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September 25, 2009

Obama, the Gap Band, and Today's Iran's News
Posted by Patrick Barry

President Obama as the long-lost member of the Gap Band? Definitely seems that way after he lobbed this bombshell revelation of Iran's efforts at constructing a secret enrichment facility, buried under a mountain near the Holy City of Qum.  Here are some key details from the New York Times:

...American officials said that they had been tracking the covert project for years, but that Mr. Obama decided to disclose the American findings after Iran discovered, in recent weeks, that Western intelligence agencies had breached the secrecy surrounding the complex. On Monday, Iran wrote a brief, cryptic letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, saying that it now had a “pilot plant” under construction, whose existence it had never before revealed...

There are three points to take home here - two on timing, and another on the calls for a military strike that will likely follow this revelation.

First on timing.  Marc Lynch has noted that its no coincidence that this announcement came in advance of the P5 + 1 meeting with Iran in October, and following Russia's verbal commitment to consider sanctions.  I think he's spot on w\ the first point, but there's something left out of the second. If Mike McFaul's "beaming" is any indication, the decision to shut down missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic was the primary reason for Russia's verbal concession on sanctions. Not to say that the Administration didn't have the Russians in mind when it decided to reveal its intelligence, but I think the very-public announcement has the added benefit of putting additional pressure on the still-reluctant Chinese to join with the rest of their negotiating partners, and present a unified front to Iran.  Whether they will, given the dramatically altered context, is still unknown. 

Something else to note on timing is that the U.S. has reportedly known about this facility for "years," a period which coincides with the development and release of the the 2007 NIE on Iran's nuclear program, a report which found that the Iranians were not actively seeking a nuclear weapon.  If that timing is right, then while its troubling that this facility was kept secret, its existence does not actually prove that Iran is moving past the break-out capability they are suspected to be pursuing. From the public's perspective, Iran is no closer to a nuclear weapon now than they were before this intelligence was released.

The last point about this facility is that its mere existence strongly debunks the notation that a military strike would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Though I would emphasize that there's still a lot we don't know about this facility (a whole lot), it does seem clear that A) the Iranians were interested in securing it from sabotage, evidenced by its location underneath a mountain, and B) that they had sought to hide it from international scrutiny. The question therefore becomes, if there is one such facility, might there also be others? While an air-strike could certainly take out the plant at Natanz, and perhaps even this covert facility in Qum, it does nothing to address the possibility of other facilities hidden elsewhere in Iran.  The only thing it would ensure is Iran's refusal to the type of monitoring that could unearth a clandestine program. 

In conclusion, I have to agree with Marc - this revelation ultimately strengthens the U.S.' hand, but it's no cause for alarm and the military option is just as unpalatable as it was before. 


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This could be Obama's waterloo as it was for Carter ironically...

I believe that under the NPT, an signatory country is not required to disclose the existance of a plant until a certain period before it begins operation. Whether Iran has clearly violated the NPT in the past is subject to dispute (the "laptop documents," for example, have never been authenticated, and the US refuses to show them to the Iranians!), but that hasn't stopped a US, owned lock, stock and barrel by AIPAC and fellow travelers, from putting enormous pressure on Iran--one might argue that the very nature of the relentless threats to attack has encouraged Iran to develop alternative sites for enrichment. Physicist Gordon Prather has written extensively on the NPT and the question of whether Iran has been in violation of its treaty obligations.
I loved Obama's statement that "we are committed to demonstrating that international law is not an empty promise; that obligations must be kept; and that treaties will be enforced." Humm...seems to me that there is a treaty or two that declares torture illegal??? Lets say, it binds all signatories to prosecute anyone who commits, aids or abets torture? Then there is the little matter of the Geneva Conventions that prohibit the acquisition of territory by force, and requires an occupying power to proved for the welfare of those under its rule??? Anyone for a little justice on Palestine--oh, no we think not--yet, treaties "must be enforced." Pathetic, hypocritical blather--it didn't take Obama long to learn the neo-con rules that he must obey.

The national intelligence services have recently reaffirmed their collective judgment that Iran is not currently developing an atomic weapon, and the services have known for some time of the construction of the new site. See, This won't do any good to tone down the neo-crazies, nor end Israel's blackmail of the international system--attack Iran or we will, no peace in Palestine until Iran is "taken care of," so we're going to see a lot more misery in that part of the world.

The barking mad psychopaths in Washington just can't stand the idea that a country rich in resources and culture doesn't want to be a Slave State to the US.

I loved Obama's statement that "we are committed to demonstrating that international law is not an empty promise; that obligations must be kept; and that treaties will be enforced.

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Yes, that's cool. The device is amazing! Waiting for your next one!

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