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The IAEA's Iran Mess

The IAEA dealings with Iran are a mess. In the first week of February, the IAEA members voted (27-3) to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council. Today, it appears that this decision is in question. IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaredei said that an agreement with Iran was still possible, perhaps within the week. “I am still very much hopeful that in the next week or so an agreement could be reached.”

Said one diplomat, “Iran is ready to compromise on the period of suspension of large-scale enrichment if it can keep its nuclear research activities.” But Washington insists that the continued pursuit of enrichment research is not acceptable. Iran offered to reinstate a voluntary moratorium on large-scale enrichment for two years, but the EU demanded a 10 year cessation of all nuclear enrichment.

Russia stated that its offer of joint enrichment on Russian soil is still on the table. Said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “A whole set of measures is needed, including Iran’s resumption of the moratorium and return to the observation of the additional protocol [to the NPT] and its ratification.” But the Russian offer included a key concession: It would allow Iran to operate small-scale enrichment for research purposes.

The danger of allowing Iran to keep research activities alive is that it allows them to test their centrifuge designs, which reportedly have had some minor flaws. Once they fine-tune them, they will also have honed mass production of these centrifuges. When Iran then has enough (reasonably in about two years), this is when Iran can commence large-scale enrichment. The Iranian proposal makes good sense for them in this context. It allows them to push forward in their centrifuge design rather than force a process on lesser equipment, while getting them off the immediate IAEA hook (and the West off their backs) as they develop other aspects of their nuclear weapons program, such as their heavy water plant in Arak for plutonium production and laser enrichment research at sites around Tehran.

A two-year window with enrichment research allowed is a self-defeating endeavor.

Further clouding the issue are other developments, including the lack of support from India. On the heals of a nuclear technology sharing agreement with the United States, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Monday that he was opposed to any confrontation with Iran over the nuclear issue and was for a ’compromise formula’ instead. In an apparent effort to appeal to the left side of his coalition government, who opposed the deal with the United States on the grounds that it was succumbing to American pressure, Singh said, “Confrontation must be avoided at all costs. It is not in the interest of India or the stability of the entire region.”

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said of the IAEA meetings, “We want to see a peaceful and tranquil world and, therefore, we want to work on the basis of international regulations.” Iran ratified a law that stated that if Iran was referred to the Security Council, they would disengage from those international regulations, which they promptly did (and remain) after the 27-3 IAEA Board of Governors vote in early February.

Also on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that a timetable for foreign troop withdrawal from Iraq would be ‘an essential move to put an end to the sedition in that country’.

Iranian IEDBut, as Mottaki uttered those words, the United States demonstrated that the very sedition he speaks of is supported and supplied by Iran. American military forces have intercepted shipments of advanced shaped-charge munitions shipped from Iran into Iraq and used as IED’s that are ripping into some of the strongest American armor in the field. They are triggered by motion detectors and have a copper core that melts on detonation and have pierced the armor of M1-Abrams tanks.

What the United States says links them to Iran are tell-tale manufacturing signatures — certain types of machine-shop welds and material indicating they are built by the same bomb factory.

“The signature is the same because they are exactly the same in production,” says explosives expert Kevin Barry. “So it’s the same make and model.”

U.S. officials say roadside bomb attacks against American forces in Iraq have become much more deadly as more and more of the Iran-designed and Iran-produced bombs have been smuggled in from the country since last October.

A former Iranian intelligence officer provided Kenneth Timmerman with a copy of Iranian 2006 OPLAN for operations in the Strait of Hormuz, complete with the seal of the Strategic Studies Center of the Iranian Navy. The documents appear fairly detailed and include an Order of Battle map labeled “the current status of military forces in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, 1384 (Iranian year that ends 20MAR06).”

Meanwhile, the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad has opened an Iranian Shia Council office in Ramallah, which the PA is now investigating. Islamic Jihad member Muhamad Gawanmeh said, “We want the Palestinian people to be exposed to the Iranian heritage and Shia principles. [Our goal is] to reinforce the relations between the Islamic republic of Iran and the Palestinian people. We are part of the Iranian Islamic project in the Middle East.” He also said that several other offices in the West Bank and Gaza are planned.

There seems no end to Iranian developments on many fronts, none of them positive. At every turn, Iran is more deeply involved in more terrorist organizations throughout the region, including harboring key members and planners for al-Qaeda and significant new economic-driven influence within Hamas and throughout the Palestinian Territories. Iran has made no substantive effort to allay Western fears over their nuclear program and, in fact, removed the seals from nuclear equipment at the protest of the IAEA before feeding uranium into the centrifuges and beginning enrichment. Iran, like North Korea before them, had the IAEA observation cameras removed from their facilities.

The IAEA members have already voted to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council and done so at the Security Council’s own request. It should be recognized that official referral and hand-over of the IAEA Iranian nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council lacks only the signature of the IAEA Director, Mohamed ElBaredei.

Yet, even after a 27-3 vote for referral, the referral itself is till in question. Further, there is serious doubt that anything substantive and/or preventive in nature would result from a Security Council review, with both Russia and China opposed to sanctioning Iran. If they will not impose even sanctions, what is it that the West can possibly expect to come of a referral?