Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Russian Enrichment Plan For Iran a 2006 Redux

The Geneva talks on Iran's nuclear program has produced an idea that has everyone buzzing. This would have Iran hand over about all of its uranium to Russia and maybe France and some other nuclear nations in the region. The idea is that these plants could do an enrichment to a form useful only as nuclear fuel or isotopes for medical treatment. Then the uranium is to be handed back to Iran for peaceful use. This would do away with the need for Iran to do their own enrichment if, as they claim, they only want peaceful use of uranium.

This is not a new idea. It was proposed by Russia when Iran restarted their Natanz plant in early 2006. And Obama isn't the first president to consider the idea as a January 26, 2006 article Bush Backs Russia Plan For Iran explains. Back then, Bush wanted it, Putin wanted it, Iran wanted talks about it. That's sort of where we're at now. The result was Iran did not hand over their uranium, kept developing their program, and nearly got hit with a military strike later that year. Wary of Iran's strong history of stalling tactics, lying about their intentions, and the shrinking window of bomb making preemption, Obama and U.S. officials have been stressing the urgency for Iran coming clean. I've read that the informal deadline for this is December. This happens to agree with certain military preparations including the frantically stepped up production of the MOP originally scheduled to be available in about 3 years but recently moved up to December of this year. MOP (Massive Ordnance Penetrator) is a vastly improved bunker buster bomb being created after congress did not approve nuclear bunker busters. According to the article:
In early July 2009, the Defense Department told a Congressional committee that the MOP was the "weapon of choice" for an “urgent operational need” enunciated by both the U.S. Pacific Command, tasked with North Korea, and the Central Command, tasked with Iran. In doing so, the Pentagon accelerated the program by three years.
The urgency is further demonstrated by the bypassing of a further testing phase:
In describing the accelerated program, Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, who heads weapons acquisition for the Air Force was quoted as saying, “These are purchases beyond just those needed to test the capability," adding, "In other words, build a small inventory.”

The talks in the 2009 version of this "let-other-countries-enrich-your-fuel" overture are scheduled for October 19 in Vienna (it was February 2 in Vienna in 2006). Let's hope they come up with a workable solution.

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