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September 6, 2004

Bush Wins, We Invade Iran


by Gordon Prather

If not getting nuked in your jammies is high on your priority list, then maybe your best bet is to vote for John Kerry.

Kerry has just endorsed last October's Brit-French-German agreement with Iran, whereby they pledged to facilitate "the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy" if Iran agreed to sign and abide by an additional protocol to their existing Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

But the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) already requires such transfers. Why was the Brit-French-German-Russian pledge necessary? Because for more than 20 years, the United States has prevented – and still seeks to prevent – such transfers to Iran.

Even before Bush declared "victory" in Iraq, the neo-crazies had begun making the same unsubstantiated charges about illicit nukes in Iran they had so effectively made about Iraq, hoping, thereby, to scare you soccer-moms into endorsing an invasion of Iran.

Next week the Bush Administration will try to convince the IAEA Board of Directors to refer the alleged Iranian nuke program to the UN Security Council for "action." Bush wants a Security Council resolution – similar to the one he used as an excuse to invade Iraq – warning Iran of "serious consequences" if they are unable to convince him that they have no nuke ambitions.

However, reflecting upon what Bush did to Iraq, the Board is unlikely to refer the alleged Iranian nuke program to the Council. And even if they did, there is no way the Council would give Bush a resolution he could misuse to invade Iran.

There can be no doubt that Bush's invasion of Iraq – allegedly to keep nukes that never existed out of the hands of terrorists – has vastly increased the probability that terrorists will acquire real nukes. Kerry – in endorsing the Brit-French-German agreement with Iran – is essentially saying he realizes that an invasion of Iran could have similar results.

Of course, after seeing what Bush did to no-nuke Iraq, the Iranians would be crazy if they didn't harbor nuke ambitions. But they insist they don't and have made – as the Brit-French-German agreement required – what they claim is a complete disclosure of their "nuclear programs."

The IAEA has been checking out that disclosure statement for months and has found some discrepancies. But they have – as yet – found no indications of a nuke program. Iran is currently in full compliance with its existing Safeguards Agreement.

In particular, the Iranians insist they have not yet produced highly enriched uranium (HEU) at the production or even pilot-plant stage, and have never enriched uranium – even in the laboratory – to as much as 20% HEU, much less to the 90% HEU required for nukes.

When the IAEA took some swipes from Iranian equipment that indicated the presence of HEU, the neo-crazies went ballistic. The Iranians had been lying! They had been producing "weapons-grade" uranium!

Well, in the first place, the IAEA didn't find any Iranian-produced HEU. They found microscopic traces of HEU on equipment the Iranians had imported. And just this week, after talking to the exporters, the IAEA concluded that the Iranian claim that the equipment was contaminated when they imported it was "plausible."

What about the advanced P-2 centrifuges the neo-crazies claimed Iran had left off their 2003 disclosure?

Well, the IAEA has concluded the Iranians haven't imported any P-2 centrifuges, nor have they been able to produce any of their own.

Back in 1995 the Iranians did acquire "from a foreign intermediary" the plans for a centrifuge similar to the Urenco P-2. However, they were unable to produce the maraging-steel rotors required. They did manage to produce several carbon-composite rotors, and by the time the research program ended in June 2003, they had performed some mechanical tests. However, they had not done any tests with uranium-fluoride gas. There are no plans to produce quantities of these Iranian-developed centrifuges.

What about the Iranian disclosure this week to the IAEA of their plans to convert 37 tons of uranium-oxide – yellowcake – into uranium-hexafluoride? According to the neo-crazies, that yellowcake contains enough fissile material to make one or two nukes like the one we dropped on Hiroshima.

Well, that's a bit like charging that your neighbor's fish pond contains enough water to drown one or two children.

So, what's the bottom line? Well, if Bush wins, we invade no-nuke Iran and the chances of terrorists getting their hands on Korean or Pakistani nukes goes way up. But if Kerry wins? Stay tuned.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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