The IAEA has said it has failed to agree terms for access to Parchin in Iran or for a timetable to get answers on outstanding questions about Iran’s previous possible nuclear weapons research. Chief inspector Herman Nackaerts told reporters “At the moment we have no plans for another meeting”. However, the nuclear watchdog agency is reported to be taking the unusual step of putting together a special Iran team of experts, “to add muscle to a probe of suspicions that Tehran worked secretly on atomic arms.” The agency is expected to release a report early next week that shows Iran has ramped up the number of centrifuges it has installed in deep-bunker facilities and greatly increased its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium. Meanwhile, one anonymous senior official told the New York Times that talks between Iran and the P5+1 “are dead in the water”, just like the IAEA’s talks with Iran.
Expect the IAEA report to kick off another round of “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” from the usual suspects: Israel’s rightwing leadership and their rightwing enablers in America. Israel’s leadership wants an attack to prevent Iran even having the full capability of building a nuclear weapon, rather than actually building one – an Israeli wish Mitt Romney and the GOP have been falling over themselves to agree with. Obama has been a bit more sanguine, so far just promising Israel he will attack Iran only if it actually builds a weapon.
That’s despite the consensus of U.S. intelligence still being that Iran has not yet made (and may well never make) the decision to construst an actual bomb, and another consensus that says it’d be at least two years before Iran could deliver that weapon by missile to anywhere. Its been “two years” to a missile capable of delivering a nuke for about six years now, and it’d take far longer to produce a missile capable of delivering a bomb to Western Europe, let alone the US. It’s also despite a goodly chance that the IAEA and Western intelligence would notice the Iranians ramping up to produce a bomb-in-being, not least because the iranians would have to break the IAEA seals on their stockpiles and kick the inspectors out – a wee bit of a red flag.
All the signs are that Iran actually wants the capability to build a weapon quickly in an emergency rather than the actual bomb anyway; what’s known as the “Japan Option” although it could equally be called the Canada Option, Germany Option or even Brazil Option. What’s clear is that precedent and the NPT agreement itself make the “Japan Option” a peaceful use of nuclear technology – none of those nations, nor several others, has so far been kicked out of the NPT, let alone bombed, for pursuing it. There’s no way Russia, China or several of the non-aligned UNSC countries would allow UN permission for aggressive warfare on Iran in such circumstances, so Israel and Romney are essentially arguing for an illegal coalition of the willing to conduct a breach of the Nuremberg Principles of international law. Once, people got the firing squad for such breaches, alas no longer.
Yet even if we, like unrealistic realists, ignore the egregious trash-canning of international laws attacking Iran for a “Japan Option” would entail, we should still be saying “no” to any such call. The blowback such an attack would entail for any nation involved in that coalition, and the backwash of violence and unrest that would spill over into an already chaotic region – not to mention civilian deaths from a necessarily protracted air war (and probably an invasion on the ground) which would make Syria look like a “cakewalk” – outweigh any possible benefits by a large margin.
Sometimes the hard calls need to be made, and when they do it’s best to look at the opportunity costs over as long a term as possible. The number of nations who have attained a “Japan Option” and then went on to nuke a neighbour or give nukes to terrosists is…none of them. Iran with the capacity to rapidly go nuclear, by which I mean over a few months not days, if attacked is not an unliveable with prospect.