No smoking gun, but rather a missile with a nuclear warhead. This could well be the summary of the severe and unprecedented findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency's report submitted yesterday to the organization's 35 board members and immediately leaked to the media.
Despite the fact that the findings deal with technical details and are formulated in soft diplomatic jargon, they are unequivocal. The findings and evidence illustrate - in the clearest wording ever by the IAEA - that Iran has systematically and consistently been working in the past decade to produce its first atomic bomb.
The report, and especially the findings and evidence provided in the annex, describe the full chain of Iranian actions, carried out in the dark while trying to cover up, confuse and spread disinformation throughout the world.
Through these activities Iran has succeeded in purchasing the knowledge, the technology and the designs, and in carrying out the experiments that got it ever so close to producing a nuclear weapon. Iran has conducted experiments in miniaturizing a nuclear warhead on a Shihab missile.
The report is a certificate of excellence and courage of the IAEA, led by director general Yukiya Amano, and it puts to shame past reports written by the same organization during the tenure of its Egyptian director general, Dr. Mohamed El Baradei.
It's true that in the past two years, since Amano was appointed, the organization has received new evidence and information. However, most of the incriminating evidence was available when El Baradei led the IAEA, but he preferred not to publish the findings, or soften the wording in a way that would confuse the readers and portray Iran in a deceptive light, as if there wasn't conclusive evidence that it was aiming to produce nuclear weapons.
El Baradei, one must add, reiterated his beliefs even in the past few weeks, most notably in an interview with the "New Yorker."
Amano, on the other hand, wasn't intimidated by the pressure and threats of Iran, or of Russia and China, who tried until the last moment to prevent the publication of yesterday's report, or at least of the annex that includes the damning evidence.
Iran is right about one thing: Amano is backed by the West and especially the U.S., who provided the information that forms the basis for the report. According to its text, the information in the report was provided by ten other countries, meaning ten intelligence agencies. One can assume, and read into foreign reports that the Israeli intelligence agencies - the Mossad and the IDF's Aman (military intelligence) - also contributed their share of the evidence.
Still, it remains doubtful whether the unequivocal evidence will bring the results Israel, the U.S. and the West hope for. Their hope is that the clear information regarding Iran's secret military nuclear program will persuade the leaders of Russia and China that one can't wait any longer before applying new, more comprehensive sanctions.
The sanctions of 2006, approved by Russia and China - and that too, after a long struggle - didn't deter the Iranians, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, from continuing to walk on the stealth path to nuclear armament.
Russia and China have their own interests, and an opposing foreign policy to that of the U.S. and the West. They have already indicated that they do not believe new sanctions should be applied, and are even outraged that the report - and especially the annex - is being published. They believe that the the timing is unfortunate and would further complicate diplomatic negotiations with Iran, aimed at persuading the Islamic Republic to change direction.
It is highly unlikely that the UN Security Council will be convened in the upcoming weeks to discuss a new set of aggressive sanctions. The only step that could possibly affect Iran's government would be severe sanctions against its banking system, including the Iranian central bank, which funds the networks that purchase the knowledge and means, or against it's energy products, which are the main source of Iran's income.
Without sanctions that would harm these two sectors, Iran will continue on its way, albeit possibly hurt and weakened. The report is actually a victory for the Israeli point of view and somewhat harms American prestige. It completely contradicts the assessment of U.S. intelligence from 2007, which claimed that Iran stopped its secret nuclear program in 2003.
The IAEA actually claims the contrary, Iran didn't stop the program but rather increased it's pace. Still, Israel might feel frustrated when it tells the world, "We told you so." This frustration will emanate from the fact that in spite of the smoking gun that's on the table for all to see, it's doubtful that a shot will be heard in the final scene. In light of international interests, it seems that the only sanctions that could work will not be applied, and therefore Israel will find itself back at square one, facing the same dilemma: to attack or not to attack.
Some observers believe that Israel doesn't have the military capability for a strike that would efficiently stop the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and that a failed attack would have severe consequences - maybe even a full fledged regional war that would disrupt the oil supply to the already problematic markets. And without an attack - only the U.S. might carry it out effectively - Israel, Saudi Arabi and the Gulf states would be hostages to the Iranian regime. The fact that up until now Iran has acted rationally doesn't mean that it won't change course and press the button for apocalyptic, messianic reasons.
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