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Is Iran Nuke Program More Advanced
Than We Thought?
Saturday, February 05, 2005
Alexander: We are hearing some dramatic new claims today that Iran
is much closer to working nukes than anyone ever though. Iran
has long insisted that its nuclear program is simply for a peaceful reason:
power and energy. But an Iranian opposition group says scientists at a secret
facility just outside Tehran
are working on a trigger that is a piece of equipment with no peaceful purpose
whatsoever. We are talking now, Iran
and nukes, with Alireza Jafarzadeh. He is a Fox News Foreign Affair Analyst and
Joe Cirincione, director for Non-Proliferation at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Welcome gentlemen.†
Dari Alexander: Okay Alireza, letís start with you,
because I understand that you have some of the latest information. What are
your sources telling you at this point about Iran
and how far along they are?††
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, the information that was
just released in Europe basically says that Iran
is definitely far more advanced. The new information is that Iran
is actually working to develop a nuclear trigger, which is a necessary part of
building the bomb. They are working in a secret site known as Lavezan 2, northwest of Tehran,
you are looking at some of the satellite images, and they are trying to combine
two elements, Polonium-210 and Beryllium that once used in conjunction with the
other they could act as a neutron initiator, as a trigger. I think this puts
under a big question mark the whole intention of Iranís
program, the claims that they always had that this is for peaceful purposes,
and also it shows that they continue to hide different aspects of their program
from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Dari Alexander: Okay and Joe, you know the producer,
could we just put up that graphic of what it basically takes, the three steps
it takes, to make a Nuke, and at the same time Joe let me ask you, what are
your sources telling you, whatís your response to this as we look at the three
things that have to happen in order to make a nuke.
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Joe Cirincione:† Right, this is from the National Council
of Resistance press release today the three steps that outlined. This is a
group that was initially responsible for exposing the Iranian program over two
years ago. They are usually a reliable group. The last couple of exposures that
they made havenít really born out. Fortunately this is something we can
investigate. We have inspectors on the ground with the International Atomic
Energy Agency. They should immediately be dispatched to this facility to
investigate this latest charge. We have been looking into charges that Iran
has been investigating with polonium as this group correctly points out that
has no peaceful purpose. It is used almost exclusively as a neutron initiator,
the Spark, actually the neutron spark that would start the fission
reaction in a bomb. If there is any evidence to support this claim the
inspectors can and should be able to find it.†
Dari Alexander: Okay so, are you saying at this point
that you are somewhat skeptical to whether or not this activity is going on?
Joe Cirincione:† I think the overall assessment based on
everything we know right now that Iran is good five years away from having the
material needed to even have one bomb. Itís possible they are doing weapons
related work. But after two years of inspections we havenít found anything
actually weapons related work.† If this
charge proved to be true, it would be the first case of it. Even if true, itís
the kind of experiment you do with the beginning of a bomb program. It would be
damning evidence of their intent.
Dari Alexander: Alireza do you think that theyíre
about five years away or even shorter than that?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, itís always very difficult
to come up with a time line. But let me tell you something, I think the whole
world for the past decade or so, has always underestimated the extent of Iranís
nuclear weapons program. Only a couple years ago, the world believed that Iran
was about 10 to 15 years away. Suddenly, it was actually in August 2002 as Joe
correctly mentioned that new aspects of Iranís
program were exposed; its extensive uranium enrichment program in Natanz and Arak
and in Ab-Ali and other places. The important thing
is that Iran
clearly has a nuclear weapon program; I think there is a consensus about that.
How far they are away? There are different estimates ranging from a year to
three years, now Joe says five years. But what is important is that we need to
really focus on containing this program.
Dari Alexander: Joe let me ask you this: Condoleezza Rice said that military action is not on
the agenda right now but itís not totally off the table. Does this mean, do you believe that any kind of diplomatic options are
still available or is it going to come to some sort of action?
Joe Cirincione:† I do believe we have the chance to
negotiate a solution with Iran
and European leaders are taking the charge of this diplomatic effort. But they
need the U.S.
to join in because without U.S.
participation, this diplomatic effort will fail. Only the U.S.
can give Iran
the security guarantees. It needs to give up its nuclear pursuits. So Condoleezza Riceís statements that U.S.
would not join in these talks, and it would stand aside, has left European
leaders very very frustrated. Indeed this is why most European analysis in the
morning papers, are focusing on the second half of her statement that the
military actions are not on the agenda ďat this time;Ē as indicates that this
is really the U.S.
Dari Alexander: Alright Joe Cirincione
and Alireza Jafarzadeh we appreciate your input, both
of you.† Thank you.
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