A report this week on
The IAEA investigators cited what they called compelling evidence that Iran has continued to pursue a range of advanced technologies that are needed to construct a nuclear weapon but that make little sense in the context of a civilian nuclear power program. Among them are designs for nuclear missile warheads, triggering devices for initiating a nuclear chain reaction and computer simulations of the complex processes involved in using conventional explosives to compress uranium fuel to the critical mass that causes it to detonate.
Mindful of the deeply flawed intelligence on
And while the report appears to corroborate a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran stopped a highly centralized effort to build a bomb in 2003 (possibly in response to fears it might suffer the same fate as Iraq), it leaves open the possibility that critical elements of that program continued after being dispersed among university labs and government installations around the country. Such a dispersal would make the program less likely to be detected as well as less vulnerable to attack should
Meanwhile, Iran has continued to enrich uranium, despite what now appears to have been a temporary slowdown in production caused by the
The Iranian government quickly denounced the IAEA report as a fabrication dictated by the U.S. and its allies to justify tighter sanctions and force the country to abandon its nuclear program. In a speech after the report was released, Iranian
The Obama administration has opposed military action against Iran's nuclear facilities on the quite reasonable grounds that any halt in the program would likely be temporary and because there is no assurance that even a sustained campaign of air strikes could destroy all the nuclear sites scattered around the country, some of which are buried deep underground.
Moreover, America would have to reckon with the fact that currently there's no global consensus for a military strike against Iran.
Finally, any attack on Iran by Israel or the U.S. would further destabilize what is already one of the most volatile regions in the world. At a time when a spike in oil prices or a disruption of supplies could seriously damage the fragile economies of Europe as well as the U.S., it will be hard to convince our allies to support a military action that might easily spin out of control and engulf the Mideast in turmoil for years to come.
The U.S. must do all it can to press China and Russia to recognize the grave dangers a nuclear-armed Iran poses to their own interests in the region and persuade them to urge Iran's leaders to return to the bargaining table.