How the world let Iran get to 84% uranium enrichment - opinion

A combination of wishful thinking, greed and complacency has led to the current state of affairs, but the solution does not involve military strikes.

Atom symbol and Iran flag are seen in this illustration, July 21, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)
Atom symbol and Iran flag are seen in this illustration, July 21, 2022.

Bloomberg first reported last week that inspectors in Iran had detected uranium specks enriched up to 84% purity. The United Nations’ Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has not refuted the report, stating that, “the IAEA is discussing with Iran the results of recent agency verification activities.”

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Furthermore, Bloomberg reported, “the International Atomic Energy Agency is trying to clarify how Iran accumulated uranium enriched to 84% purity — the highest level found by inspectors in the country to date, and a concentration just 6% below what’s needed for a weapon.”

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), says the country has not so far enriched uranium beyond 60%, arguing that “the existence of uranium particles above 60% in the enrichment process does not mean enrichment above 60%.”

But according to an Associated Press report on February 24, Iran ”directly acknowledged an accusation attributed to international inspectors that it enriched uranium to 84% purity for the first time, which would put the Islamic Republic closer than ever to weapons-grade material.”

At the moment, there are many conflicting reports circulating, which require further investigation and confirmation. We also need to take into account that this process occurs with most enrichment facilities when there are glitches in centrifuges due to mechanical or other reasons.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran speaks during news conference in Tehran, Iran, September 7, 2019. (credit: WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran speaks during news conference in Tehran, Iran, September 7, 2019. (credit: WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

Even the IAEA said this has also happened with Iran's 20% enrichment activities in the past, when small collections of low-enriched uranium (LEU) above 20% purity were unintentionally produced. 

The US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) regarding Iran’s nuclear problem has stated since 2003 that the mullahs running Iran have, on their own and through their goodwill, ceased all activities aimed at acquiring the bomb. 

A superficial reading of the NIE presentation of the findings was the comfort pill that successfully sugarcoats even the most unpalatable news, making it easier to swallow.

Iran nuclear program more advanced than previously known - CIA director

Iran's nuclear enrichment program is more advanced than previously known and "if they chose to cross that line," Tehran would only need a "matter of weeks" to enrich uranium capable of powering a nuclear weapon, CIA director William Burns told CBS News this week.

Prudence demands that the civilized world make decisions based on facts, first and foremost, and then weigh the opinions, conjectures and advice of others. We need to do the same with all the reports. 

We must not let the medium, the clever packaging of the report, become or even obscure the message. Once we do that, we will find an awful lot of troubling issues. 

Permit me to summarize things as I see them: 

* Iran, under the late Shah, launched a plan to achieve “surge capacity,” code for getting all the ingredients and procedures down pat for making the bomb quickly, short of actually making it; a clever power-play. 

* A saint and revered man of God, according to none other than Jimmy Carter (who considers himself another great man of God), the late Ayatollah Khomeini canceled the nuclear program with the same saintly and prompt edict that he canceled the life of thousands of Iranians for daring to disagree with his system of medieval Sharia rule. 

* After Khomeini’s demise, another much more crafty and ambitious mullah, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, became the president and re-activated the program secretly, while the IAEA watchdog snoozed contentedly on the job. 

* Decades later, some Iranians opposed to the rule of the murdering mullahs finally bypassed the watchdog and showed the world proof positive that the mullahs were racing tirelessly with their scheme of getting the ultimate weapon.

This information greatly alarmed the United States and Israel, but did not seem to bother any European nation, the Russians or the Chinese. Somehow this latter group of nations figured that they would let the US do all the worrying about the looming menace, while they focused on the lucrative business deals they had diligently worked out with the mullahs. This was something reminiscent of the cozy deal the French and the Russians had with the butcher of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein. 

* As time went on, US president after US president vowed that Iran would never be allowed to achieve its goal on his watch. They kept using all kinds of threats and promises in order to persuade the mullahs to drop the project, to no avail. 

When the belligerent end-of-the-worlder, Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), things started heating up greatly. 

Time and again, the bellicose Ahmadinejad kept vilifying the Great Satan and its sidekick Israel for having the gall to demand that Iran abandon its program while his two main adversaries had their own arsenal of nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad informed the world that what the Islamic Republic does is within its own national rights. He cleverly shored up his credibility by dispatching an endless series of negotiators to meetings with the Europeans. He was successfully stalling for time while working around the clock to get to “surge capacity.” 

* The NIE report assured us that the IRI abandoned its nuclear weapons program a decade or so ago. So, there is really nothing to fear and even less reason to maintain the dangerous game of brinksmanship with the mullahs. Upon superficial reading of the report, one may get the impression that the mullahs are not exactly the saints of Allah as Jimmy Carter had thought them and helped bring them to power. Yet, neither are they the scheming, unrepenting, zany villains that their enemies portray. 

* Now the world does not know what to do with the Iran nuclear issue. The IAEA kept its plush role of trotting around the world and doing nothing to warrant its existence. The Europeans kept on doing lucrative business with the gas station the mullahs operate. The UN Security Council stalled, watered down or completely abandoned any new sanctions on the IRI. The Russians and the Chinese were delighted at the US humiliation and kept on making money from their nuclear and oil deals. See how great it is? Just one report and huge problems are solved and everyone is happy. That’s how the world allowed Iran to get to 84% enrichment. 

Logic, what logic? Fanaticism generated by belief defies logic at every bend. 

If the mullahs get the bomb, they will make use of it in numerous ways. They will use it for blackmail; they will use it in small packages through untraceable proxies; and they might even launch it with their missiles in the homicide-suicide fashion that is their trademark. 

After all, it is the mullahs’ deeply-held belief that their cataclysmic act will expedite the coming of the Saheb-ul-Zaman (the Lord of the Age), whence he will set the world on the righteous course as those who have hastened his coming will be immersed eternally in the pleasures of Allah’s promised paradise.

The best strategy with the greatest chance of success and the least risk of starting a cataclysmic chain reaction is for a "coalition of the willing” - to borrow a phrase - to rally behind the Iranian people. 

These enlightened Iranians despise the mullahs and have no animosity toward Israel or the United States. Most of these people are well-educated and intelligent and have broken away from the slavery and fraud of Islamism. No need for any military strikes either by Israel or the US.