Analysis: Iran crossing red line with yellowcake

Former MI chief Yadlin says Iran hasn't backtracked on enrichment, unlike previous assessments by top Israeli and int'l figures.

April 30, 2013 00:40
3 minute read.
Amos Yadlin JPost conference April 28 2013

Yadlin conference 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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The 2013 Jerusalem Post Annual Conference at the Mariott Marquis Hotel in New York’s Times Square supplied many headlines.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert angered Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and people in the room by downplaying the Iranian nuclear threat and defending the Second Lebanon War.

There were reassurances that Israel was not trying to push the United States to go to war with Syria from Ambassador Michael Oren and International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz, the minister closest to Netanyahu.

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan made his first media appearance following lifesaving surgery and came out swinging. Two of Israel’s top defenders, Prof. Alan Dershowitz and Post columnist Caroline Glick, snarled back and forth at each other.

But the biggest news with the most serious short- and long-term ramifications for Israel’s security did not come from the stage or the rooms behind the scenes where interviews took place. It came from Table Seven in the dining hall where VIPs were served lunch.

That was where former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin explained in closed conversations what he meant when he said at last week’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference that Iran had already crossed the red line that Netanyahu set in a high-profile speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

The retired general’s INSS statement embarrassed Netanyahu, who made a point of defending himself at the start of Monday’s Likud faction meeting.

Yadlin told the Post at the lunch that Iran crossing Netanyahu’s red line did not mean that they have the bomb. Netanyahu set his red line at Iran acquiring the 250 kilograms of 20-percent-enriched uranium needed for a bomb if enriched further to 90%.

But that further enrichment – however quickly and secretly it can take place – still would have to be done for Iran to join the nuclear club.

The news from Yadlin was that Iran had not backtracked on its enrichment, unlike previous assessments by top Israeli and international figures. Netanyahu had been credited around the world with pressuring Iran to backtrack and convert 40% of its 20% uranium to fuel rods that cannot be used to make a bomb.

A Washington Post editorial even said US President Barack Obama should thank Netanyahu for proving that “clear red lines can help create the ‘time and space for diplomacy’ that President Obama seeks.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon characterized this backtracking by saying “you cannot make an egg out of an omelette.”

Comes Yadlin and says that that might be true, but Iran did not make a whole omelette. They only made a third of an omelette. Specifically, out of the 110 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium, only 30 kilograms became fuel rods.

The other 80 kilograms were made into oxidized uranium in a powdered form, or – to stay with Ya’alon’s metaphor – powdered eggs.

How do you make an egg out of powdered eggs?

Yadlin draws a chemical equation and says it can be constituted using yellowcake uranium that Iran possesses.

The IAEA says that Iran has 170 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium that have not been converted. Add that to the 80, and you get 250 kilograms, a crossed red line, an undermined prime minister and a serious problem.

Yellowcake does not sound appetizing to hear about over lunch. But it could end up making big news.

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