Iran update: number 116


  • Iran increases nuclear capacity in spite of sanctions
  • China gives IAEA intelligence about Iran’s nuclear programme
  • Bush offers Iran a “way forward” – the mixed messages from US officials
  • Sarkozy says Iran is the type of threat the new French nuclear submarine is designer to counter.

In a grand gesture, President Ahmadinejad announced on April 7 plans to install 6,000 new and modified IR-2 centrifuges over the next two to three months. Iran’s capacity to achieve this with untested technology and limited production facilities can at best be described as dubious. Analysts see this move as an Iranian show of defiance against the third wave of UN Sanctions, imposed last month. President Ahmadinejad is clearly playing to the crowd, but his accusations against the West that they are using the Security Council to hold back Iran’s civil capacity for malign purposes is more widely shared – here by Larijani after his recent political success.

The current number and quality of the IR-2 remains a mystery, and there are contradictions in the reporting. One diplomat told Reuters that it is believed Iran modified the design based upon P2 centrifuges obtained from the AQ Khan network, and has installed a cascade of more than 164 machines. The Natanz facility currently has 3,000 P1 centrifuges operating, though with very mixed results. The new centrifuges are a more advanced design, are more than twice as efficient and may be less prone to breaking.

China has given the IAEA information about Iran’s nuclear programme following the IAEA Board meeting in February, according to diplomatic sources speaking to the Associated Press.

President Bush gave a recent interview to Persian-language Radio Farda, and pointed out that whilst it is Iran’s “right” to have a civilian nuclear-power program there is no need for the country to enrich uranium. US Defense Secretary Gates told the Sultan of Oman, that “although we [US] keep all options open with regards to Iran, we remain committed to a diplomatic solution”.

In an extraordinary interview, CIA Director Hayden said that he believes Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. The reporting of his remarks were telling for several reasons. First, they were reported as being contradictory to the NIE to which he signed up last December – which stated the belief that Iran did not have an active weaponisation program but remained open on whether Iran was pursuing technology that would bring them closer to having a military capability. Secondly, he based his judgement on the observation that Iran was willing to pay a high price in sanctions to pursue their enrichment, without accounting for the numerous political drivers involved. The fact is, decisions associated with nuclear programmes across the world bear little resemblance to any objective cost-benefit analysis.

In a speech to dedicate the new French nuclear submarine ‘Le Terrible’ President Sarkozy cited Iran as the key threat the new submarine was designed to counterbalance.

In a retrial, former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian was given a two year suspended sentence, a judgement criticized by former Foreign Minister Hassan Rohani.


Stories and links

Iran has threatened legal actions over UN Sanctions, Reuters, March 26

Russia Urges Iran to Join Nuclear Talks, Associated Press, April 1

Parsing the Iranian Parliamentary Elections, RFERL, March 17

US Alarmed as some Exports veer off course, NY Times, April 2


Comments, editorials and analysis

Falling behind: international scrutiny of the peaceful atom, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, March 27

Bush misstates Iran’s position on desire for nuclear weapons, Seattle Times, March 21

Event transcript from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace event “Dealing with Iran nuclear ambitions: what future strategy for the international community?” Meeting held March 11

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