producing its own bomb?

The reason Iran plays with the IAEA is that they like to use this nuke issue as a winning card in their political deals. This is one of the very few strong cards left in the hands of Iranians when they sit on the table with others. It's like a fear shiled that is protecting the government now. If the world makes sure that Iran has got no nukes, then the Iranian government is basically F-worded.

Ali Mostashari at June 26, 2004 09:17 PM [permalink]:

I think this is an important issue and it requires a lot of thought. I published a paper in the Iran Analysis Quarterly last year on the issue. People may find it of interest.

James at June 26, 2004 10:51 PM [permalink]:

The reason I believe that Iran and North Korea have bombs is not due to an inclination to being duped, or any malice towards Iran, but simply because a bomb is not that difficult to construct for a country determined to do so. A functional, SAFE and sustainable nuclear reactor is indeed difficult to build, and expensive to build as well.

The question is, is a bomb in the interest of the Iranian government? I leave that to the IG to say, but there's ample evidence to indicate that the IG has been determinedly deceptive about its nuclear endeavors and for no apparently good reason other than that it points to the IG being up to something that it prefers not to share with the rest of the world, i.e. building nuclear weapons. Might it be a smoke screen? Possibly, but why bother? Of course this all becomes a guessing game, bottom line I believe it's possible and likely that the IG is working on a bomb for one very good reason: Like North Korea they believe it'd be a deterent to American invasion.

If anyone would like references for Pakistan's involvement in the Iranian efforts I should think they'd not be hard to find by Googling for them. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and his Kahuta Research Laboratory in Pakistan, and the Pakistani government, have admitted to helping North Korea, Libya and Iran. Libya has given up its nuclear efforts in hopes of coming to terms with the rest of the world, North Korea still moves forward with its efforts, using the bomb as a bargaining chip, and only the IG knows what it's going to do with what it got.

The point about North Korea not testing a bomb is a good one, it certainly does leave everyone in doubt as to what they the country does or doesn't have. What we do know is that the Pakistanis have admitted to helping North Korea in its nuclear efforts, that there are many reports of there being a bomb, and that in the long term it serves the government in power to have such a bomb, all of which applies to the IG.

James at June 26, 2004 11:16 PM [permalink]:

Ali Mostashari's article is a good one inasmuch as it does address many, if not all, of the issues surrounding the reasons for or against a development program for the bomb in Iran. It was also written before the revelations out of Pakistan regarding the assistance provided to Iran in developing its nuclear program.

What it boils down to is no one presently has evidence of a bomb development program in Iran. IMHO there's every reason to believe that developing such a weapon is well within the capabilities of the Iranian government and there are good reasons to believe that such a program does exist. Until such time as Iran detonates a nuclear weapon, or otherwise comes forward and says it has a program, we're all speculating. Who would have believed that the Pakistanis would have come to the bomb on their own? Of course they had added impetus to do so from their neighbor to the south, but the case here, too, is if the Pakistanis can do it, why not the Iranians, especially after obtaining help from the Pakis?

Seeker at June 27, 2004 04:03 AM [permalink]:


I just have a question for James.
How do you know that it is so easy to make nuclear bobms?
Is your education in nuclear physics or nuclear engineering?
To make a full blown atomic bomb you need extremely good engineers(not just good ones) and a lot of good nuclear physicists .
I doubt if Iran has this much man power in this area.
However,I would think differently if your(James) area of expertis is nuclear physics.
These things are just laughable to me since I hear that Isreal has horrible amount of nuclear weapons and no one really says anything about it.
Dont get me arong, I am against nuclear weapons in any form and in ANY nation. Be it Iran,US or Isreal.
James,please prove me wrong.

James at June 27, 2004 09:55 AM [permalink]:

First the discussion isnít about Israel. Like you Iím not in favor of Israel, or any other nation, having the bomb, but for reasons similar to Israel I can see why Iranís government would be inclined to develop a bomb.

I am not a nuclear physicist. I have followed nuclear issues as a non-physicist for some time. Information for building a bomb has been easy to obtain, and itís especially easy to get when someone whoís developed such a weapon is spoon feeding you information. I also know that a uranium bomb is far easier to build than a plutonium weapon which requires very sophisticated configurations and detonation arrangements. The Americanís didnít have to detonate their uranium a-bomb to prove it worked, they were concerned with the plutonium bomb which was the one tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico; the uranium bomb was tested over Hiroshima. For an interesting read on how nuclear weapons are made Iíd recommend the highly readable ďThe Curve of Binding EnergyĒ by John McPhee. McPheeís book was written before the internet, and since then thereís been a great deal of information generally available on how such weapons are built --- post 9/11 my guess is that this is not apt to be nearly as true, but then itís a matter of money, which the Iranian government (IG) has enough of.

The Iranian government has had a close relationship with Pakistan on nuclear issues, and what Iran didnít have internally it could readily buy from the Pakis. I have little doubt that sufficient indigenous talent exists in Iran, with the help of the Pakis, to build a bomb.

This issue isnít one where you have to be a physicist, nuclear or otherwise, to have a sense of whatís going on. The fundamental issue is, is this possible? Yes, it is, the Pakis did it, the South Africans did it, there are strong indications that the North Koreans have done it (using uranium), and thereís every reason to believe that building a bomb is well within the capabilities of the IG given what itís willing to spend and how paranoid itís feeling.

Dashetoon at June 27, 2004 02:21 PM [permalink]:

A'sin-o-valaam Seeker khan,

Avalandesh, there is just one Israel and there millions of Arabs around them, that idiots like you and your regime die to be considered as one. After all, your regime tried to join the Arab League like a handful of khaayeh-maals, forgetting that the bloody UAE is dying to take away from us our islands and they keep calling our Persian Gulf: the Arab Gulf.


Against whom the Islamic Regime wants to use this weapon? Your Mr. Rafsanjani has explicilty said that he would not mind that 15 milion Iranians get killed but to have Israel vanished, so it is clear that Mr. Shark and Ali Chollagh both of them are after Nuclear weapons.

So, they are not seeking peaceful objectives and they have said that, by the way seeker as a name suits you because you idiots seek the blood, money, and life of Iranian people and you are not interested in governing but in ruling and if you are truly after alternative means of energy you knoow that Nuclear energy is not necessarily the best one!

So go and talk to your Mr. Janati and the Council of Amro-aas to be happy about your Pride that is Islamic and not IRANIAN!

Feeteeleeyeh Cheraaghetooneem,

Daash YaghoobYazid Ghassaab Nasi Abadi

FToI Editorial Board at June 27, 2004 05:22 PM [permalink]:


Please respect the comment policy. Abuse of offensive language can get you permanently banned from commenting.

James at June 27, 2004 05:49 PM [permalink]:

For those interested souls, and for those needing confirmation from a nuclear bomb maker that making a bomb isn't all that difficult, I strongly recommend visiting The Curve of Binding Energy, which is at John McPhee's web site. I believe that in the blurb for the book you'll find confirmation from an expert that making a bomb is not considered to be that challenging if you have the constituent parts; getting the necessary uranium, which Iran is in the midst of doing, and engineering the
components, which is well within the capabilities of a country such as Iran, is
all that it takes.

Shiraz Wine at June 27, 2004 07:20 PM [permalink]:

The Pakestan government has had close ties with the Americans for a long time. If the information and technical expertese that has leaked from Pakestan to Iran was enough to put Iran in the right path to get an A-bomb, I'm sure all the suspicious locations would have been bombed by the US in the past 10 years. I cannot accept that "key" Pakestani scientists can act freely, travel freely and teach freely in the axis of evil without their government and CIA watching them. These people are not anonymous, they are very well known especially by intelligence services.

A few months ago the key scientist who was suspected of giving information to Iran was "pardoned" by General Mosharaf's government. What does it mean? It only means the amount of information he has given away was "OK".

James, if making an A-bomb was as easy as you claim, N Korea and Iraq would have developed it "LONG" time ago. Saddam's Iraq had enough time and motivation to restart and bring to fruition its plans for the easy-to-make nuke after their energy facilities were bombed by israel. N Korea has never been bombed and as you said Uranium is indigenous to their land. The dictator governments in both countries were hungry for such a weapon and had enough money and brain and connections.

As a conclusion, I would say the US knows almost exactly what Iran knows through their strong Pakestani link, but they pretend they don't know the details and use their made-up theory as a pressure mechanism on the Iranian government when they want to. Iranians also use these rumors as a bargain chip, and just to confuse even more, idiots like Rafsanjani sometimes make claims bigger than their mouth. That's the habit of mullas when their stomach is full of chicken and kebab.

Yaghoob Yazid at June 27, 2004 08:37 PM [permalink]:

Kheili baahaas bebahkhsheed! I apologize from everybody.

James at June 27, 2004 08:51 PM [permalink]:

Shiraz, I'm sorry to say that your sense of geopolitics is a bit out of sorts.

First, the American government had in fact gone to great lengths to discourage Pakistan from building a bomb. Discouraging it doesn't include having any reason to bomb it --- for as much as you may think this is how the U.S. government works that's not how it pans out. Had the U.S. govt a sense of a threat from a Pakistani bomb I'm sure something along the lines of a bombing would have occurred; Pakistan's a-bomb is for its neighbor to the south and I don't think anyone that has followed this issue would question that.

You can't accept what the Pakistani government has pointedly admitted has in fact happened, what can I say? As far as the CIA being omniscient, like it was in Iraq, well what can I say? That the Libyans are tying Pakistan to equipment and knowledge transfers to the North Koreans and Iran, and the Iranians admit that the centrifuges they now have are from Pakistan, well surely that all counts for nothing; c'est la vie.

The Paki scientist was pardoned indeed. Why? He's a national hero, a hero of the people, all for making Pakistan the first Muslim nuclear state. Mosharaf would have gotten what, exactly, if he took this man to task? Sure the information given out, along with the centrifuges, was ok ---what is gained by making it anything else?

You're also not following what I have been saying. Making the bomb, specifically a uranium bomb, is not that difficult. Getting the uranium necessary, of the right purity, IS. That is why the countries in question have focused a great deal on centrifuges. Now as to the issue of whether it's easy to construct a bomb or not, I again refer you to McPhee's book which deals with Dr. Theordore Taylor, an American nuclear weapons expert. Here's a piece from the page I provided which you apparently didn't have time to look at:

"For many years now, Taylor has spent most of his time trying to effect improvements in the protection of certain nuclear materials that could be stolen or "diverted" from companies that handle nuclear fuel. Uranium-235 and plutonium-239--the materials that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki--are now privately owned in quantities sufficient for the making of many thousands of bombs, and these amounts will prodigiously increase as the nuclear-power industry grows. So much declassified information is available that the fabrication of a homemade atomic bomb would be, in Taylor's view, relatively easy. A bomb could, in fact, be made by one person working alone."

The issue, plain and simple, is getting the right kind of fuel, which on the whole is not an easy thing to do.

I have no clue what the American govt knows, or what the Pakistani govt shared, all of that's not the point. The issue is what is the likelihood that the Iranians are working on a bomb? On a scale of 0 to 100% likelihood I'd say that the odds are to the right, and I'd go with 75% at least. Making the bomb is imminently doable for any nation-state with sufficient money and talented denizens, and especially if it's being helped by a country that in fact did make a bomb and the nation state in question feels a compulsion to develop such a device --- given all that, plus the paranoia of the mullahs, I'd say that the odds are clearly in favor of Iran's working on a nuclear weapon.

Jon at June 28, 2004 01:10 PM [permalink]:

For sure the Iranians have the where with all to make nukes and they will do it. I suggest that the CAI or Mossad engineer a nuclear 'accident'. This would have too good effects, it would stop the program and the outcry, if it was bad enough, may remove those religious fanatics running the country. Or rather should I say ruining.

Mohammad at June 28, 2004 01:13 PM [permalink]:

Some simple questions:

1. If the cost for producing a kilowat/hour of nuclear electricity is respectively 4 to 6 times of oil or natural gas produced electricity, how do you justify its production?
2. If you are looking for a substitute for fossil fuels, why don't you invest in solar and wind generated electricity? The side effects environmentally are far more tolerable and both are abundant resources in Iran.
3. If you are looking for some kind of crackpot "national project", why not invest to something useful like combatting the spread of deserts in central Iran? Or just investing more in commercially viable R&D?
4. Why develop medium range ballistic missiles which are just good for delivering weapons of mass destruction? Remember that due to their lack of accuracy, Iran's ballistic missiles would not act as a good weapon for delivering conventional war heads.
5. All of the above, plus the nasty international fall out that we are facing in the foreign relations, leads one to believe that Iran is pursuing nuclear technology for really suspicious ends.
6. By the way, Israel is conspiciously not a signatory of non-proliferation treaties. Iran is.

James at June 28, 2004 01:39 PM [permalink]:

Whhoooa ... Mohammad's questions (specifically 1 & 2) regarding energy alternatives are not only excellent for Iran, but totally, totally excellent for the U.S. and any other country that already has nuclear power. I'm a huge believer that we should be investing far more in renewable energy, and for those interested I'd recommend dropping in at my poor blog at James @ MindSay and scrolling down to the entry for the 25th of June. Wind energy should be more commonly used throughout the world, and here there's no question that the small percentage that we do have here is ridiculous given the potential that could be harvested.

Mohammad's point regarding why Iran would be pursuing nuclear energy certainly adds to the suspicion regarding why in the world Iran would want to go this route given the cost, the problems and the potential risks involved. Renewable sources of energy make much more sense, so this adds to my concluding there being a 75% chance or better that Iran is in fact pursuing weapons.

As for Israel --- there's clearly a double standard with regard to the Israelis. Maybe one day someone will figure out how to rectify this and the rest of the mess that's associated with that country and its neighbors.

Shiraz Wine at June 28, 2004 02:50 PM [permalink]:

Firstly, there is no doubt that the iranian government loves having a nuclear bomb. But I would support the idea that iran has a long way to go before it could make its own bomb. One one way some people insist that it is easy and "could be made by one man alone provided the necessary materials", and on the other hand 4 major countries - Iran, Iraq, N Korea and Libya - have not been able to do that despite having a LOT of money and connections and resources and brains in the past 20 years.

Secondly, The IAEA must enforce its inspections over those countries to make sure they are not even going that way. After so many years of investment Iran should be able to open the nuclear powerplant but under total supervision of IAEA.

Talking about replacing nuclear energy with fossil feuls because of their cheap prices is totally unacceptable. We all know about the damage that cheap fossil feuls have done to our planet and there is no doubt that they produce more pollution and create more immediate danger to our home planet than any other form of fuel.

Finally let me point you to the last post in IAEA's web site: "The more we look to the future, the more we can expect countries to be considering the potential benefits that expanding nuclear power has to offer for the global environment and for economic growth," IAEA Director General, "New nuclear plants are most attractive where energy demand is growing and alternative resources are scarce, and where energy security and reduced air pollution and greenhouse gases are a priority."

James at June 28, 2004 03:12 PM [permalink]:

Shiraz, They may have had the money, but getting the material is in fact very hard and has by and large subject to many stringent export restrictions. In addition anyone truly interested in doing this have been hampered by the need to be secretive about it with the extra expense and difficulties attendant to that.

As for how "easy" making a nuclear weapons is to do, you asked for a weapons expert to tell you it's easy, I gave you one. If anyone knows whether making one of these things is "easy" or not, it's Taylor, a man who designed bombs for a living. The caveat is that it's easy if you can get your hands on the fissile material required, and that's not so easy. In addition, you neglect to bear in mind that the prevailing rumor these days, encouraged by the North Koreans, is that they do have a weapon, in fact weapons, which makes sense inasmuch as uranium is indigineous to the country.

We're in total agreement regarding the IAEA and accessibility to ALL nuclear sites.

As for the IAEA and it's proclamations, this organization has an interest in keeping nuclear power alive and well. I do not agree with the IAEA that nuclear is a viable alternative for cheap energy and won't be until a reactor can be designed that's fail safe (that's actually possible now), but more importantly something reasonable can be done with the waste and that's a far more intractable problem. As you point out, we need to encourage renewables, earnestly, to try and get ahead of those who feel that what's in their interest just so happens to be in ours as well, which is often not at all the case.

Mike at June 28, 2004 03:55 PM [permalink]:

After what happened in Iraq one must be fool to believe CIA or Israeli intelligence officials' claims about anything. Iranians have signed up
to the IAEA additional protocol and are under close watch. Unexpected inspections to any site in Iran are currently in place Iranians are showing cooperation. It seems that contradicting claims are just another card in the hand of those running on a patriotism ticket. If they have little doubt, howcome they can't dispatch the inspectors to any site that they claim they have information on?

James at June 28, 2004 04:05 PM [permalink]:

Who's believing the CIA or Israeli intelligence (which I would give a lot more weight to than CIA intelligence, frankly)? The information that's available is in the public domain, from U.S. AND non-U.S. sources. As for the CIA, they were just as surprised by the Pakistani bomb as everyone else was, and their omniscience is decidedly not what many people would like to make it out to be.

To my knowledge the Iranians have not signed up to closer inspections, nor have they made available for inspection all the sites that are under question (which of course leaves those sites that may be totally unknown), and they have recently stated they were going to continue centrifuge operations, something that's decidedly unnecessary given the countries willing to sell them reactor grade fuel.

Again, there's ample reason to believe that the IG is working on a bomb. Doesn't mean it is, but there's enough evidence from just public sources to indicate that they could very well be.

sarv at June 28, 2004 04:35 PM [permalink]:

Dear James, Iran has many thousands of tons of uranium; a lot of it is in Yazd.

Yazd is a province in Iran.

Who told you we didn't have uranium? This has been known now for at least 30 years.

I hope you realize I created a brand new email address called "sarv101" just in order to update you on this point

There was once this forum on the site (where you didn't have to log on and present cv and credentials) and there we were given all the chemistry lessons about uranium isotopes u235, u238, plutonium (uranium 238 enriched by neutrons from power reactors) etc.

It was all very interesting, but unfortunatley they're down for maintenance work.

In any case I do also hope you continue writing about lots of interesting stuff, after doing the requisite research that is.

ba dorood.

PS Here's a site on mine ownership:

And here's a summary of some chemistry behind it:

PPS if you're wondering where you actually wrote that we don't have uranium in Iran check your own post June 26, 2004 06:39 PM

lines 9-10: "The difference here is that Uranium is not to be found naturally in Iran."

Shiraz Wine at June 28, 2004 05:44 PM [permalink]:

James wrote: they were going to continue centrifuge operations, something that's decidedly unnecessary given the countries willing to sell them reactor grade fuel.

IMHO they have the right to do so, if they do it 100% under the watchful eyes of IAEA. What's the point of buying fuel from outside when you have the raw material available in the country? It's like saying "Iran shouldn't produce lead free petrol considering the countries willing to sell them such fuel".

The only problem here is the government: They control the oil money and the way it is spent is totally up to them. There must be a mechanism using which people can enforce their will over them (especially now that the new parliament is numb). The Rev. Guards for example should not be allowed to spend our national wealth even on research for an A-bomb while we have so many deprived areas, lack of proper health care and education system. If we can't enforce that control, then let's supprt IAEA and ask them to do that for us.

James at June 28, 2004 05:47 PM [permalink]:

Sarv, You're correct, I wasn't aware that Iran had indigineous uranium. Of course the issue isn't Iran having uranium as it is having the right uranium, as you clearly know given your reference to the isotopes of uranium. The "right" uranium is why the IG has been focused on obtaining the proper centrifuges to isolate U-235. Without the centrifuges to allow for the isolation of U-235 whatever Iran has in-house doesn't do it much good.

As for the requisite research, in this case whether Iran had uranium on site was never the specific issue, and of course the research in that regard on my part wasn't what it could have been (for as much time as I may have for that ---yes, I'm here a lot, but it's normally a quickie post by a very fast typist, mostly on stuff I'm already familiar with, though I guess I need to bone up on geology now.) The issue was could Iran be making an atomic bomb, and now, given that it has its own supply of uranium ore from which to obtain the requisite fissile material I'd say that this even more strongly makes my point. So thank you for the information and for helping make an even stronger case for the point at hand.

On the whole, though, I do try to be interesting when I post something, otherwise what's the point really? As much of a challenge as that may be, though, I rely on the intelligent people who I'm aware frequent this blog to keep me on the straight and narrow path to correct facts (clearly we interpret those facts subjectively), and in that regard I doff my hat to you in gratitude.

James at June 28, 2004 06:01 PM [permalink]:

Shiraz, On the whole I agree with you, they should have the right to have centrifuges to isolate uranium for reactor use, specifically under the aegis of the IAEA. But why incur the extra expense and attendant environmental problems when you can buy it from ready sellers, or send what you do have in raw stock to have it processed by a seller, which would in fact be cheaper to do? Having an in-country capability may have merits, but they're hard to weigh against the possible negative uses such centrifuges represent. If it were cheaper and less environmentally detrimental to make unleaded gas somewhere else of course it would make sense to not make it in-country --- what does having the capability do for you if you're going to pay more for it and poison your environment with the processing? There may be security issues to consider, but how far do you take that?

As for the waste of money on such weapons --- you're totally, absolutely correct. I often wonder how much better the trillions of dollars this country spent on nuclear weapons could have been put to use on non-defense expenditures. Of course this country can "afford it", which is to say that in spite of our expenditures in this area we're still considered a first world country (with plenty of problems that would be well served by the money spent on defense, I might add); how a third or second world country can justify such wasteful spending is hard for most of us to understand, IMHO.

Rick at June 28, 2004 10:01 PM [permalink]:

James, you seem to have been away from news for a while. First of all Iran has indeed singed up the IEAE additional protocol. It happened last fall when they called the foreign ministers of UK, Germany and France to Tehran. Second of all they started making the centrifuses when Germany, Japan and Russia all under pressure of the USA failed to keep their word and complete the 20-year old buchehr power plant which has become a symbol of frustration and incompetence. They realized only their finger scratches their back.
Now they are under active inspection of the IEAE but the right-wing government of the U.S. is dreaming a scenario similar to that of Iraq. Let see how this unflods.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 28, 2004 11:27 PM [permalink]:


are you really telling us that you trust the regime in Iran, a midelavian farce of a theocracy more than that of the US which is under constant scutiny of a powerful free press, competeing parties and strong activist movements? That you prefer to believe the intentions and the assertions of the former more than that of the latter? Especially in such a critical point?! WOW!
Wanna switch our lives?

mohsen at June 29, 2004 04:47 AM [permalink]:

Yes, we Iranians must raise our voice to let the world know that those Mullas are NOT representatives of our nation.We do NOT want to get involved with these dirty business of Nuke bombs. That is for the a samll minority of 'studid nuts' who rule the country &think violence is effective EVERYWHERE!
Selling the 3 islands=
We hate those 'bastards' and we are not supporting their policies. Our nation loves peace and living in harmony with others.

James at June 29, 2004 05:50 AM [permalink]:

Rick, Actually what I posted to Mike may have been a bit confusing, so let me clarify. Iran has been recently rebuked for not fully cooperating with the IAEA, under any additional protocols that may have been in effect. The IG has been specifically cited for being less than honest about what it's doing. Iran has stated it continues to go forward with the centrifuge work. Collectively I contend that there's a reason to believe the IG is hiding something, and so does the IAEA.

You say the centrifuges are associated with a failed power plant, no one, much less myself, is arguing that the IG hasn't made this point before. The point with the centrifuges is why are they needed if the goal is to make fuel for reactors? The fact is they're not needed for that purpose, but they surely are handy for making bomb material.

The IAEA is back, and I agree that there should be support for this effort. Hopefully the IG will also be more forthcoming to the point where the rest of the world is comfortable with what they're up to.

Hassan at June 29, 2004 06:25 AM [permalink]:

It is clear that Iranian government is doing its best to show the outsiders and IAEA that what is happening inside is not a big issue.

As an Iranian I do not think that these steps that the government is taking now, would have any interest for the people of Iran , at the same time Iran might get some restrictions and sanctions from the Europeans too.

It is true that Iran has a very strategic place inside middle east, and occupiers in Iraq and Afghanistan share the same border with us now, but Iranian nation will gain no profits out of this debate.
Another possible meaning of whole debate might be that Iran is interested to make relations with US, so these might be the way that hard-liners inside Iran have chosen to come around a tabel with US politicians, like what is happening now in Lybia or North-korea.

Porsan at June 29, 2004 06:43 AM [permalink]:

I'm currently reading Emmanuels Todd's book titled "After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order". This book is really well written, an eye opener and sort of explains all this fuss and nuclear carry-on and America's funny choice of axis of evil (Persian translation is titled: Amrica pas az Jahan-goshayi). This book was published before the American invasion to Iraq. Just read the following quotes, aren't these exactly what the US is doing now?

"The degradation of the economical, military and ideological power of the US does not now let her effectively rule the rest of the world which is not only larger in size and population, but is also more educated and more democraticezed."

"Following the severe American economic decline (an imballance of more than 400 billion dollars in trade) there is only one solution that the US could use to pretend it's still center of today's world: to show off its image as a super power using the following rules:

1- Never solve any problem once and forever. This allows you to justify your numerous military operations around the world.

2- Use your super-power style show off on miserably weak countries such as Iraq, Iran, Cuba and North Korea. The only way to look like a strong team is to play against unimportant 3rd degree teams.

3- Avoid or postpone the interference or cooperation of other major powers such as Russia, Europe and Japan (and China in the future).

4- Keep developing new military technology and keep up the image of the US military as the most advanced in the world."

"To find out how powerful the US is, simply look at the size of the countries which are called enemy by America. The US hasn't got the power to challenge anything bigger than Iran, Iraq, N Korea and Cuba."

Porsan at June 29, 2004 07:17 AM [permalink]:

In other words, the reason we hear a lot about the iranian nuke program these days is not because Iran is dangerously close to her A-bomb, it's because Iran has fallen in to the right domain to be used as an example of a rogue state that will finally either give up its dirty plans or be punished, in either case, by the sole super power of the world - the US.

James at June 29, 2004 09:39 AM [permalink]:
That we hear a lot about the Iranian nuke program today is not because of American show boating or bullying of three lesser powers. The IAEA is not an American organization, itís concerns are international and one of those concerns is surely with the U.S. but itís beholden to the rest of the international community as well, and the concern with Iranís nuclear intentions are an international one, not just an American one. Moreover the Iranian government, as Iíve pointed out here before, has provided ample reason for the international community to be concerned about nuclear developments in Iran. As to the points raised: 1. Iím not aware of the U.S. having as a mission statement ďruling the worldĒ. The effort in Iraq clearly shows that we do not rule the world given the number of countries which objected to our endeavor there. As a single nation the U.S. has its own interests, which it looks out for and itís a 500 lb economic gorilla that most countries will pay attention to. Itís pretty clear, though, that there are plenty of countries that donít give in to U.S. demands and they arenít threatened or felt threatened with invasion for it, to wit Germany where the U.S. doesnít have to invade, there are 55,000 American troops there already. 2. Iím not clear what references Mr. Todd is using for the U.S. position in democracy and education. If they could be provided Iíd appreciate it as Iím surely hardly in agreement with his claims. 3. The U.S. balance of trade is hardly indicative of an economic decline in my understanding of it, and Iíd appreciate being enlightened here as well. Weíre buying what the rest of the world is producing, which does create a deficit here. Now how thatís supported in the long term is a concern, but if we did what was necessary to stop it now what would happen? Yes, the rest of the world wouldnít be selling nearly so much. 4. What numerous military operations throughout the world? There are two that Iím aware of, one in the Balkans, the other in Iraq. As for American military presence throughout the world, as in Japan, Korea and Germany, this is at the invitation of the countries concerned and serves mutual interests of defense and has for over 50 years. 5. Why is ďplayingĒ against weak teams seen as a ploy by the U.S. to seem like a strong country? Seems to me that a countryís strength is seen otherwise, one in the size of its economic involvements throughout the world (which by and large fuels the balance of trade where the U.S. imports more than it exports), and the size and capability of its military, which is readily measurable. Mr. Todd overlooks the fact that the U.S. has had a problem with Cuba and N. Korea for well over 40 years, with Iran since 1979, and Iraq since the early 90ís. These are long standing ďproblemsĒ and not convenient excuses for showing American power. 6. Mr. Toddís understanding of American strength is somewhat skewed. U.S. strength as a superpower is demonstrated in how little it spends on defense as a percentage of its GDP. On that measure in 2003 North Korea spent 11.6%, Iraq spent 9.3%, Iran spent 5/8% and Cuba spent 4.1% (source: The Economist Pocket World in Figures 2004 edition). For 2004 the U.S. will spend approximately 3.5% of GDP on defense (this is from the Tax Foundation --- The Economist reference didnít list the U.S. as in the top 50 spenders as a percentage of GDP). The American expenditures in defense took a turn upwards after many years of coming down after 9/11. ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Porsan at June 29, 2004 12:05 PM [permalink]:

About Todd: He is definitely not a classic anti-American french writer. He compiles and analyzes an astonishing breadth of socio-economic data for example literacy levels, about birth and infant mortality rates, marriage practices etc in the United States to uncover deep trends of decline. I can't re-type everything here so please check it out yourself.

As far as I can remember, these are the recent American military adventures around the world: Late 80's in the Persian Gulf, 1990 against Iraq (left half-done), mid 90's in Balkans, invasion of Afghanistan and finally invasion of Iraq. I don't know if they had operations in South America (Panama?), Africa or elsewhere.

An imaginary Iranian A-bomb is not only IAEA's concern but also the concern of the Iranian citizens. IAEA's supervision is a necessity. The problem is about the propaganda: "Too much ado for nothing". The US exaggerates the technological ability of Iran exactly the way it did for Iraq. In this way they want to create a BIN ENOUGH enemy out of a bankrupt country with thousands of problems, so big that it deserves the MIGHT and the attention of the US military. This is funny because the Iranian government actually benefits from this propaganda, in the eyes of their own people they look bigger than what they really are. But the reallity is Iran is so weak that the UAE easily claims the ownership of her islands and receives applause from all other Arab nations; with Iran not being able to react at all.

Why is Russia actively helping Iran and insisting on their peaceful activity? What good will Russia get out of Iran's A-bomb? Maybe they are stupid, or they don't have enough experience on nuclear issues!!! The same goes for China, Japan, the EU, and all Iran's surrounding countries in a radius of 6000 mile (except Israel perhaps).

James at June 29, 2004 01:23 PM [permalink]:

Porsan, Thank you for the link to Todd's book.

You'll have to be clearer regarding military "adventures" and what constitute internationally sanctioned involvements or ones where the U.S. was looking out for specific interests of its own, vice bullying a country to merely show off how powerful it is.

By and large the U.S. has not acted in an Imperial fashion given how the word empire has traditionally be used. Whether it will continue to be the biggest player on the scene remains to be seen, and likely there's good reason for it's status in this role to diminish. How it will diminish remains to be seen, but making comparisions with 16th century Spain, as Todd makes, is interesting but specious I believe; the factors that drove economics then are not quite what drive them now and it's anyone's guess where things will go. It does, though, make for interesting party talk.

The IAEA has admonished Iran for not being open about what it's up to, NOT propagandists in the U.S. The IAEA is an international, not a U.S., body.

Russia wants to sell nuclear technology to Iran so clearly it has an economic interest there, yet what Iran is not interested in buying is fuel which it decides it wants to make on its own, thereby causing many to wonder why.

Once again, it does not take an extraordinary technological capability to make a bomb. If your premise is based on a contrary contention then it's not supported by the facts. The fundamental issue is, as I see it, whether there's a high degree of probability that the Iranian government can be making a bomb, and the answer to this is yes.

Todd's speculation regarding how the U.S. is a weakening empire may be of some entertainment value, but does not obviate the fact that the IG has good reasons to want a bomb, is providing strong evidence that it could well be working on a bomb, and that such a device is well within its ability to obtain with enough time, effort and money, indeed it may already have one --- no one knew the Pakis had theirs until the thing was detonated.

Farrokh at June 29, 2004 04:25 PM [permalink]:

Some questions for anyone here who cares to answer:
1.Do countries that, officially or otherwise, belong to the ďNuclear ClubĒ stock Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239 in quantities necessary to make bombs?
2.If yes, has there been or is there a realistically efficient system of accountability in place for them; especially in the countries that once belonged to the Soviet Union and ended up inheriting Soviet Nukes?
3.How difficult is it to transport Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239 in portions just large enough to make bombs as strong as the one that destroyed Hiroshima? How difficult are they to store and be kept/hid from detection?
4.What argument is there to convince one that the Islamic Republic of Iran, having plenty cash at its disposal, hasnít succeeded to covertly purchase from any willing source enough Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239 to make, say 3 or 4 bombs?
5.What else but a retaliatory nuclear strike Iranís defense minister and others may have had in mind when in more than one occasion they have promised the severest response to any Israeli attack on Iranís nuclear installations?
6.Pakistan had vested or rather vital interest to make sure India knew they had Nukes ASAP. If Iran had Nukes right now, would it be expedient at this juncture in time to openly advertise it?
Thank you for considering my questions. I look forward to reading your answers.
P.S. Can html tags be used in the comments?

James at June 29, 2004 05:12 PM [permalink]:

Farrokh, Iíll try my hand at your questions.

1. Yes. The biggest problem right now is the fissile material thatís available in the ex-Soviet bloc which could possibly be bomb grade from stock or taken from old bombs. To my knowledge all countries that stock nuclear weapons maintain supplies of U-235 and Pu-239 to replenish their weapons.
2. I think my response to question 1 answers question 2. Even in the U.S., and Iím sure other countries, thereís a problem with accounting systems for radioactive materials, most of which arenít bomb grade but which could otherwise be used for a dirty bomb. In the U.S. bomb grade materials are stringently accounted for; itís not clear that this has been the case in the ex-Soviet bloc since the early 90ís.
3. Depends on the purity of the fissile material. The Hiroshima bomb used about 80 Kg of U-235. About 10 to 16 Kg of Pu-239 is needed, though making a bomb from this is harder. As far as storage and transportation, youíd need containers that were protected for radiation and subsequently very heavy unless you were to transport in many small components. Note: this information is available on the web.
4. There is no argument that this hasnít occurred. In fact itís been suggested that ex-Soviet nuclear scientists may have been paid to help the Iranian government in any bomb efforts.
5. A nuclear exchange with Israel would be devastating to Iran as the Israelis do have nuclear weapons (though they donít admit it), many of them, and the means by which to deliver them.
6. Itís not clear that Iran would be well-served by advertising having nuclear weapons if it did, especially if it can in fact work with the IAEA. Whether there are nuclear weapons or not, if the Iranians can work with the IAEA convincingly (and given their deceptions to date this will take a great deal of effort) this would be the strongest shield against a possible Israeli strike against any possible power plant. The best hope Iran has for an unmolested nuclear plant is to work very closely and openly with the IAEA, and it hasnít been doing so to date.

Farrokh at June 29, 2004 11:16 PM [permalink]:

I greatly appreciate your reply James, Thank you.
My own answers to the questions that I posted above are almost the same as those you rendered except for number 5.
Rafsanjani has already envisioned and has spoken about a nuclear exchange with Israel that could result perhaps in half of Iran being "martyred" versus the "Zionist cancer" being completely wiped out. Given their mindsets, I doubt that Rafsanjani and the rest of the current ruling apparatus of Iran mind such a horrendous outcome very much!
After all, ďmartyrsĒ are guaranteed to go to heaven and such, and Israel would be no more!
What could be better than that??!!
I posted those questions hoping that they would help illustrate my thought process and pattern on this issue. I aimed to some how explain that, regarding the west and Israelís worries of Iran possessing atomic bombs, I am compelled to deduce that at the very most optimistic level, Iran is just about at the point of no return, and at a more realistic level, it passed that point a long time ago!
Your thoughts?

James at June 30, 2004 08:31 AM [permalink]:

Farrokh, I can't say where Iran is at on this issue, I'm not sure anyone other than those in power can. If Rafsanjani seriously said what you attribute to him then he was either blowing smoke to the masses or he is seriously delusional. The Israelis surely have miniaturized their bombs, to the point where they can place them on cruise missiles, in which case it would be impossible for Iran to stop them from hitting their targets. Israeli electronic countermeasures are sophisticated enough that nearly all of their aircraft would get into Iran unmolested to drop their bombs. I would also speculate that itís entirely possible that Israel has gone steps beyond fission nuclear weapons to fusion ones, i.e. hydrogen bombs, in which case the devastation from one bomb is far greater than the 18 kilotons of an old Hiroshima style bomb. If Iran seriously went into a nuclear exchange with Israel the only citizens in Iran who wouldnít be martyred would be those living in areas that Israel didnít feel was worth destroying; no one would win in such a confrontation, but Iran would not win far, far more.

If Iran is going to seriously pursue nuclear power it needs to do so under the protection of the IAEA, assiduously adhering to the requirements from that organization and doing its utmost to show the world that what itís doing is entirely for peaceful purposes. I believe this affords Iran the best possible protection against Israel and allows it to show the world that its intentions are for the good of the nation, not to make Iran a nuclear power with the regional difficulties attendant to that. Thatís not to say that this would stop Israel from bombing a nuclear power plant as it did in Iraq, though it may; it would certainly go a long way towards making Israel a pariah nation.

Aliev at June 30, 2004 09:00 AM [permalink]:

Farrokh, you can't take what Rafsanjani said seriously. We all know that people like him speak words bigger than their mouth. To me that is just a big bluff (big fart as we say). Even if Iran is somewhere near producing its own nuclear weapon (which I really doubt), it still does not have the technology to deploy them, ie fix them on a ballestic missile and launch them to a city in isreal. Even if fossils like Jannati don't understand, the majority of Iranian officials well know that a nuclear war would get them nowhere, will destroy all of country and win them nothing. The possibility of using a nuke is almost zero.

I think we should think about the ways we can ensure ourselves and the world that Iran is not on the path to build a nuke. Obviously this can be done through IAEA. Iran is a member and has also signed the additional protocol. So IAEA has the legal power to inspect the facilities they want. The protocols are prepared to ensure necessary checks and inspections.

James at June 30, 2004 10:03 AM [permalink]:

Aliev, To "deploy" a nuclear weapon does not take attaching it to a ballistic missile, or even to a plane. If I were in the IG, and wanted to "nuke" Israel, getting the parts into the area by ship, or even over land, would not be that difficult. This would limit the targets I'd take out, but I'd be able to build a much bigger bomb using a ship, and otherwise detonate a devastating attack regardless. Of course this would essentially be a one shot deal, hardly the sort of capability that Israel is apt to have so your essential point regarding what Rafsanjani had to say is totally on target.

The Bush administration's wasting of money on ballistic missile defense has been particular irksome to me given all the other ways a nuclear device can be delivered under the nose of a country one is trying to bomb if a committed group of individuals were to exercise some imagination. A good book on this, written long before 9/11 (published in 1980), is "The Fifth Horseman" by Larry Collins and Dominique La Pierre --- the book is out of print, but it's a good read if obtained used.

Masoud at June 30, 2004 01:35 PM [permalink]:

With regard to Israel/Iran nuke exchange, IIRC, Israel recently announced that they do have sub-marine launched missles. This means that the other side - Iran, or whoever wants to surprise them with nukes - won't be able to do so completely and cleanly. Again, IIRC, Mr. Rafsanjani(sp?) was talking more about the nuke fall-out that could pollute Israel more easily than Iran (as Iran has more land to waste).
The other issue about Iran getting nukes, or not getting nukes and domestic population of Iran's opinion about this, I believe (and I can be completely wrong) that West is wrong about pushing Iran on nukes, because nukes are the symptom, not the cause. The real cause of concern for west should be lack of democracy and accountabilty of Iranian leaders, both elected and non-elected to their own people and International community. That is, if you have a mad man with a hand-generade in your block, you don't *just* disarm him as he may attack you with a pipe or baseball bat, or a rock. you take him out. The West's problem is that they want to do everything as lazily as possible.
Now, flame me! :-)

James at June 30, 2004 02:29 PM [permalink]:

Masoud, I think you have very good points, hardly deserving of flaming. Israel may have submarine launched missiles, but they're cruise missiles, not ballistic missiles found on western, Russian and a few Chinese submarines.

In the case of the west being lazy, forcing a government to become a representative democracy (the U.S. has been trying for nearly 50 years with Cuba) is hardly as easy as holding a country to its commitment to treaties and IAEA inspections. I just don't see any U.S. govt ever being able to justify an engagement in Iran similar to the one in Iraq, short of Iran doing something incredibly stupid that threatens the U.S. or other countries of interest to the U.S./International community in a very clearcut way. Any pressure that can be exerted for change in Iran is, by and large, already being exerted.

I'm inclined to think that the U.S. could be a bit more open to constructive dialog and exchange with Iran than it has been up to now, with less name calling (the axis of evil thing was a bit over the top), and maybe we'll see this with a new U.S. administration (inshallah). But it's up to the Iranian people to change their govt; they did it in '79, they'll have to do it again, and I hope it happens sometime soon for the sake of all concerned.

passenger at July 2, 2004 10:41 AM [permalink]:

Maybe I am a bit late,
but I want to say that I do not care about the way others judge nuke plans in iran. Yes, from outside, iran is anti usual-conformal-world. So they are not so happy with iran's power, in terms that it does not comply to their values. I think the problem is that it is not 'iran' which is finding (or has a will to find) nuke bomb! it is a very small portion of governers. So I can imagine in hard time they may kill even iranian people with iranian bombs. Look, each country has its own enemies, or rivals, like pakistan wants power against india. But dictator governments are not accountable to their own people. that's what I am worried about. North korea needs international food help to keep its kids 'alive'. So what the hell is their reason to have any kind of killing power? the same with iran, we need foreign relations , investments and many more. Big brother can not tolerate it! It is the main reason that I do not care that much about e.g. israeli power, or france nuclear bombs! it's a country, not a team of gangs headed to the hell.