Custom Search

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Iranian Irritation: Natanz Facility

Those who have read this blog for a while now understand that Iran, or to be more precise, the people that run Iran, irritate me.

They play with the media, they play with the UN and statements come out of the little thug that runs Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has publicly stated his desire to "wipe Israel off the map", we see via our television sets, people chanting, "Death To America", we see news that Iran is arming and training insurgents in Iraq to kill our coalition forces, and the UN sits idly by, passing weak sanctions while Iran continues down the path to becoming a nuclear power.

Before I start, let us be clear about the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

From their site:

Three main pillars - or areas of work - underpin the mission:

Promoting Safeguards & Verification
The IAEA is the world's nuclear inspectorate, with more than four decades of verification experience. Inspectors work to verify that safeguarded nuclear material and activities are not used for military purposes. The Agency is additionally responsible for the nuclear file in Iraq as mandated by the UN Security Council.

Promoting Safety and Security
The IAEA helps countries to upgrade nuclear safety and security, and to prepare for and respond to emergencies. Work is keyed to international conventions, standards and expert guidance. The main aim is to protect people and the environment from harmful radiation exposure.

Promoting Science & Technology
The IAEA is the world's focal point to mobilize peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology for critical needs in developing countries. The work contributes to fighting poverty, disease, pollution of the environment, and to other goals of sustainable development.

Please keep those self descriptors in mind as we go through the news about Iran.

When I say that Iran is playing with the media, let me show you what I find when I do a search on Natanz, but I will start with earlier reports and move closer to todays latest news.

May 25, 2007- Headline from Herald Tribune: "Senior Iranian and European officials seek to defuse nuclear standoff"

In this article we see a very disturbing comment from ElBaradei, who is the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA.)

Publicly though, the Americans and their allies are taking issue with recent public suggestions by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei calling for such middle ground and have criticized his suggestions that it is too late to force Tehran to totally scrap its enrichment program as demanded by the Security Council.

"I believe that (U.N.) demand has been superseded by events," ElBaradei told the Spanish newspaper ABC last week.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said senior U.S., French, British and Japanese diplomats on Friday registered their "concern" about those remarks in a meeting with ElBaradei, at his Vienna-based organization.

The issue gained in importance Wednesday, when ElBaradei sent a report to the Security Council that says Iran has expanded its enrichment activities instead of freezing them — a finding that could act as a trigger for a third set of sanctions.
I take issue with ElBaradei's claim that "events" superceded the UN's demands. Iran deliberately ignored those demands and continued with his enrichment despite sanctions, weak as they were, being placed on them.

June 23, 2007- Headline from The Telegraph: " Iran takes step nearer to a nuclear bomb"

On the same day, Peoples Daily Online, based in China, has a headline of: "Iran denies interior minister's statement on enriched uranium stockpile"

One month later, June 25, 2007- Herald Tribune again: "Iran invites UN team for talks on ending nuclear impasse".

Once again, ElBaradei speaks about "defusing" the situation. Now instead of being a nuclear watch dog, he is a politician.

"I have been warning about a brewing confrontation that needs to be defused," ElBaradei said at the time.

Larijani met with Solana in Lisbon on Saturday, then returned to Vienna for another meeting with ElBaradei on Sunday evening, at which he formally made the invitation.

The agency's delegation is expected to be led by its chief of inspections, Olli Heinonen.

Agency inspectors in Iran are still active, even at Natanz, the nuclear facility where uranium enrichment occurs. But since February 2006, when the 35-member governing board of the agency voted to report Iran to the Security Council, Tehran has kept the inspectors on a tighter leash.

The agency is seeking the authority to inspect more sites - for example, factories that produce centrifuge machines.

In a report to the board of the agency this month, ElBaradei said he was frustrated by the agency's inability to verify the scope of Iranian ambitions, particularly as Tehran has expanded the Natanz facility and "continues steadily to perfect its knowledge relevant to enrichment."

Iran has also continued building a heavy-water nuclear reactor at Arak, 190 kilometers, or 120 miles, southwest of Tehran, after the agency removed it last year from a list of projects for which it planned to provide technical assistance.

Anyone else starting to see a pattern of "delay tactics" by Iran AND ElBaradei?

But we are not done by a long shot, the double speak continues into July.

July 1, 2007- ABC News: "Iran speeds up nuclear enrichment"

Mr Soltanieh added that construction work on a heavy water reactor in Arak, in central Iran, was continuing without delay, despite International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) calls to halt the work.

"There has been no stop to our work in Arak," he said.

"If the United States and the Europeans insist that Iran not have a heavy water reactor they should accept that we enrich uranium to a higher level."

He said the Arak reactor, due to be completed in 2009, would replace a research reactor in Tehran which was supplied by the Americans before the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"At the time, 93 percent (enriched) fuel was supplied, and the next batch of fuel was 20 per cent, it is not possible to go under this level," Soltanieh said.

A senior diplomat with ties to the IAEA said that Iran was already operating more than 1,300 centrifuges for enrichment by mid-May at its Natanz plant and could have 3,000 by the end of July.

Are you getting that warm, fuzzy feeling yet?

Todays News. July 9, 2007-Wapo: "Tunneling Near Iranian Nuclear Site Stirs Worry"

(Analysts say the tunnels apparently under construction near the Natanz uranium enrichment facility would offer protection from an aerial attack. By Vahid Salemi -- Associated Press)

The sudden flurry of digging seen in recent satellite photos of a mountainside in central Iran might have passed for ordinary road tunneling. But the site is the back yard of Iran's most ambitious and controversial nuclear facility, leading U.S. officials and independent experts to reach another conclusion: It appears to be the start of a major tunnel complex inside the mountain.

The question is, why? Worries have been stoked by the presence nearby of fortified buildings where uranium is being processed. Those structures in turn are now being connected by roads to Iran's nuclear site at Natanz, where the country recently started production of enriched uranium in defiance of international protests.

As a result, photos of the site are being studied by governments, intelligence agencies and nuclear experts, all asking the same question: Is Iran attempting to thwart future military strikes against its nuclear facility by placing key parts of it in underground bunkers?

The construction has raised concerns at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based U.N. watchdog that monitors Iran's nuclear program. On Friday, an IAEA spokeswoman confirmed that the agency has broached the subject with Iranian officials. "We have been in contact with the Iranian authorities about this, and we have received clarifications," said Melissa Fleming, the spokeswoman. She declined to elaborate.

Calls to Iran's U.N. mission in Vienna were not returned. IAEA officials plan to press the issue further in a previously scheduled visit to Tehran later this week, according to informed sources.

"The tunnel complex certainly appears to be related to Natanz," said David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based nonprofit group that provided copies of the photos to The Washington Post. "We think it is probably for storage of nuclear items."

U.S. officials at several military and intelligence-gathering agencies said they are aware of the construction and are watching it closely, though none would comment publicly or speculate on the purpose of the tunnels.

A tunnel complex would reduce options for a preemptive military strike to knock out Iran's nuclear program, according to U.S. officials who closely follow Iran's nuclear activities. It also could further heighten tensions between the Bush administration and the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said he is committed to pursuing a peaceful use of nuclear power.

But WAIT!!!!!!!

Remember above where ElBaradei said, and I quote ""I have been warning about a brewing confrontation that needs to be defused,"?

Well, we also see ElBaradei try to do exactly that once again via Reuters: "Iran slowing down uranium enrichment work: ElBaradei".

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran has slowed the expansion of its disputed uranium enrichment program, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Monday, after Western powers threatened to hit Tehran with harsher sanctions.

The Iranian shift was detected by IAEA inspectors last week after months in which Iran accelerated the installation of centrifuge machines that refine uranium, an effort Western leaders suspect is covertly meant to yield atomic bombs.

The Islamic Republic has condemned two batches of limited U.N. Security Council sanctions adopted since December as illegal, insisting its program aims only at generating electricity and vowing to press on no matter what.

IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei said agency inspectors who just revisited Iran's vast underground enrichment plant at Natanz found it was scaling back its expansion in operations.

"We were there last week and we saw a slowing in the process of commissioning new cascades," ElBaradei said, referring to interlinked networks of centrifuges that spin at high speeds to refine uranium into nuclear fuel.

Wow, isn't that convenient timing?

A little too convenient.

We are still not done with todays news though.

Remember Gen. Ali Reza Asgari? The top Iranian General that defected back in March?

He has been talking to U.S. officials:

July 9, 2007 -- Iran is developing a third secret nuclear facility that would serve as a fallback in case two other plants in the rogue nation's arsenal come under attack, an Israeli newspaper reported yesterday.

A top U.S. source, quoting Iranian Gen. Ali Reza Asgari, who defected to the United States in March, told the paper Yedioth Ahronoth that Iran is further along on a stealth path to building nukes at a facility in Natanz than ever anticipated. Until now, analysts had believed Iran had only two nuclear plants, in Arak and Bushehr.

Starting to feel like a yoyo gone wild right about now?

We, as an international community have a problem, a serious problem and its name is Iran.

What are we doing about it? Negotiations have gotten us nowhere. Sanctions thanks to Russia and China have been so watered down that they are completely ineffective, and we, the world, have such a severe case of ADD (Attention deficit disorder) that we are merrily skipping along focusing on attorney firings, who Fred Thompson is hiring, Congress and their 6 investigations a day, ignoring their job, which is to legislate, Scooter Libby, the live Earth event that flopped, with excuses saying "people didn't come because it was too cold" (HEH), among other things, and we are ignoring what is perhaps the biggest threat to our country and to the whole Middle East.

I will say a few people are keeping their eye on the ball named Iran.

Joe Liberman:

Iran's Proxy War
Tehran is on the offensive against us throughout the Middle East. Will Congress respond?

Friday, July 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Earlier this week, the U.S. military made public new and disturbing information about the proxy war that Iran is waging against American soldiers and our allies in Iraq.

According to Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, the Iranian government has been using the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah to train and organize Iraqi extremists, who are responsible in turn for the murder of American service members.

Gen. Bergner also revealed that the Quds Force--a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps whose mission is to finance, arm and equip foreign Islamist terrorist movements--has taken groups of up to 60 Iraqi insurgents at a time and brought them to three camps near Tehran, where they have received instruction in the use of mortars, rockets, improvised explosive devices and other deadly tools of guerrilla warfare that they use against our troops. Iran has also funded its Iraqi proxies generously, to the tune of $3 million a month.

Based on the interrogation of captured extremist leaders--including a 24-year veteran of Hezbollah, apparently dispatched to Iraq by his patrons in Tehran--Gen. Bergner also reported on Monday that the U.S. military has concluded that "the senior leadership" in Iran is aware of these terrorist activities. He said it is "hard to imagine" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei--Iran's supreme leader--does not know of them.

These latest revelations should be a painful wakeup call to the American people, and to the U.S. Congress. They also expand on a steady stream of public statements over the past six months by David Petraeus, the commanding general of our coalition in Iraq, as well as other senior American military and civilian officials about Iran's hostile and violent role in Iraq. In February, for instance, the U.S. military stated that forensic evidence has implicated Iran in the death of at least 170 U.S. soldiers.

Iran's actions in Iraq fit a larger pattern of expansionist, extremist behavior across the Middle East today. In addition to sponsoring insurgents in Iraq, Tehran is training, funding and equipping radical Islamist groups in Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan--where the Taliban now appear to be receiving Iranian help in their war against the government of President Hamid Karzai and its NATO defenders.

While some will no doubt claim that Iran is only attacking U.S. soldiers in Iraq because they are deployed there--and that the solution, therefore, is to withdraw them--Iran's parallel proxy attacks against moderate Palestinians, Afghans and Lebanese directly rebut such claims.

Read the rest of Lieberman's article at Opinion Journal. has a piece called "The Iran Crisis and Possible Scenarios"

Human Events written by Jed Babbin, "Let’s Undo the Concessions to Iran".

When a madman threatens to kill you, it would behoove you to BELIEVE HIM.

Now hop on over and see what Syria is up to.

Others not ignoring Iran's little games:
The Moderate Voice, Jammie Wearing Fool, ThreatsWatch, Hot Air.

More can be found talking about Iran at Technorati.