News / Middle East

Analysts Dispute Iran's Uranium-Enrichment Claims

Multimedia

The international community has demanded that Iran fully acknowledge all of its nuclear related activities, and halt any work toward acquiring nuclear weapons. But Tehran has responded by announcing that it will not only continue to enrich uranium, but also, expand production.

Despite condemnation from around the globe, Iran says it will continue to enrich uranium. And, in the eyes of many, the Islamic Republic is also working to make these enrichment activities even less visible.

On June 8, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, Fereidoun Abbasi, said uranium enrichment would be done at two facilities - though apparently for different uses.

One facility, at Natanz, will continue to enrich uranium for electrical generation. But another facility, called Fordo, will have a much more controversial purpose. Analyst Corey Hinderstein, with the anti-proliferation group Nuclear Threat Initiative, says the Fordo enrichment will be to a much higher level.

"This is the kind of enrichment that is still not usable in a nuclear weapon, but it gives them a platform from which, if they made a decision to make a nuclear weapon, they could do so in a much shorter amount of time," Hingerstein noted.

The Fardo enrichment facility is within an apparently heavily-fortified, hollowed-out mountain near the city of Qom.  And that, according to former weapons inspector and nuclear analyst David Albright, at the Institute for Science and International Security, does the opposite of assuring the world that Iran's nuclear intentions are peaceful.

"What Iran has done is send a very provocative signal that it is taking centrifuges - advanced centrifuges - and putting them underground in a site that cannot be bombed," noted Albright.  "And then, making materials. They could be, in the end, just that much closer to material that would be used in a nuclear weapon."

Iran nuclear chief Abbasi says the Fardo enrichment site will produce uranium enriched to about 20 percent, to be used in creating medical isotopes.  And he says the facility will do this enrichment at three times the previous rate.  Corey Hinderstein says she flatly rejects this justification.

"They already have about 50 kilograms of this higher enriched - 20 percent – uranium," Hinderstein said.  "That is, already, about five years' worth of material for the [Tehran Research medical] reactor.  And, they have no other reactors to use [for creating medical isotopes].  So, the idea that they would need triple this amount on an annual basis just doesn't jibe with their civilian activities."

Iran's continued work on its nuclear program has caused some to call for military action.  But that threat, according to some analysts, only causes Tehran to be even more determined to proceed.  And, they say, it's why nothing substantive seems to have come from repeated talks with Iranian officials.

The RAND Corporation recently issued a report on Iran's nuclear program which contained several proposals for the United States and other nations.

One course of action would be to make current sanctions against Iran even tougher, and back that up with a more robust U.S. military presence in the Gulf.

Another option would be to combine tougher sanctions with the building of missile defenses by other Persian Gulf countries to neutralize possible Iranian threats.

Yet a third idea set forth in the RAND report would go the other direction - relaxing sanctions and perceived military threats in hopes of pulling Iran out of its "bunker" mentality.

One of the RAND study's authors, Ali Reza Nader, says this third approach would have to overcome decades of hostilities between Iran and the West.

"One of the options we discussed in the report is diplomacy, or engagement - lessening Iran's sense of threat from the United States," noted Ali Reza Nader.  "Of course, there are various impediments to achieving this from both sides.  Building the domestic support for some sort of relationship with Iran and the United States."

Analyst Nader says Tehran's first and foremost imperative is to ensure the survival of its regime.  He, and the RAND study, say that addressing this primary concern may be the key to finally getting Iran to ease its nuclear ambitions.


Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs