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Iran's Nuke Fuel Capacity Could Outpace Detection Apparatus: Report

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

A technician is shown at Iran's Isfahan uranium conversion plant in 2007. A group of experts in a report issued on Monday pressed Washington to weigh action aimed at cutting off all international business with the nation over its disputed nuclear activities (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi). A technician is shown at Iran's Isfahan uranium conversion plant in 2007. A group of experts in a report issued on Monday pressed Washington to weigh action aimed at cutting off all international business with the nation over its disputed nuclear activities (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi).

WASHINGTON -- Iranian atomic operations are outpacing international intelligence and inspection capabilities and, starting next year, could enable Tehran to potentially generate fuel for a bomb before outsiders learn the government had broken prior pledges against such a move, five independent security analysts said in an assessment issued on Monday.

Iran has long rebuffed Western assertions that its nuclear program is anything but a peaceful energy and medical initiative. In the middle of 2014, though, the Persian Gulf regional power will become capable of outmaneuvering surveillance by Western intelligence organizations and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.S. specialists projected.

Iran could hit the bomb-fuel milestone sooner than middle of next year either by dramatically boosting the quantity or productivity of its uranium enrichment centrifuges or by refining material of 60 percent purity, according to the analysts. Tehran could also hasten its progress by running a secret uranium enrichment site or by achieving strides in its capacity to produce weapon-usable plutonium, they wrote.

The authors do not believe Tehran possesses "any secret enrichment plant making significant secret uranium enrichment right now," but "real worry" exists that the government could build such a site, David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security, said in comments to Reuters.

The findings urge the Obama administration to "immediately" tighten enforcement of existing unilateral economic measures against Iran. Washington should also unveil plans for the international community to cut off all commerce with Tehran if it does not fall into line with U.N. Security Council resolutions that call for the nation to suspend uranium enrichment operations.

"The U.S. government can achieve such an embargo by using secondary sanctions to pressure foreign companies to halt any such investments in, and trade with, Iran," according to the document.

The analysts pressed the United States "at a minimum" to take actions including the adoption of new insurance restrictions and penalties against buyers of Iranian natural gas.

Among a number of other recommendations are making the threat of armed action against Iran more believable, augmenting "covert efforts to delay and constrain improvement of Iran's nuclear and missile capabilities," and demanding significant concessions by Tehran before agreeing to curb sanctions.

The document separately urges Washington to develop a broad policy for countering WMD threats from Iran and the surrounding region.

"Factors lending urgency to this need include the threat of proliferation in and by Iran, the vulnerable Syrian chemical arsenal, the challenges and opportunities posed by the Arab revolutions, the relatively frequent prior use of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, several regional states already possessing WMD, and a tense and unstable regional security situation," the authors wrote.

 

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