Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nuclear Weapons vs Nuclear Capability: Time Magazine Explains

It is rare and noteworthy when a Western news source explains the dispute regarding Iran's nuclear program relatively clearly. Here is Time Magazine in an article published on the web on October 15.

At the same time, Putin insisted after talks last week with French President Nikolas Sarkozy — the most energetic European supporter of the U.S. position — that there is no evidence to suggest Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. That assessment may put him at odds with Washington, but it is, in fact, consistent with the findings of the IAEA. The difference hinges over what defines a nuclear weapons program. Last week, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner wrote to his European colleagues urging support for tougher sanctions. "Time is against us," Kouchner warned, "because each day Iran gets closer to mastering enrichment technology, in other words to having a de facto military nuclear capacity."

What Kouchner makes clear is that the U.S. and its allies have defined mastering the technology of uranium-enrichment as a red line that Iran cannot be allowed to cross. But Kouchner exaggerates when he claims that this technology would give Tehran "de facto military nuclear capacity"; it simply gives Iran an important piece of nuclear infrastructure that is allowed under the NPT but could, if Iran pulled out of the NPT, be used to create weapons-grade materiel. While the demand that Iran suspend enrichment until it has answered the IAEA's questions enjoys broad support, the demand that Iran be denied the right to enrichment because it is a regime not trusted by the West is a much tougher sell. And Russia isn't necessarily buying.

This had never been a particularly difficult concept to grasp or explain. Most media reports fail to make the distinction either out of naivety or possibly out of a belief that presenting Iran's nuclear program in exaggerated terms is somehow a moral thing to do given Iran's opposition to Zionism.

Now we just have to buy a subscription to Time Magazine for every other news outlet.

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