Iran’s Big Bluff
In stating that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program, the nie explicitly excluded “Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.” Yes, it simply took Ahmadinejad at his word that the hundreds of millions of dollars oil-rich Iran has poured into its nuclear program have been exclusively for domestic energy production—even while admitting that enrichment capabilities developed for electricity are just a short step away from those used for nuclear weapons.
But the nie’s conclusions went beyond simply accepting Iran’s denials of having any ulterior motives for its nuclear project. They implicitly assumed that years of damning evidence and deceitful behavior on Iran’s part were essentially a big bluff. And hey, nobody got hurt—so let’s all forget it and move on.
Consider it: For a nation without a nuclear weapons program for four years, Iran has done an impressive impersonation of a nation trying to hide a nuclear weapons program. It has restricted the International Atomic Energy Association from accessing its nuclear facilities. It has threatened to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the face of all opposition and despite having plenty of oil energy, it has adamantly, even belligerently defended its right to enrich uranium. It has shrouded its supposedly peaceful nuclear program in alarming secrecy. It has been defiant in the face of having sanctions leveled against it for its obstinance and duplicity.
Just the week before the nie was released, the iaea director said Iran now has 3,000 centrifuges busily enriching uranium, but he couldn’t say whether they could be used to make nuclear weapons—because of restrictions Tehran had placed on his inspectors. Just two days before the nie was released, Iran’s new nuclear negotiator brusquely informed officials in London representing the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany that all prior discussions regarding its uranium-enrichment program were null and void.
If the nie is to be believed, all this stonewalling and chest-thumping must have been a harmless effort to boost its negotiating position by conning the world into worrying itself over the possibility of an Iranian nuke.