Iran's nuclear weapons: evidence to the contrary

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 November, 2007, 12:00am

Former Israeli defence minister Shaul Mofaz is not a fan of Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In fact, he wants him fired.

'The policies followed by ElBaradei endanger world peace. His irresponsible attitude of sticking his head in the sand over Iran's nuclear programme should lead to his impeachment,' Mr Mofaz said during a visit to Washington earlier this month.

Mr Mofaz was getting his retaliation in first. As he foresaw, the IAEA director's report on Iran's uranium enrichment programme, released last week, said that Tehran was years away from being able to make nuclear weapons.

Not only that, but he said Iran is complying with a work plan agreed with the IAEA in August. That will clear up the remaining questions about a project the Iranians insist was only ever about making fuel for civilian nuclear power stations.

It was the same Dr ElBaradei who reported to the UN Security Council on February 14, 2003: 'We have, to date, found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq.'

The US and Britain insisted that their intelligence said otherwise, and Iraq was duly invaded.

Dr ElBaradei must feel a strong sense of deja vu as his reports on Iran four years later get the same treatment in the major western countries. French Defence Minister Herve Morin responded that 'our information, which is backed up by other countries, is contrary [to Dr ElBaradei's comments]' . For the simple-minded, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino offered even clearer proof of Iran's wickedness. It is, she said, 'enriching and reprocessing uranium, and the reason that one does that is to lead towards a nuclear weapon'.

Apart from the eight nuclear weapons powers - the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel - four other countries already have plants on their territory for 'enriching and reprocessing uranium' under IAEA safeguards: Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil. Argentina, Australia and South Africa are also building or actively considering uranium-enrichment facilities, again under IAEA safeguards.

So there was some rapid back-pedalling at the White House when a journalist inquired if all these countries were also seeking nuclear weapons. US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe explained: 'Each country is different, but obviously [Ms Perino] was asked, and was talking, about Iran.'

In other words, the real proof that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons lies in the fact that we know in our hearts it is evil.

The problem is that this same ability to enrich uranium for nuclear power generation also confers the ability to enrich it for use in nuclear weapons. As long as IAEA safeguards are in place, that won't happen but, if a country later leaves the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and expels the IAEA, it doesn't take long to start making bombs. It's really a question of trust.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries