Friday, March 10, 2006

ElBaradei's Blindness

Kenneth R. Timmerman,
Iran now has the materials to make up to ten nuclear weapons, the U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency told a closed-door meeting in Vienna yesterday. That stunning statement, by U.S. ambassador Gregory L. Schulte, not only turned heads; it changed minds.

It was also a conservative statement. In fact, nuclear experts tell me, if Iran had used the equipment the IAEA knows Iran imported from the nuclear black market of Pakistani nuclear dealer Dr. A.Q. Khan, it could have produced enough weapons-grade uranium for between twenty to twenty-five bombs – even as the IAEA was inspecting Iran’s declared nuclear sites. And some sources believe Iran has purchased actual weapons from Ukraine and North Korea recently on the black market.

Schulte’s closed-door summary of Iran’s latest violations of its Nonproliferation Treaty commitments contained three bombshells:
  • Iran now has a stockpile of 85 tons of uranium hexafluoride gas, “which if enriched could produce enough material for about ten nuclear weapons,” Schulte said.
  • Iran has told the Agency it now intends to install 3000 centrifuges at Natanz this fall in order to enrich the uranium gas. This is far in excess of anything the IAEA has publicly reported so far.
  • IAEA inspectors have now concluded beyond any doubt that a 15 page document discovered recently in Iran was “clearly intended for highly-enriched uranium, and refers to ‘hemishells,’” Schulte said. “IAEA inspectors seem to have no doubt that this information was expressly intended for the fabrication of nuclear weapons components,” he added. Iran, predictably, “refuses to turn this document over to the Agency, and won’t reveal when it was received.”

This story is finally coming to New York, thanks to Condoleeza Rice and her top diplomats. Through muscle diplomacy, Condi & Co. have succeeded in tightening the noose on Iran.

In meetings in Washington on Tuesday, and in Vienna on Wednesday, Rice and Schulte successfully blocked a last-ditch effort by IAEA Secretary General Mohammad ElBaradei to pull Iran’s nuclear chestnuts out of the fire.

ElBaradei has been a strong defender of Iran’s “rightsunder the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), despite repeated objections by the U.S., France, Britain and others that Iran has violated its treaty obligations and therefore has no rights to nuclear technology under the NPT.

ElBaradei’s efforts should be an international scandal, but they have gone widely ignored in the liberal media. In his latest confidential report to the IAEA board, on February 27, ElBaradei detailed no fewer than eight major violations by Iran of its treaty obligations, including the discovery by IAEA inspectors of damning documents relating to nuclear weapons work. Some IAEA questions had been left “unanswered” by Iran for three years.

Despite this mountain of damning evidence, however, ElBaradei was telling reporters as late as Monday that the nuclear crisis with Iran could be “solved” in a matter of days or a week.

Rice began the turnaround in closed-door meetings on Tuesday with Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Washington. Russia had been engaged in sham negotiations with Iran for several months in an effort to stave off international action to shut down Iran’s nuclear programs.

Emerging from that closed-door session, Lavrov swept the much-leaked Russian proposal off the table. “There is no compromise, new Russian proposal,” he said flatly.

Then in Vienna, ElBaradei received a phone call from a Western diplomat, who told him bluntly that he should stick to IAEA resolutions, including the February 4 resolution to report Iran to the UN Security Council.. Kicking the can down the road “only plays into the hands of the Iranians,” the diplomat said.

Now that there was no more Russian rabbit he could pull from his hat, ElBaradei backed down. That left Tehran’s leaders facing a real showdown with hard deadlines – for the first time.

So with Iran’s case finally headed to New York, the mullahs resorted to blustery threats.

The United States has the power to cause harm and pain,” Iran’s IAEA delegation said in a statement released yesterday. But the United States is also susceptible to harm and pain. So if that is the path that the U.S. wishes to choose, let the ball roll.”

Just how serious is this latest Iranian threat? Should Americans be worried, or --well, laughing? Does the Islamic Republic of Iran have serious military capabilities that could do damage to a nation wielding the world’s most devastating and precise military machine? Or is this just bluster from a desperate coterie of turbaned tyrants?

ABC News reporter Anne Compton pounced – not on Iran – but on Vice President Dick Cheney for having caused the Iranian threat. It was all because of Cheney’s statement on Tuesday that Iran would face “meaningful consequences” if it developed nuclear weapons.

It’s hard to qualify such twisted logic from the media. Should Iran face no consequences for developing nuclear weapons? Perhaps Americans be applaud Iran’s efforts? Or perhaps we should offer to unilaterally stand down the B-2 bomber fleet at Whiteman AF base in Missouri?

Last week, I obtained Iran’s naval battle plan from a former Iranian intelligence officer who defected to the West. The plan, drawn up by the Strategic Studies Center of the Iranian Navy, NDAJA, includes the use of bottom-tethered mines, purchased from China and Russia, which many U.S. naval analysts believe could destroy U.S. aircraft carriers.

The plan describes in detail how Iran will close the Strait of Hormuz, thus blocking an estimated 20% of the world’s daily oil supplies, using submarines, missiles, coastal artillery, and thousands of small boats that will launch “swarming” attacks on U.S. warships.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have practiced “swarming” attacks on U.S. ships in the Strait of Hormuz for several years, using six or more 20-foot speed boats equipped with rocket launchers and other weapons.

But the NDAJA battle plan adds a new twist: one of the speed boats in the swarm will be manned by a suicide bomber, who will use the distraction of the other boats to ram into the side of a U.S. ship. (For details of the Iranian battle plan, click here.)

In Tehran yesterday, some 2000 women took to the streets on International Women’s Day, calling on the regime to recognize basic human rights. They wanted simple things, such as an end to the practice of child marriage, authorized under the Islamic Republic’s constitution, or the practice of “vijeh” - temporary “marriages” that are certified by clerics acting as low-level pimps.

For their efforts, hundreds of these brave women and their male supporters were beaten by regime agents, and at least sixty women were arrested.

Now imagine this blustering, brutal, and crude regime armed with nuclear weapons.

Will Mohammad ElBaradei ever get it?