March 10, 2003

Iran Watch It's worse than

Iran Watch

It's worse than intelligence analysts realized.

Key grafs: "In a nearby building, workers are assembling parts for 1,000 more centrifuges, part of a constellation of 5,000 machines that will be linked together in a vast uranium enrichment plant now under construction. When the project is completed in 2005, Iran will be capable of producing enough enriched uranium for several nuclear bombs each year.

Details about the Natanz complex are beginning to trickle out following the first visit to the site by officials from the United Nations late last month. U.S. officials who were briefed on the visit described Iran's progress last week as "startling" and "eye-opening," so much so that intelligence agencies are being forced to dramatically shorten estimates for when Iran may acquire nuclear weapons."

I've argued before that we are on the cusp of an era of manic proliferation. Only several leaders like Dubya and Tony Blair has shown the foresight to understand the stakes involved given the potential for nuclear technology to be transferred to nihilistic terror movements that will not hesitate to vaporize a major city. The problem, however, with a major regional player like Iran is that they look around and think why can India, Pakistan and Israel have nukes but not us?

There really are no easy answers here. People like Bibi Netanyahu (who are more concerned about Iran than Iraq at the end of the day) would likely advocate disarming Teheran forcefully if they continue to go ahead with their nuclear program. But even the hyperpuissance that is the U.S. cannot march from Iraq, to North Korea and then onwards to Iran?

We likely instead have to hope that demographic trends in Iran spur significant liberalization in Iranian society that allow the U.S. access to more moderate interlocuters in Teheran. In the meantime, in depth discussions regarding the Iranian nuclear program could be pursued, even now, through third-party diplomatic channels. The idea of a regional voluntary nuclear disarmament pact has also been floated--but it is hard to envision India, Pakistan or Israel voluntarily giving up their nuclear programs. The chances of such disarmament would brighten, of course, if resolution of both the Kashmir and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts could be broached. I'm not holding my breath--but let's hope Dubya is serious about reinvigorating the "roadmap" post-Iraq as well as moving beyond reactive diplomacy in Kashmir to pro-active attempts at helping bring the parties to a resolution.

Posted by Gregory at March 10, 2003 11:42 AM
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