Even though Mohamed ElBaradei is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, he's not resting on his laurels. Continuing in his role as the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he handed in his report on Iran's nuclear program to the IAEA's Board of Governors yesterday.
Reuters got a hold of a copy and summed it up: "Iran's uranium enrichment program is operating well below capacity and is far from producing nuclear fuel in significant amounts." A passing grade, in other words.
"'Iran made a fast start but then there was a leveling off,' said a senior U.N. official versed in the IAEA's findings. 'We don't know the reasons, but the slow pace continues.'"
Admittedly, it's difficult to believe that, 60 years after the discovery of nuclear power, a nation as resourceful as Iran is still stumbling around trying to replicate the process. But once the nuclear black market of Pakistan's A.Q. Khan was knocked out of commission, nuclear expertise, equipment and material have been hard to come by.
Reuters concludes, "The report's detail on new Iranian cooperation with inspectors and Tehran's lack of significant enrichment progress are likely to blunt Washington's push for painful sanctions."
Who's kidding whom? The administration has no more interest in further sanctions on Iran than it did in obtaining the UN Security Council's go-ahead for an attack on Iraq. In fact, not only does it have its sites trained on Iran, it's locked and loaded.
Some prep work remains to be done, however, before it pulls the trigger and the Neocon media machine and think tanks are only too happy to oblige. For example, Neocon firebrand Michael Ledeen's new book, "The Iranian Time Bomb," is coming out soon. But –- and file this under "bet you didn't know this" -- an attack on Iran is contingent on winning support for the surge. On Tuesday, the Inter Press Service's Jim Lobe wrote of the Neocons:
"To their dismay, they have been forced to spend far more time, effort, and, above all, ink, on defending the Surge over the past eight months than on laying the groundwork for an attack on Iran. . . . If it becomes clear by late September or early October that Democrats and uneasy Republicans will indeed acquiesce in the continuation of the Surge. . . I think it's very likely we will see a much bigger focus by. . . the neo-cons, as well as their allies within the administration, on Iran." [Emphasis added]
As Lobe reported in an earlier post, Neocon think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, "which contributed so much to the propaganda and planning for the Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation, appears set to launch its 'Defend-the-Surge' campaign in the run-up to. . . the Petraeus-Crocker report."
In fact, Beltway rumors indicate that the "rollout" will start after Labor Day with its crescendo timed for -- when else -- September 11.
The administration must have known the IAEA report was coming, because, as if to counter its effects, Bush ratcheted up the nuke talk in a speech before an American Legion group on Tuesday. "Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons," he said, "threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust."
Also, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom the blogosphere can't resist calling his French poodle, has labeled Iran's nuclear program as "undoubtedly the most serious crisis before us today." His people even supplied him with a slogan for the occasion: "The Iranian bomb, or the bombing of Iran." Catchy!
Still, one would think the findings of one of the world's most important international agencies counts for something, especially since it's not led by some UN functionary, but by a Nobel Peace Prize winner. (On second thought, after the way Jimmy Carter was eviscerated upon demonstrating support for Palestine, maybe not.)
The work of the IAEA, however, may be undermined by a source far more credible than the administration, the Neocons and the right-wing choir. Yesterday Jeff Lindemyer at the nuke-watchdog site Nukes of Hazard reported that: "The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC) released yesterday an insightful report that paints a disturbing picture of how well [by which they mean not very –- Ed.] the IAEA is doing in keeping tabs on nuclear material and that the situation is actually primed to get worse."
The report, "Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom," concludes that "the IAEA is already falling behind in achieving its (nuclear) material accountancy mission and risks slipping further," writes Lindemyer, unless remedial actions are taken. One of the IAEA's problems, of course, is that it "has far too little money to safeguard against a seemingly ever growing amount of weapons-grade material."
By nature, the administration is, of course, disinclined to pay attention to not only international agencies, but reports from outside its circle (like the Iraq Study Group). Will it make an exception for the NPEC report in order to undermine the credibility of the IAEA and the passing grades it gave Iran?
Of course, the fallacy of any charges Bush & Co. make against the IAEA, is that foremost among those who under-fund it are the United States.