Thursday, February 28, 2013

28-Feb-13: There's more than one way to think about what the Iranians are up to

Why alarm people? Let's continue to think
nice thoughts about Iran, like so many parts of the
serious news media and political echelons do
From Aljazeera today
World powers and Iran have ended their two-day meeting on the country's nuclear programme in the Kazakh city of Almaty without breakthrough, according to a Western official. Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, said on Wednesday all sides agreed to meet in the same city on April 5-6 after first gathering their nuclear experts for consultations in Istanbul, Turkey, in March. The six powers - France, Germany, the US, China Russia and Britain - offered at the talks to lift some sanctions if Iran scaled back nuclear activity that the West fears could be used to build a bomb. Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, did not agree to do so and the sides did not appear any closer to an agreement to resolve a decade-old dispute that could lead to another war in the Middle East if diplomacy fails.
No 'breakthrough' and no action but although the sides are no closer to agreement, it nevertheless leaves enough room for the BBC's reporter to write that
The EU's chief delegate said she hoped Iran was "looking positively" at proposals presented at the talks
which gives a nice optimistic note to the pleasant spring-time gathering. And after all is everything gloom? No. As James Reynolds of the BBC notes
One party will count these talks as an immediate success: the host, Kazakhstan. The Kazakh government is keen to present itself as an influential voice in favour of nuclear disarmament. It now gets to hold onto its role as host for the next round of nuclear talks with Iran in April.
One might imagine that people in Western countries take all of this in their stride while focused on other matters. But as the advocacy and media review organization CAMERA says in its Snapshots blog today, Iran and its relentless nuclear preparation is in fact an issue that unites almost all Americans.
We’re always hearing that American society is terribly polarized and you can’t get most Americans to agree that the sun rises in the east. But, apparently there is something that unites almost all Americans: the opinion that Iran is a threat. In fact, the latest Gallup poll shows that 99 percent of Americans believe that the development of nuclear weapons by Iran is a “critical” or “important” threat to the vital interests of the United States. Iran ranked as the top threat, followed by North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and international terrorism. Commendably, UPI covered the story... However, CAMERA could find no other major national media outlet that felt this story merited coverage. The Chicago Tribune ran an analysis piece that mentioned Americans’ concerns, only to completely discount them as “a totally irrational fear.” Apparently, writer William Pfaff knows more about Iran’s nuclear program than the IAEA and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Or possibly, like 99 percent of Americans, Mr. Ban and IAEA inspectors are “irrational.” But, how then does one dismiss satellite photographs indicating a newly-operational plutonium enrichment facility protected by “numerous anti-aircraft missile and artillery sites”? Can photographs be kooky? Nutzo, maybe? ...Just the fact that 99 percent of Americans agree about anything makes this poll – in and of itself – worth reporting... Where’s the coverage? [Snapshots]
For those of us with an existential stake in whether the messianic Islamist leaders of Iran are reined in before it's too late, there is an emerging development reported last night in the UK's Telegraph newspaper
Exclusive: New satellite pictures confirm that Iran has continued to expand a sensitive military site where Tehran is accused of conducting experiments relevant to developing a nuclear weapon...  For the last eight years, international inspectors have been excluded from the Parchin military complex, where Iran is believed to have tested rockets and explosives. In particular, Iran is accused of using Parchin to experiment with detonators inside an “explosives containment vessel”. Any such tests would be “strong indicators of possible nuclear weapon development,” according to the latest report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
A day earlier, on Tuesday, the same newspaper reported on what it terms an emerging Iranian 'Plan B':
Iran is developing a second path to a nuclear weapons capability by operating a plant that could produce plutonium, satellite images show for the first time... The Telegraph can disclose details of activity at a heavily-guarded Iranian facility from which international inspectors have been barred for 18 months. The images, taken earlier this month, show that Iran has activated the Arak heavy-water production plant. Heavy water is needed to operate a nuclear reactor that can produce plutonium, which could then be used to make a bomb. The images show signs of activity at the Arak plant, including a cloud of steam that indicates heavy-water production.
The Telegraph pictures (not showing flowers) are here.

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