Nuclear watchdog report to add fuel to Iranian fire?

Reuters / Herwig Prammer
The United Nations nuclear watchdog claims Iran has significantly ramped up its uranium enrichment capacity. But will the latest news increase the tempo for the Western march to war?

Following the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) failed mission to Iran this week, a leaked IAEA report stressed “the agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”

While the agency offered no proof that Iran was actively developing nuclear weapons, it concluded “the agency is unable to provide assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

The IAEA report to member states shows Iran has significantly expanded its main enrichment plant near Natanz, which is located some 100 miles north of Esfahan in central Iran.

At Natanz, the IAEA report said that of the 54 cascades installed, “52 were declared by Iran as being fed with UF6. Whereas initially each installed cascade comprised 164 centrifuges, Iran subsequently modified 30 of the cascades to contain 174 centrifuges each.”

UF6 is a compound used in the uranium enrichment process that produces fuel both for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.

The report further stated Iran is “preparing additional cascades” at the Fordow underground facility near the city of Qom. It also said 696 centrifuges are now refining uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 per cent at the site.

For uranium enrichment, 20 per cent is the threshold between low enriched and highly enriched uranium. While 85 per cent or higher is normally required for weapons-grade uranium, 20 per cent is said to be sufficient for crude, inefficient weapons.

Subsequently, Fordow has fallen under Western radar, though being built under some 265 feet of rock has somewhat insulated it against a potential US or Israeli airstrike.

However, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Commander General Martin E. Dempsey said “a strike [against Iran] at this time would be destabilizing.”

For his part, director of intelligence James Clapper, said that while “Iran is more than capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon, it would only do so if its political leaders, specifically the Supreme Leader himself, chose to do so.”

But as Western media hysteria over Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons program grows by the day, the leaked IAEA report may only increase the likelihood of military action against Iran.