“Iran said on Wednesday it had started installing a new generation of machines for enriching uranium, an announcement likely to annoy the West and complicate efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute over its nuclear program.”
“It came on the day the U.N. nuclear watchdog began talks in Tehran to try to advance a long-stalled investigation into suspected military dimensions of the program.”
The Reuters report provided important context for this week’s IAEA visit:
“The IAEA has been trying for over a year to secure the access that its inspectors say they need to investigate suspicions of nuclear weapons research.”
“Its immediate priority is to visit the Parchin military base southeast of Tehran, where it suspects explosives tests relevant to nuclear weapons may have taken place, perhaps a decade ago, an accusation Tehran denies.”
A day later, on Thursday, Reuters went on to note that:
“The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Thursday it had again failed to clinch a deal in talks with Iran this week on investigating suspected atom bomb research by the Islamic state.
The lack of a breakthrough in Wednesday’s meeting in Tehran, though expected by Western diplomats, represented a new setback for international efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.”
“Purchase orders obtained by nuclear researchers show an attempt by Iranian agents to buy 100,000 of the ring-shaped magnets — which are banned from export to Iran under U.N. resolutions — from China about a year ago, those familiar with the effort said. It is unclear whether the attempt succeeded.”
Warrick emphasized the significance of this purchase:
“Although Iran has frequently sought to buy banned items from foreign vendors, this case is considered unusual because of the order’s specificity and sheer size — enough magnets in theory to outfit 50,000 new centrifuges, or nearly five times the number that Iran currently operates.”
He does, however, qualify these concerns noting:
“Iran has simultaneously taken steps to ease Western anxiety over its nuclear program, chiefly by converting a portion of its uranium stockpile into a metal form that cannot be easily used to make nuclear weapons.”
Warrick finishes with the obvious, albeit biting, quip of a diplomat:
“Adding new machines just means you get there a lot faster,” the diplomat said.”
Simultaneously on Wednesday – when the wires were demonstrating their journalistic professionalism – the NYT got the headline slightly too optimistic (‘Iran to Resume Nuclear Talks’ – one they eventually changed), but were brought back to reality with more of Iran’s predictable suspicious foot-dragging on Thursday:
Herman Nackaerts, the deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the discussions “could not finalize” a document that “once agreed, should facilitate the resolution of outstanding issues regarding possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.”
And during a week full of nuclear excitement, North Korea conducted a third and well documented nuclear test. Mark Fitzpatrick (director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Program at the UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies) in The National, listed some of the potential repercussions for Iran’s nuclear program.
“When Iran and North Korea signed a science and technological cooperation agreement in Tehran last September, both the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation and the defence minister were present.”
Importantly, Fitzpatrick highlights that:
Some commentators even claim that Iran could thereby develop a nuclear weapon without testing itself, because North Korea would in effect be doing so on behalf of both countries, particularly if the third test turns out to have used highly enriched uranium (HEU). North Korea’s previous tests were of plutonium devices, but the nation no longer produces plutonium and has shifted its emphasis to uranium enrichment, the backbone of Iran’s nuclear programme.
So another week of journalistic excellence from Reuters, but more disappointment from Iran when all the world is asking for… is a bit of transparency.