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September 07, 2010

IAEA: Iran's Nuclear Program Moving Along Quite Nicely, Thank You

Given all the horrible domestic policies this administration has pursued, it's easy to forget that it's also been horrible in foreign affairs as well.

In fairness, Iran is actually a case where Obama inherited a bad situation from Bush. It's also a case where we were promised that magic Obama touch would make all the difference. Almost 2 years on, not much has changed except Iran is closer to a nuke than ever before.

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iranian nuclear scientists had made at least 22 kilograms of enriched uranium at least 20 per cent purity, a technical hurdle that is the hardest to overcome on the way to weapons-grade uranium.

Experts estimate that 20 kgs of uranium is the minimum required to arm a warhead. The uranium would still need to have its purity raised to 90 per cent, but that is a relatively easy process.

...The acquisition of uranium will cause the most alarm however. Until February the Iranians were enriching uranium to levels of no more than 5 per cent at its plant in Natanz.

The government-funded Verification Research, Training and Information Centre, an expert body with privileged access to the IAEA, has estimated that a weapons expert could make a nuclear device from 20 kgs of 20 per cent enriched material with relatively few further obstacles.

But, but, but...didn't Obama recently tell everyone Iran was at least a year away from having a weapon (as if that's supposed to comfort us)? Why, yes they did.

Should this come up, I'm sure we'll hear more about sanctions and US efforts to isolate Iran economically. Yeah, that's not working either. China just signed a $2 billion deal to build a rail line for Iran.

Nicklas Swanstrom, the executive director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said the contract to build the line was the first step for China to build an entire rail infrastructure for central Asia.

"It makes sense that if you build railways in Iran, you then get deals to stretch the lines into central Asia," he said, referring to a "very concrete plan" to run a railway from Iran through the landlocked countries of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and eventually to Kashgar in China, in a modern "silk route".

That line would give the central Asian states vital access to Iran's port of Chahbahar on the shores of the Persian Gulf, and could also eventually give China a vital overland freight route to Europe.

"For China, it could cut the cost of transporting goods to Europe by 5pc or 6pc," said Professor Swanstrom.

"It also makes political sense, because while technically the US, Europe or Russia could block China's sea routes, it would also have a land route. And by tying your neighbour's infrastructure to you, it brings them closer," he added. "It decreases Russia's influence in the region, and definitely decreases the influence of the US and Europe."

Turns out Hope, Change and Smart Diplomacy doesn't amount to much of a plan.


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posted by DrewM. at 11:07 AM

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