In a report out today, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that, as expected, Iran’s progress on uranium enrichment and plutonium production is moving along sluggishly. Further, it seems that some in the Iranian ruling elite are doubting the political utility of pursuing the nuclear program full steam a head. From the AP:
…while Iran continued to expand its uranium enrichment program, it was doing so much more slowly than expected, and had produced only negligible amounts of nuclear fuel that was far below the level usable for nuclear warheads.
One of the U.N. officials also noted that construction of the plutonium-producing reactor at the city of Arak had slowed in recent months.
He said that “design difficulties, getting equipment, materials and components, and fuel technology, plus perhaps some political considerations,” could be causing the delay.
The allusion to “political considerations” appeared linked to reports that Iranian officials might be considering stopping construction of the Arak reactor in another sign of good will calculated to blunt the threat of new U.N. sanctions.
Citing unidentified Iranian sources, Jane’s Defense Weekly earlier this week said some members of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council were pushing for such a move.
Remember this little nugget the next time the war chorus heaps scorn on the diplomatic process and urges a swift military confrontation. There is still plenty of time for diplomacy to work. That is, as long as we want it to work.
The International Atomic Energy Agency released a new report detailing Iranian non-compliance with Security Council demands that it suspend its uranium enrichment program. American officials are not pleased. From the Washington Post:
Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns called the IAEA report “disturbing, because it shows that Iran is effectively thumbing its nose at the U.N. and the entire international community. If Iran does not agree to sit down and negotiate, which we would prefer they do, then I’m quite sure there will be united and strong international pressure for a third resolution.”
“The purpose would be to demonstrate to Iran that it is isolated and will pay an increasingly heavy cost for this outrageous behavior,” Burns said.
In today’s press conference, President Bush responded to the report by expressing his desire to pursue a tougher set of sanctions against Iran in the Security Council. Given the low expectations for a planned meeting next week between Iranian negotiator Ali Larjani and Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, we may soon see new action at the Security Council to step up the pressure on Iran.