Iran's nuclear program

Iran's nuclear program chugs along merrily. An article in GlobalSecurity.org by WaPo writer Dana Priest written last July has extensive details on Iran's reactor at Bushehr, which has been inspected by the IAEA (since Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). In the context of Iran's nuclear development program (estimated completion: 7 years by CIA, 5 years by Mossad), the article explains:

Neither the technology nor the spent fuel from the Bushehr plant could, by itself, be used to make a nuclear bomb. But the same technology used in the plant is necessary to manufacture enriched fuel for nuclear weapons. Also, weapons-grade plutonium could be extracted from the spent fuel for a nuclear bomb.

However, what I find more interesting is the summary in the article of the role that foreign governments have played in assisting Iran, and Iraq, in constructing their nuclear infrastructure. France built the Osirak reactor in Iraq, destroyed by Israel in 1981. Germany began building Bushehr for Iran in 1974 and Russia will has an $800 million contract for assistance and supplying the fuel. In fact, Russia's ambition in Iran is not limited to one unit:

Indeed, the Russian government announced last week that it plans to dramatically increase its cooperation with Iran in the energy field, including a proposal to build five more nuclear reactors. The plan envisages a total of four Russian-built reactors at Bushehr, including the reactor being built, and two at Akhvaz, where construction has yet to begin.
More important, according to proliferation experts and U.S. officials, are Iran's ongoing ties with Russian scientists. Russia's help on Bushehr creates a "convenient cover for interaction" between Iranian and Russian scientists involved in nuclear weapons development, said Gary Samore, a senior nonproliferation official in the Clinton administration. It also provides a cover to transfer sensitive, hard-to-track, weapon-related components.

The big question is what will Israel do? Israel's internal security doctrine is centered around Israel remaining the only nuclear power in the Middle East. If Israel destroys Bushehr as they did Osirak, it's hard to know what the reaction would be from the Bush Administration. Certainly it would enrage Russia, and yet Russia's cooperation is a cornerstone of Bush's policies.

But an even bigger question is, what is the point of the Bush doctrine of pre-emption if our allies are going to continue funding nuclear technology to the Axis of Evil? France and Germany are already pariahs from the Bush Administration's viewpoint, but again Russia is the main enigma.

It all boils down to Russia.

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