On Tuesday, newly-arrived IAEA inspectors visited Iran's Arak heavy water nuclear facility, invited by Iran in a limited but concerted attempt to allay international fears of its developing nuclear weapons program. Heavy water reactors are used to process spent uranium fuel into plutonium which can then be used to make much smaller and lighter nuclear warheads more easily delivered by missiles. The IAEA visit comes as families of detained student editors and activists describe their abuse in Iranian prison, accusing the regime of domestic torture in order to extract coerced false confessions.
Nearly coinciding with the IAEA visit is a round of new military arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab Persian Gulf states that is openly intended, as Secretary fo State Rice described, "to counter the negative influences of al-Qaeda, Hizballah, Syria and Iran," chief among them being Iran. In order to calm Israeli fears of any growing Arab military capability which might in turn be turned eventually on them, the United States also boosted its annual military aid to Israel by 25% over the next ten years. Israel's Arab weapons fears are not based on threats posed by current Gulf States leadership, but rather the additional threat the new high-tech weaponry could pose if any of the current regimes were toppled by al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-aligned Islamist forces.