Why No Dancing in the Streets?

Hallelujah! According to a Newsweek Web Exclusive report this week, "U.S. intelligence agencies" have just informed "the White House" that the status of the Iranian alleged program to develop "a nuclear bomb" has not changed since their formal National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 [.pdf]. That NIE stated – with "high confidence" – that Iran "halted", in the fall of 2003, whatever program it was alleged to have had, and stated – with "moderate confidence" – that Iran had made no attempt to resurrect it.

So, why isn’t there mucho dancing in the streets; here and around the world?

Well, at this point you might consult a seemingly authoritative report prepared by David Albright, based upon the official history of the South African nuclear-weapons program.

During the 1970s and 1980s, South Africa – not then a signatory to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – indigenously developed the capacity to produce industrial quantities of enriched-uranium, mostly reactor-grade, but many hundreds of pounds of almost pure Uranium-235.

According to Albright, the South Africans had completed a theoretical design for a simple gun-type U-235 device by 1973, and in 1976 successfully conducted a "full scale test of the device, using natural uranium." Since natural uranium – which has essentially the same chemical and metallurgical properties as weapons-grade U-235 – is not a fissile material, such a test could not possibly produce detectable fission-yield.

By 1989, South Africa had six gun-type nukes in its arsenal, each about 6 feet long, each weighing 1650 lbs, each incorporating a total of 120 lbs of almost pure Uranium-235.

(A critical mass of U-235 at normal density – the amount needed to sustain a fission chain-reaction – is about 114 lbs.)

Now, it is conceivable that the Iranians – secretly – also attempted to design a simple gun-type U-235 device, perhaps while defending themselves during the eight-year war of aggression launched against them by Iraq in 1980, in which, according to the UN Security Council, "chemical weapons had been used."

But, as best the IAEA can tell, after years of exhaustive on-the-ground inspections, the Iranians have never even attempted to conduct an operational test of such a device, using natural uranium instead of weapons-grade U-235.

How can they be sure of that? Because even natural uranium is an NPT-proscribed material, and the production and storage — as well as any chemical or physical transformation of any quantity of it – has been subject to IAEA Safeguards since 1974, made especially rigorous since the fall of 2003, when Iran began to voluntarily implement the Additional Protocol to the their agreement in advance of its ratification by the Iranian Parliament.

Now, it is conceivable that the Iranians might be willing to risk not even functionally testing a gun-type nuke design with natural uranium. Perhaps conceivable they would then announce to the whole world their intentions to reconfigure their existing IAEA-Safeguarded uranium-enrichment cascades in a several-year-long attempt to produce a thousand pounds or so of almost pure U-235, the amount required for a half-dozen or so gun-type nukes.

But it is not conceivable that the Iranians would be willing to take such a risk if their intention was to produce almost that much pure U-235 for implosion-type U-235 nukes that had not even been functionally – electrically, explosively, hydrodynamically — tested.

But, that is exactly the risk the Likudniks and their enablers and fellow-travelers are apoplectically insisting that the Iranians long ago decided to take!

No matter that, according to our intelligence community, whatever it was the Iranian military was alleged to have been doing in the past, they continue to have "high confidence" that the Iranians quit doing it in 2003 and "modest confidence" they have not resumed doing whatever it was they are alleged to have been doing, which – whatever it was – has been determined by the IAEA not to have involved any amount of NPT-proscribed materials and, hence, determined not to be a violation of Iran’s NPT-related Safeguards Agreement.

Of course, the Likudniks and their enablers don’t care what the Iranians are doing or are not doing. They regularly announce their intention to attack and destroy – in violation of the UN Charter and of the "restraining order" placed upon them by UN Security Council Resolution 487 – Iran’s IAEA Safeguarded guaranteed-to-be-peaceful nuclear facilities.

Last week several of our Likudnik enablers issued a "report" through the Bipartisan Policy Center, warning President Obama that

"If biting sanctions do not persuade the Islamic Republic to demonstrate sincerity in negotiations and give up its [IAEA-Safeguarded] enrichment activities, the White House will have to begin serious consideration of the option of a US-led military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities."

As if such serious consideration had not already begun at the Center for Strategic and International Studies whilst the Cheney Cabal ruled the earth.

A few months ago, Andrew Cordesman and Abdullah Toukan issued an update to an earlier CSIS study, this time entitled "Study on a Possible Israeli Strike on Iran’s Nuclear Development Facilities."

Understand that all these Likudniks and their enablers are advocating a military strike on IAEA-Safeguarded facilities!

In particular, Cordesman’s scenarios assume the Israelis will attack what he considers to be the three main target facilities – all IAEA-Safeguarded – which if destroyed, would seriously delay Iran’s attempt to realize its inalienable rights to the enjoyment of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

• The Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant complex, built some 8 meters-deep into the ground, hardened with a roof of several meters of reinforced concrete and buried under a layer of earth some 75 feet deep.

• The Esfahan Nuclear Technology Center, an Industrial-Scale Uranium Conversion Facility.

The Arak Facility, comprising the nearly completed Heavy-Water-Moderated Research Reactor, a completed heavy-water production facility and a set of cooling towers.

The Presidents and Heads of States of the Non-Aligned Movement – which counts Afghanistan, Burma, Colombia, Cuba, Indonesia, India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Yemen among its 118 active members, with Brazil, China and Mexico among its most notable actively participating "observers" – had their Fifteenth Summit this past July in Egypt.

Here are some heart-felt often-expressed pleadings from the NAM Final Report, which President Obama ought to weigh carefully, while ignoring the Likudniks at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

"The Movement reiterated the basic principle of the UN Charter that all States shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the UN.

"Resorting to Chapter VII of the Charter as an umbrella for addressing issues that do not pose a threat to international peace and security must be avoided and in this regard, the Council should fully utilise the relevant Charter provisions, where appropriate, including Chapters VI and VIII.

So, President Obama, here is your "mission impossible." You are to undo – to the extent it’s possible – every outrageous act, planned and/or taken, by the Cheney Cabal, at the urging of the Likudniks.

You can begin by promising – specifically to the members of the Non-Aligned Movement – that you will not attack and destroy IAEA-Safeguarded facilities, anywhere in the world.

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.