The International Atomic Energy Agency has just produced it's latest report on Iran's nuclear program. (Full report here in PDF, leaked by US officials as usual.) Mainstream media outlets are going with a US-pushed narrative that centers around increases in the number of centrifuges Iran is operating and around IAEA criticism of Iran for not being forthcoming enough about alleged previous work which may have had military applications. The report is being seen as giving added impetus to calls for more UN sanctions.
A confidential IAEA report said Iran had raised the number of centrifuges enriching uranium by 500 to 3,820 since May and was testing an advanced model able to refine nuclear fuel 2-3 times faster, in continuing defiance of U.N. resolutions.
But a senior U.N. official familiar with IAEA findings said Iran seemed at least two years away from enriching enough uranium for an atomic weapon, if it eventually chose to do so.
"On the issue of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program, we have arrived at a gridlock. Without Iran's assistance and cooperation, we cannot move forward," said a second senior U.N. official.
... The United States called on Iran to shelve enrichment or face the possibility of more U.N. sanctions, adding to relatively modest punitive measures Tehran has shrugged off.
Britain went further, accusing Iran of showing "contempt for the IAEA by continuing to refuse to respond" to IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei's serious concerns about research with possible military nuclear dimensions.
"We will therefore push hard for further U.N. sanctions in the coming weeks," a British Foreign Office statement said.
Sanctions don't really worry Iran much, though. They have too much that the world needs in the way of oil and gas and have become an important diplomatic lever in containing American unipolar ambitions for Russia and China, both of whom have UN vetos. Neither will vote easily for really effective sanctions.
The best thing about the new IAEA report, though, is that it provides no new cause for war.
All materials and centrifuges are under Agency seal and surveillance and the Agency guarantees no diversion without their knowledge. With that in place, what we have is Iran proceeding with a peaceful program, one sanctioned by the UNSC but explicitly allowed by both the IAEA charter and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It doesn't matter that Iran could make enough enriched uranium to redirect into bomb production in two years - no matter how much the media is trying to imply otherwise - because they simply cannot do that without enough IAEA foreknowledge to enable preventative steps to be taken. Sanctions are therefore being applied because Iran is defying a UNSC resolution which is entirely based upon Iran abrogating the voluntary additional protocol it had previously agreed to.
Given those circumstances, common knowledge among the world's leaders even if the media and Western hawks like to pretend otherwise, no-one is going to be able to use this IAEA report as justification for a war. Sanctions, yes - war no. The hawks are on their own with no cover, no pretense of international legality.
The IAEA is vigorously defending their position that there's no current smoking gun, too. When the UK's Daily Telegraph ran a report by noted neoconservative shill Con Coughlin that stated Iran had diverted some Hex from the conversion facility as Isfahan, enough to make 6 bombs the IAEA made a swift rebuttal:
"The article, entitled ‘Iran renews nuclear weapons development’ published in [Friday’s] Daily Telegraph by Con Coughlin and Tim Butcher is fictitious,” IAEA Spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in a statement.
“IAEA inspectors have no indication that any nuclear material is missing from the plant,” reads the statement.
As to the allegations of past weaponization activities, sourced entirely from the MEK's laptop of doom, here's my take on the unspun version of what the IAEA are saying:
"The US won't let us show you the original documents and won't tell us enough about the laptop's very dodgy provenance, but is pressuring us to get you to reveal details which would compromise your non-nuclear national security instead. All for information everyone agrees relates at the very worst to a nascent program that's been dead since 2003."
To which Iran's response is, essentially, "You've got to be kidding us!"
But that response also conveniently hides Iran's other motive - for reasons of face (it's always denied it) Iran doesn't even want to admit to having a dead program.
And so a carefully crafted report gives some ammunition to sanctions - but not a lot, the sanctions won't bite too hard - and none at all as a causus belli. The IAEA has again let the hawks know they're on their own if they want war with Iran. Fully aware that there will be no international mandate for war and that a unilateral attack would become a military disaster as well as shredding America's already tattered reputation, some who have been hawkish in the past are climbing abourd Obama's platform and advocating actual diplomacy.
Five former U.S. secretaries of state said on Monday the next American administration should talk to Iran, a foe President George W. Bush has generally shunned as part of an "axis of evil."
Engaging Iran is important because Washington's military options against Tehran are unsatisfactory, said the diplomats, who worked for Republican and Democratic administrations.
The five -- Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher, James Baker and Henry Kissinger -- all said they favored talking to Iran as part of a strategy to stop Tehran's development of a nuclear weapons program.
"Frankly the military options here are very poor. We don't want to go down that route," said Christopher, who worked for former President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997.
About time. And it really does leave the Bush-McCain "Axis of Warmongering" standing alone.