samedi, décembre 02, 2006

Actualité - Iran: CIA finds no evidence of secret nuke program

In an article for the November 27 New Yorker magazine released in advance on November 19, veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that a highly classified assessment by the CIA had “found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency” (IAEA).

Hersh reported that the CIA had based its conclusions on technical intelligence, such as satellite photography and measurements from sensors planted by US and Israeli agents.

A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the CIA analysis and said the White House had been hostile to it, Hersh wrote.

The White House has claimed for several years now that Iran’s research into the production of low-enriched uranium (LEU) for use as a nuclear-power plant fuel, which is completely legal under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is ultimately aimed at producing weapons-grade uranium.

Natural uranium ore has about 0.7% of the fissile uranium-235 isotope. Through a complicated process using a cascade of 164 gas centrifuges, Iran has so far produced a few grams of LEU — containing 4.8% U-235, the level of enrichment necessary for fuel rods for nuclear power. This is a long way short of the 90% U-235 content required for a nuclear bomb.

On July 31, the US, backed by its European Union allies Britain, France and Germany, managed to strong-arm the UN Security Council into adopting a resolution demanding Iran halt all LEU research by August 31 or risk the imposition of international sanctions. Declaring the resolution illegal, Iran ignored the deadline.

Since August 31, Washington and the EU-3 have been unsuccessfully trying to get Moscow and Beijing to support a draft UN resolution drawn up by the EU-3 that would impose limited sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program.

On November 15, Reuters reported that after the sixth in a round of closed-door discussion between their UN ambassadors “deep divisions between Western nations and Russia have stalled talks on a draft UN resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program”.

Like the CIA, Moscow says there is no evidence that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program. Russian officials have expressed suspicion that the White House is pushing for UN sanctions against Iran to provide the propaganda and diplomatic groundwork for a future “regime change” invasion of oil- and gas-rich Iran.

While US officials, without any credible evidence accuse Iran of breaching its obligations under the NPT, Washington has pushed ahead with a deal with India, which is not a signatory to the NPT, that puts the US in violation of its legal obligations as an NPT signatory.

The treaty prohibits signatories from supplying nuclear materials to non-signatory countries. On November 17, the US Senate approved legalisation that excepts India from a US law that bans nuclear trade with countries that have not signed the NPT.

Under a deal reached in principle by US President George Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005, Washington will give India access to US nuclear fuel and reactors in return for a pledge to open its “civilian” nuclear facilities to IAEA inspections, but India’s eight “military” plants would be excluded.

Opponents of the deal argue that it will allow India to build more nuclear weapons. The Senate voted down amendments that would have required a US presidential certification that the civilian nuclear agreement would not contribute to India’s nuclear weapons program, and another that would have required India to stop producing weapons-grade nuclear material.

Three days later, US and EU officials urged the 35-member governing board of the IAEA to deny an Iranian request for IAEA technical aid in constructing a 40-megawatt nuclear reactor at Arak that is to produce radioisotopes for medical purposes.

Speaking on behalf of the EU, Finnish envoy Kirsti Helena Kauppi told the IAEA board meeting in Vienna: “We cannot support providing technical assistance to a heavy water research reactor project that … would in future produce significant quantities of plutonium and involve a significant [nuclear] proliferation risk.”

The November 22 New York Times reported that another Western diplomat at the IAEA, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that Iran had the legal right under international treaties to build heavy-water reactors and to receive safety advice from the IAEA when it does so. “There were no legal grounds for rejection”, the diplomat said.

The NYT reported that a compromise under consideration at the closed-door IAEA meeting would indefinitely defer, but not reject, assistance for Arak while approving seven other aid requests made by Iran.

(Green Left Weekly - Doug Lorimer)

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