Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Iran is a long term diplomatic problem

You will not hear this sort of calm analysis from the administration, but then again we should not expect accurate analysis any longer.

Professor Cole:
Despite all the sloppy and inaccurate headlines about Iran "going nuclear," the fact is that all President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday was that it had enriched uranium to a measely 3.5 percent, using a bank of 180 centrifuges hooked up so that they "cascade."

The ability to slightly enrich uranium is not the same as the ability to build a bomb. For the latter, you need at least 80% enrichment, which in turn would require about 16,000 small centrifuges hooked up to cascade. Iran does not have 16,000 centrifuges. It seems to have 180. Iran is a good ten years away from having a bomb, and since its leaders, including Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei, say they do not want an atomic bomb because it is Islamically immoral, you have to wonder if they will ever have a bomb.


UPDATE 1530 EST.

From CNN:
"When the Security Council reconvenes [later this month], I think it will be time for action," Rice said. "We can't let this continue."

Rice did not elaborate on what type of action the Security Council should take, but senior department officials said it could include a move to impose a travel ban against Iranian officials and freezing assets of the regime.

The latter is already in effect in the United States, but a U.N. resolution on similar action would require approval of all 185 U.N. members.

Foreign ministers in Russia and Britain on Wednesday joined the United States in expressing concern about Iran's announcement.
This is a long term problem, and with the short term (and potentially long term) trouble in Iraq, America must address this diplomatically, for now. Perhaps the United States can act as a vocal vanguard pressing for action (with middle players in Russia and France?) but military action during this administration is most likely not necessary -- unless Iran were to cross a red line that I do not believe they intend to cross.

6 Comments:

Blogger JasonSpalding said...

The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said “I declare here that the laboratory-scale nuclear fuel cycle has been completed and young scientists produced enriched uranium”. What was his definition of laboratory-scale? Laboratory scale characterization, small scale and pilot scale test method development.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Xanthippas said...

I agree with this completely; for now at least, Iran is a diplomatic, not a military, problem. Even the most "optimistic" estimates say that it will take Iran two years to build a functioning a bomb, and most credible estimates are between 5 to 10 years. If we're lucky (God knows we need some luck with people like Bush in charge)Bush won't even be in office when it comes time to draw a line in the sand with Iran, if it ever comes to that.

2:26 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Jason, this is a very small scale development indeed. It seems that Iran wants to build pressure. Our question must be: what is their purpose and what can we negotiate?

Xanthippas, I have added comments that agree with yours, in the update part of this post after the excerpt from Sec. Rice.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Snow Fort said...

Spalding- laboratory scale is exactly what it sounds like. It's small scale production that demonstrates the technology and the technique will produce the desired product and is often done in a research lab. While this sounds trivial and the theory behind uranium enrichment is found in most high school physics books the actual production of enriched uranium is very difficult. I have been tempted to point this out to you after the baiting entry in your blog but this comment demonstrates the lack of understanding of physics. Your thoughts on laboratory scale is akin to the US announcing atomic testing in the desert and reporters in Japan going "So, what? You're going to win the war by blowing up Nevada?"

Digging a little deeper: Contridict this declaration by Iran with the path India and Pakistan took- secret testing with the outcome made public by nuclear detonations. Enriching uranium in the laboratary is only a demonstration of ability to do so and not an overtly aggressive move. The knowledge of the enrichment process can never be destroyed, so, diplomacy will probably be the best long term resolution to this situation.

Again, the key to the declaration of laboratory-scale enrichment is the fact that it was done and can be done. The next step is either to scale up the production model tested in the lab by enlarging or by multiplication. Both have their own problems and bugs to be worked out as not ever production model works in a linear scale fashion. The heat generated by the particular enrichment method used by Iran may be fine in the lab but could be unbearable if the scale is increased 100-fold, per se. Or, it could be very expensive to repeat the set up 100 times and there for enlargement is the key. Either way, there are production issues Iran has to work out before it has enough enriched uranium to power a car, but if they can isolate particular atoms on any scale there is no sense in assuming they can't split atoms given enough motivation.

3:52 PM  
Blogger mikevotes said...

I hadn't noticed that you'd added a link to me until today. Don't know how long it's been there. I will happily reciprocate.

Oh, and I see you've got the Condi Rice hype, but did you see the state dept's Rademaker getting the headline that "Iran could have a nuclear bomb in 16 days?" I'm not kidding. Later in the article it says that's not he current capability, but it's just ridiculous hype. It's Bloomberg, I've got the link at my place at the bottom of the Iran/N Korea post.

Mike

Mike

4:51 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I did, Mike, but I did not have time to add it to this post last night.

Thank you for the link.

11:14 AM  

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