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Is Iran Nuke Program More Advanced

Than We Thought?

 

Saturday, February 05, 2005

 

 

Dari 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.

 

 

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. plan.

 

Dari Alexander: Alright Joe Cirincione and Alireza Jafarzadeh we appreciate your input, both of you.Thank you.

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