A bad week for the Iranian regime; a mixed week for the New York Times

In what was an embarrassing week for the New York Times and its reporting on Iran, the Iranian leadership once again showed its true colors.  In his NYT article, David Sanger presents an Iran willing to compromise on its program; an Iran willing to sit down and talk in the face of an obstructionist U.S.; an Iran that initiates and makes concessions.  The title itself is extreme, and as it turned out the next day, completely inaccurate: ‘Iran Offers Plan, Dismissed by U.S., on Nuclear Crisis’.

The opening line then goes on to frame a piece that had absolutely no basis in reality:

“With harsh economic sanctions contributing to the first major protests in Iran in three years, Iranian officials have begun to describe what they call a “nine-step plan” to defuse the nuclear crisis with the West by gradually suspending the production of the uranium that would be easiest for them to convert into a nuclear weapon.”          

To Sanger’s credit, he did note that:

“Obama administration officials say the deal is intended to generate headlines.” 

And boy, did you give this imaginary deal a headline Mr Sanger!

Luckily for the NYT, Sanger’s colleague Thomas Edbrink came to the rescue, with his piece ‘Iran Denies Report of Plan to End Nuclear Standoff’.

“Iranian officials on Saturday dismissed a New York Times report saying Iran had offered a “nine-step plan” for resolving a standoff with the United States and its allies over its disputed nuclear program, calling the report “baseless.”On Saturday, Iran’s nuclear top negotiator, Saeed Jalili, told state news media that Iran had never made such an offer…

“Iran has never delivered any new proposal other than what had been put forward in talks with the P5+1,” Mr. Jalili told the state Islamic Republic News Agency, referring to official negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany. “The New York Times and other U.S. media reports are baseless.”

The irresponsible Iranian regime is in fact responding to the deterioration of its economy by starting more fires.  Joby Warrick, who seems to be one of the few U.S. commentators who genuinely understands the nature of this current regime in Iran, highlights this worrying trend.

“Iran is ratcheting up pressure on the U.N. agency responsible for overseeing the country’s nuclear program, accusing its inspectors of engaging in spying and sabotage and threatening to restrict U.N. access to Iranian nuclear facilities.

So strident has been Iran’s criticism of the International Atomic Energy Agency in recent weeks that some Western officials fear that the country is preparing to officially downgrade its cooperation with the nuclear watchdog. The Vienna-based agency is the only international body allowed to routinely visit Iran’s most sensitive nuclear installations.”

And even then… it is not allowed to visit the MOST sensitive installations, which are still off-limits to any foreign eyes.  For example, the world still wants to know what is hiding in Parchin, and why the Iranians appear to be cleaning it out and then covering it up!

Warrick responsibly quotes other experts to try and comprehend Iran’s hostile response and ongoing search to justify its continued enigmatic deception.

 The diplomats and other Western officials also note that IAEA delegations visiting Iran in recent weeks have been subjected to unusual intimidation. Since mid­-August, U.N. teams have been the targets of anti-IAEA protests in the capital, and inspectors have been privately warned that they could be held responsible for any future attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities by saboteurs or foreign governments, the officials and diplomats said.

“They may feel that they have to come up with an excuse for not cooperating on Parchin,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, an arms-control expert at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. “Or, they also may be looking for ways to ratchet down on access if another set of sanctions are imposed.”

But under the most likely scenarios, Iran would seek to produce a small arsenal of at least four nuclear bombs, a feat that would require about a year, said the report by the Institute for Science and International Security. Additional time would be required to assemble a working warhead that would fit on one of Iran’s medium-range missiles.

“Although Iran’s breakout times are shortening, an Iranian breakout in the next year could not escape detection by the IAEA or the United States,” said the report, a draft of which was provided to The Washington Post.

But what is this ISIS report and why haven’t you heard about it?  The Institute for Science and International Security is a serious multi-disciplinary think-tank led by a former IAEA inspector. It produces regular reports on the Iranian nuclear program, and this most recent one, despite its length, is indeed worth a read in its entirety.

http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/Irans_Evolving_Breakout_Potential.pdf

The report notes that:

“The fastest estimates given in this study combine the single cascades at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant with the full capacity of the Fordow plant, assuming those cascades were organized in tandem.  In this scenario, Iran could produce one SQ of WGU with 240-270 kilograms of near 20 percent LEU in a minimum of 0.8-1.0 months.  If Iran instead formed new tandem cascades at the Fuel Enrichment Plant, it could break out with less material, roughly 190-200 kilograms of near 20 percent LEU, but the breakout would take slightly longer, at 1.3-1.4 months. The extra time results from the need to form tandem cascades at the Natanz plant.”

…  Iran’s current trajectory at Fordow is increasing the chance of a military confrontation, particularly given growing concern about the relatively short breakout time at this facility once the plant is fully operational and once Iran has accumulated significantly more near  20 percent LEU hexafluoride. To reduce the tensions caused by Iran’s increasing stocks of near 20 percent LEU and by the Fordow facility, a priority in the short term should be obtaining confidence building measures which would cap Iran’s enrichment of uranium to five percent and limit the number of enriching centrifuges at the Fordow site to no more than a few hundred. It is in the interest of all concerned to avoid escalation of the Iranian nuclear crisis, first by negotiating such confidence building measures and then by negotiating more lasting agreements which ensure Iran will not build nuclear weapons.

One would think that a sober analysis of Iran’s breakout potential by a group of experts would have gained more traction in the international media. Except for Joby Warrick and Jay Solomon (of the Wall Street Journal), very few western journalists or commentators bothered to read this report which highlights just how developed Iran’s nuclear program is today.

So Iran’s response to genuine grass roots protests over the disastrous economic situation in Iran is to increase friction with the IAEA, increase friction with the international community over its nuclear program – the source of the sanctions – and in turn increase friction with the its own people, the people of Iran.  How long will it be before all of this friction leaves the Iranian regime badly burnt?

And how long must we wait for the international media, and in this week’s case the NYT, to utilize important and serious reports like the aforementioned ISIS breakout report, instead of clutching at diplomatic straws, writing hypothetical stories with apologetic headlines, based on the unsubstantiated claims of unnamed sources.

Blogging & updating on #Iran related news- focusing on Politics, Human Rights & the Iranian nuclear Program. Followed by top Middle East Analysts, Reportes & think tanks.

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