September 06, 2011

This Weekend’s News: Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

On Monday, The New
York Times
reported that Iran began successfully operating its first
nuclear power plant. “The
$1 billion, 1,000-megawatt Bushehr plant will be formally inaugurated Sept. 12,
by which time it will be operating at 40 percent capacity
,” the report
said. According to the Times, “Experts
say starting up the Bushehr plant will not bring Iran any closer to building a
nuclear bomb, because Russia will supply the enriched uranium for the reactor
and repatriate spent fuel that could be reprocessed into weapons-grade

However, on Saturday, The
New York Times
reported that international nuclear inspectors found that
Iran has started operating “a new
generation of equipment that over time should give it the capability to produce
nuclear fuel much faster
.” Understandably, the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) report on Iran’s new equipment has made onlookers nervous: “What
worries us is not what the Iranians show the inspectors, but what it tells us
about what they know how to produce
,” an American intelligence official
told The New York Times.  What is more, “The
[international inspectors’] report also warned anew of what the I.A.E.A. called
‘possible military dimensions’ of Iran’s program, including suspected work on a
‘nuclear payload for a missile, about which the agency continues to receive new
,’” according to the Times.

The announcement that Iran has started to successfully
operate its first nuclear power plant represents a significant milestone for
the country that is sure to continue to worry experts and security officials in
Europe and the United States. Interestingly enough though, Iran seemed prepared
to mollify those worries on Tuesday by declaring that it was prepared to allow
international inspectors “full
” of its nuclear activities over the next five years “on
the condition that the mounting sanctions against Iran are lifted

Given the Obama administration’s purposeful plan to buy time
with Iran’s nuclear program, it would seem impractical to lift sanctions
against the Iranian regime, since many signs point to the fact that the
sanctions have indeed helped Washington slow down Tehran’s nuclear program.
What is more, Iran’s history with international inspectors is likely to raise
suspicions. In the past the regime has refused to release documents to IAEA
inspectors, restricted inspectors’ access to Iranian scientists and limited
where they could travel. However, “If
it means that inspectors could visit all the sites on their list, interview
scientists who are believed to be linked to military work and review the
documents that Iran has declined to turn over, it would mark a significant
,” The New York Times reported.
“But as one American intelligence official put it recently, ‘We have a list of
tunnels to look at that is so long, it would take years.’”

This Week’s Events

Today at noon, head to the George Washington University Law
School for a discussion on The
South China Sea: Increasing Maritime Jurisdictional Certainty or Complexity?

Tomorrow at 9 AM, the Press Club will host a conversation
with NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco on the U.S.-EU
Agreement to Combat Illegal Fishing on the High Seas and the Future of Fishing

Finally, on Friday at 2:30 PM, stop by  the George Washington University’s Elliot
School for Reconstruction
and Beyond: The Great East Japan Earthquake and Its Implications