Iran's Secret Uranium Deal with Zimbabwe

On April 22, the Drudge Report linked to an article about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meeting with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. It failed to cause a fuss, but it tells us a lot about why General David Petraeus believes that Iran’s nuclear program has been delayed and we have at least until the end of the year before it gets the bomb.

Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for being given access to its uranium ore, the basic material that must be enriched in order to create the fuel for a nuclear bomb. Iranian scientists have been studying the African nation’s deposits for over a year to prepare for mining. The Iranian regime may have enriched some of its uranium to 20 percent, but they will still need a lot of uranium ore to create a nuclear arsenal. This latest cooperation with Zimbabwe confirms reports that this is where the Iranians are having trouble.

In January of last year, it was reported that Iran could run out of uranium in months, with the IAEA believing Iran had already converted about 70 percent of its stockpile into uranium hexafluoride gas. Many of the centrifuges being used to enrich the uranium are defective, resulting in only half of the 8,700 at the Natanz site being used last year. The Iranians were unable to replace the machines faster than they were breaking, resulting in the number of operating centrifuges dropping from 5,000 in May to 3,900 in November. The ones that did work only produced half of the enriched uranium that they should. Of course, the possibility remains that this is an act of deception.

David Ignatius brought attention to an article in October about how “impurities” in Iran’s uranium were damaging its centrifuges. This, he suspected, may explain why Iran seemed open at the time to having other countries enrich its uranium and ship it back, as that would cleanse that stock of the contamination. Western attempts to sabotage the nuclear program, particularly by providing the Iranians with defective equipment, appear to have been effective.

This is almost certainly the reason for General Petraeus’ statement and the recent bro-love between Mugabe and Ahmadinejad. A secret Israeli report said last May that Iran was also getting uranium from Venezuela and Bolivia. The Iranians and Venezuelans have talked about nuclear cooperation, and Chavez has agreed to allow Iran to explore for uranium in its Roraima Basin region. Venezuela’s mining minister says that Iran has already conducted surveys and testing and determined that the potential exists for the country to have uranium reserves, but it would take three years to certify the results. The news report says that only partial certification is needed for a project to begin.