Roger L. Simon

Now Russia ... now China ... on Donner, on Blitzen...

From the NYT: Defying its European partners and the United States, Iran plans to reopen its vast uranium-enrichment complex to resume sensitive nuclear activities that it suspended 14 months ago, officials involved in negotiations with Iran said today.

Iran told the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency last week that it was planning to restart nuclear research and development, without specifying what type of activities it would resume or where.

But in messages and letters to the agency in recent days, Iran said it planned to reopen the enrichment facility, in Natanz in central Iran, and perhaps an unspecified number of less sensitive sites, said the officials, who were granted anonymity because they lack authorization to discuss the matter for attribution.

The Iranian move came in defiance of unusual separate messages, similarly worded, that were delivered to the Tehran government over the weekend by Russia and China as well as the United States, Britain and France. The messages warned Iran not to embark on further uranium activities.

Britain, France and the United States tried to have one joint declaration submitted to Iran by the five countries, but China, not wanting such a move to look like an attempt to gang up on Tehran, insisted that five separate messages be delivered, all saying much the same thing.

Okay, les jeux sont faits… But what next? What fascinates me about the Mullahs is how open they are about their nuclear ambitions. Well, open to a point: The construction of the Natanz site was kept secret from the atomic energy agency and was only confirmed by its inspectors in February 2003. The inspectors found preparations for more than 50,000 centrifuges – tall, thin machines that spin at supersonic speed to enrich uranium so that it can be used in nuclear reactors.

Various people online have accused me of being a “chickenhawk” and I usually pooh-pooh them (don’t even respond). Hey, I was a pretty short-tempered dude on the schoolyard and ready to mix it up at the drop of the hat. But it’s been more than a few decades since I’ve been in a school and, I have to admit, the news from Iran is starting to freak me out. I was always fairly cold about Bin Laden & Co. I got what they were about and was pretty certain we were going about snuffing them out in more or less the right way, with the usual screw-ups (still am). But Ahmadinejad & Co. are genuinely starting to get me nervous. These psychos could actually kill a lot of people (way beyond 9/11 levels). Even Mohammed ElBaradei is starting to get nervous:

The sticking point appears to be Iran’s indecision about whether to merely test its equipment or go further and conduct experiments with nuclear fuel, which the international agency’s director, Mohamed ElBaradei, called “a red line for the international community” in an interview today with the BBC.

Is he a “chickenhawk”? I don’t know. But I’m not so sure I agree with the Timesonline that “Putin could put a stop to Tehran’s game.” I think it’s going to take a bit more than that.