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IAEA Report Shows Nuclear Fuel Production in Underground Iran Site

I’m sure this will be given as evidence that Obama “lost” Iran:

International nuclear inspectors reported on Friday that Iran is moving rapidly to produce nuclear fuel at a deep underground site that Israel and the United States have said is virtually invulnerable to attack.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency indicated that for the first time Iran has begun producing fuel inside the new facility in a mountain near the holy city of Qum. The agency’s inspectors found in their most recent visits that over the past three months Iran has tripled its production capacity for a type of fuel that is far closer to what is needed to make the core of a nuclear weapon. The report about progress at the new facility is likely to inflame the debate over whether Iran is getting closer to what Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, calls a entering “zone of immunity.” The phrase refers to a vaguely-defined point beyond which Iran could potentially produce weapons fuel without fear of an air attack that could wipe out its facilities.

The emphasis is mine, because it’s important to explain how the goalposts have shifted, even in the media. In this report, the danger comes not from Iran having a nuclear weapon, or even having the desire to make one (it’s “far closer” to having the capability, but isn’t even there yet). The danger is now that they’re making fuel in a facility that’s more invulnerable to attack. So just having the potential to make a weapon in a secure facility, whether they have decided to make one or not, has become the new boogeyman. “We don’t want the smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud” and all that.

Incidentally, in the very next paragraph, the NYTimes writes that the IAEA has also found that Iran “is still having trouble deploying significant number of next-generation equipment to make fuel.” But this seems inserted in the story only to allow for the argument that there’s still time for an attack, rather than to undermine the entire case for attack. And because of a lot of reader pushback, the article acknowledges that “American intelligence officials say they do not believe Iranian leaders have made that decision” to make a bomb, and that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, “explicitly ruled out producing a weapon in a recent speech.” But the story is quick to add that Israeli and British intelligence disagree with the US assessment. The IAEA, for its part, says in the report that it found “strong indicators of possible weapon development.” And this hedged response is among the most aggressive statements they’ve ever made!

The full report from the IAEA can be found here. Just this week, IAEA inspectors were reportedly blocked from access to an underground testing site. There are no inspectors currently in Iran.

Surely the neocons will use this report to demand an attack “before it’s too late.”

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David Dayen

David Dayen