When the IAEA’s May report came out, a minority – including this blog – was alert enough to flag the reference to Iranian progress in the plutonium route. Now, this issue is finally receiving the media attention it deserves.
Typical of media coverage surrounding Tehran’s growing WMD capabilities, seems the plutonium issue has resurfaced thanks in some measure to David Albright’s respected think tank the ISIS. Its recent document examining progress at the Arak reactor points out UN calls to halt construction, and emphasizes that:
“Operating the Arak reactor would heighten concerns that Iran aims to build nuclear weapons. Its operation would needlessly complicate negotiations and increase the risk of military strikes.”
The ISIS report was eventually followed in the past week by this piece by the WSJ‘s Jay Solomon, according to which:
“Iran could begin producing weapons-grade plutonium by next summer, U.S. and European officials believe, using a different nuclear technology that would be easier for foreign countries to attack.”
To be fair to the Israelis, Prime Minister Netanyahu already mentioned the issue during a July interview to CBS. More recently, its former military intelligence commander Amos Yadlin opined in the New York Times that:
“At the United Nations last September, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, focused only on uranium enrichment, reinforcing a one-dimensional perception of the Iranian nuclear program. This narrow perception is already widespread in the West and could enable Iran to attain a swift breakout capability using uranium or to build a plutonium bomb without detection.”
The international community has had a difficult time dealing solely with Iran’s advancing uranium enrichment program; not at all clear how it will also tackle the plutonium threat – not to mention missile progress. But unlike the media – which can focus on Rouhani’s cabinet and smiles, if it chooses – world decision makers don’t have that luxury.