The Arms Control Association’s Peter Crail has a letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post. The note is a response to the newspaper’s editorial of September 10 (covered in our Talking Points that day) asserting that sanctions are not working to curb Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons aspirations. The headline of the editorial wondered aloud whether the IAEA would be able to detect a shift of Iran’s nuclear program into a “final push” for weapons. Crail responds emphatically: “yes,” that it would.
Crail also makes the interesting point that this would certainly cease to be the case if Iran was attacked over its nuclear program. In other words, the inspections are working well enough, and the main threat to IAEA monitoring of Iran’s program is a military strike on its nuclear sites.
Here’s the full letter to the editor:
Meaures are in place to track Iran’s nuclear ambitions
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The secondary headline on the Sept. 10 editorial “Iran enriches” asked: “If Tehran launches a final push for a weapon, can U.N. inspectors detect it?”
The answer is yes.
For a “final push” to reach fruition, Iran would need to enrich its 2,800 kilograms of low-enriched uranium to weapons grade. Even though Tehran does appear to want a secret facility to carry out that enrichment, its low-enriched uranium is still under safeguards. Cameras provide real-time monitoring, seals indicate any tampering, and unannounced visits by inspectors throughout the year provide a thorough accounting of the material.
Moreover, Iran keeps getting caught building secret facilities. Its attempt to construct a clandestine plant near Qom was discovered last year, and Tehran appears to have lost interest in completing the facility.
Shedding light on Iran’s nuclear program has made it more costly and time-consuming for Iran to achieve a nuclear weapons capability. In the event of a military strike against Iran, however, that light would go dark, and uncertainties about Iran’s capabilities would only increase.
Peter Crail, Washington
The writer is a nonproliferation analyst with the Arms Control Association.