Friday, November 19, 2004

The clock is ticking

Readers familiar with Michael Ledeen over at National Review Online know that he has been calling for a confrontation with the terror masters in Iran since soon after 9/11. After each column, he ends with the request "Faster, please." Well, it appears someone was listening, just not who we thought:
Raising doubts about its commitment to dispel international distrust, Iran is producing significant quantities of a gas that can be used to make nuclear arms just days before it must stop all work related to uranium enrichment, diplomats said Friday.

Iran recently started producing uranium hexafluoride at its gas-processing facilities in the central city of Isfahan, the diplomats told The Associated Press.

When introduced into centrifuges and spun, the substance can be enriched to varying degrees. Low-grade enriched uranium is used in nuclear power plants. Highly enriched uranium forms the core of nuclear warheads.

How much uranium hexafluoride are we dealing with? Enough:
Asked about quantities being processed at Isfahan, one of the diplomats said, "It's not little," but he declined to elaborate.

But another diplomat familiar with the International Atomic Energy Agency - the U.N. nuclear watchdog - said the Iranians apparently were in the process of converting 22 tons of uranium into gas, either as a precursor to uranium hexafluoride or as the finished product.

Iran has huge reserves of raw uranium and has announced plans to extract more than 40 tons a year.

That amount, if converted to uranium hexafluoride and repeatedly spun in centrifuges, could theoretically yield more than 200 pounds of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium, enough for about five crude nuclear weapons.

Iranian officials say the Isfahan plant can convert more than 300 tons of uranium ore a year.

In the legal field we have a term for when a witness makes an inadmissible statement in front of the jury: "You can't unring the bell." Once the jury hears the statement, the judge may instruct them to disregard it, but the damage is done. We are dealing with a similar situation here. The Iranians are burning the candle at both ends in order to create a nuclear device. They will lie, dissemble, mislead, delay, deceive, and do whatever it takes to buy time for their scientists to get the job done. That's why these European negotiations are a boon for the mad mullahs. Talk takes time, and that's exactly what the mullahs need.

And if they are successful in making their weapon, the bell cannot be unrung.