The International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors will meet next week in Vienna but their deliberations will only demonstrate once again how impotent the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog – and by extension the international community – has become in the face of Iran’s relentless drive to develop nuclear weapons.
The main discussion document that will frame the deliberations of the 35-member body is a 14-page report filed by IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano on Aug. 30. The day before that, the IAEA established a special task force on Iran including experts from several fields to pool the Vienna-based watchdog’s limited resources more efficiently.
The report (full text) made somber reading. It made it clear that negotiations between the IAEA and Iran to bring the Iranian program under international inspection and supervision have completely failed. International sanctions have also so far failed to rein in the Iranian program.
Western nations are expected to ask present a resolution to the IAEA board of governors to formally rebuke Tehran over its failure to cooperate with the agency’s inquiry. It remains to be seen whether China or Russia will object even to that purely declarative action.
The report made several key points about the Iranian program. According to an analysis by the Institute for International Science and Security, Iran has increased its production of 20 percent enriched uranium, which brings it close to weapons grade while the number of installed centrifuges at the underground Fordow enrichment plant has doubled. Iran’s total stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium, including from the underground fortified Fordow plant, is now nearly 200 kilograms, about 50 kilograms more than three months ago.
Iran has already produced enough low enriched uranium to build give nuclear devices if that material was further enriched to weapons grade.
The transfer of capability to Fordow where it is protected from air attack, is fast creating what Israel refers to as a “zone of immunity” putting it beyond the reach of Israeli, and possibly eventually of U.S. military action.
Iran’s biggest enrichment plant, at Natanz, has now put out just under 7,000 kilograms of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent, compared to about 3,500 kilograms at the beginning of 2011 and 1,000 kilograms at the beginning of 2010.
Iran is also developing a plutonium plant in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. This could potentially give the Iranian Republic a second path to nuclear weapons.
Iran continues to deny IAEA inspectors access to the Parchin plant 20 miles south of Tehran where they suspect nuclear simulation explosions have been tested, a strong indicator of weapons development. The IAEA has surveillance evidence that Iran is working hard to cover up traces of these tests.
In response to these actions, how will the IAEA governors respond? With words, words, words.