This is complicated, politically and technically, but nevertheless it pains me to see the Obama Administration through the State Dept. spokesman Hillary Clinton be so simplistic and likely intentionally untruthful about many of these issues, and basically ignore their duties to bring out the verifiable facts to the public. Of couse, if we had a popular press which would do this duty, this would be unnecessary, but as we do not we seem to have one, we are left in a factual vacuum, where people need to depend on themselves and their own (largely technological) resources to enforce any sort of sanity-based view on the world. Here are a few verifiable items -- not personal opinions, and you can find the freely-available sources online and elsewhere to verify the statements:
Sunday, Feb. 7 President Mahmoud Ahmadinjed announced that Iran would proceed on its plans toward enriching uranium to the 19.75% needed to produce medical isotopes.Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, represented the announcement as a way for Iran to put pressure on the West to provide the low enriched uranium for its medical reactor on Iran's terms. Note: the particular isotope Iran is interested in is Molybdenum 99, which is essential for multiple medical diagnostic uses -- but unfortunately has a relatively short half-life, meaning that obtaining, shipping, receiving and putting it into use is difficult since by the time all this happens most of what you'd paid for has decayed -- , making local production of the isotope much more desirable, as is commonly known throughout the scientific community in the West.
Meanwhile, the intransigence of Robert Gates -- the US Secretary of Defense -- and with Hillary Clinton, the State Department's spokesman, seems to want to present this entire issue as "IRAN WANTS TO MAKE A BOMB".
The US Intelligence Agencies themselves have gone on record on the Voice Of America to say they do not believe this is the case.
"...there is no evidence that Iran has made a final decision to build nuclear weapons."
Iran does have a nuclear enrichment program -- to which it is entitled- like all other signatories to the Non-Proliferation Agreement. Although it's not as transparent as the UN would like, Iran is completely in compliance with the international treaties, and allows 24-hour surveillance of all its nuclear facilities and allows visits by by UN inspectors.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, has specifically said that Iran is open to the 'fuel swap' concerpt (the West would supply Iran with its fuel needs and accept the nuclear waste/fuel rods in return) but the West are finding reason after unreasonable reason why not to accept a deal. This appears to be a political decision. (It should be reiterated that under Iran's system of government, President Mahmoud Ahmadinjed has limited powers, and is not in the chain-of-command for Iran's military forces.)
Also, previously Iran used to buy the Mb99 isotope from Argentina -- a lovely country known for its military dictatorship, the disappearance of thousands of opponents, etc -- but the USA found this perfectly OK and never objected. Of course, now that Argentina is no longer producing this and Iran actually want to produce this medically-necessary material for itself, this is a big fscking problem. The ghosts of Paul Wolfowtiz, Richard Perle, Daniel Pipes and all the rest of the neocons come out of the woodwork like cockroaches. I had thought that we as a country had dropped the huge telephone book upon them and then stomped on it, multiple times; certainly not hoping that the Obama Administration would even think about going down that path, even for political expediency.
Other things of note:
1) Iran is a signitory of the International NonProliferation Agreements
2) Iran allows all listed surveillance and inspection items listed in that Agreement, including 24-hour electoniuc and personal inspections by UN inspectors.
3) The previous IAEA inspector and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dr. Mohamned ElBaradei has personally visited and inspected the supposed 'nuclear weapons construction site' at Qom, and has stated publicly that there was nothing there. "It's a hole in a mountain." he stated, saying the site was indeed as Iran said, a backup enrichment site in case the Natanz facility was attacked by Israel or the US.
A quote from Juan Cole's site:
The list of other countries capable of producing LEU of 19.75% includes Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Holland, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There would be nothing extraordinary about Iran joining this list, and none of the others on it except N. Korea is being sanctioned-- and that is for constructing a bomb, which Iran is not doing. Argentina was sanctioned neither for enriching to 19.75% nor for selling that stock of LEU to Iran! And South Korea was never sanctioned for secretly enriching to 77%, near bomb grade, something Iran has never been accused of.
3) In addition, no one in the US government is willing to talk on record and in public to the Israelis -- who are not a signatory to any international treaties and refuse all international access to any of their nuclear facilities -- and who possess approximately 200 actual nuclear weapons, according to defectors from their own country with professional knowledge of these matters. As if they and their possession of these weapons make no difference, and do not constitute a major political and strategic element in all negotiations concerning Middle-Eastern affairs.
Complicating all this is the anniversary of the February revolution, so the US would really best be served by the old motto, STFU and at least not parrot and repeat the appalling mistakes of previous administrations.
PS: Barack and Hillary -- I expected better of you. You're smarter than this -- get with it.