Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Intelligence

Enough has been said about the latest National Intelligence Estimate's findings on Iran in the media, and there's enough in there to cast lots of (deserved) doubt on Bush's policies. But the biggest issue for me is not that Iran doesn't want nuclear weapons: I still suspect that they are pushing for some kind of nuclear program. Rather, it's that Bush's past positions make it incredibly difficult to pursue the only remaining policy option with international support: work through the IAEA.

Ahmadinejad is correct: Iran has a right to use nuclear power for energy, and Tehran's rationale for pursuing nuclear energy makes a certain economic sense. But he's wrong in a critical way: Iran cannot pursue nuclear power unless it declares its production sites and allows international inspectors unfettered access to those sites. This was always been the sticking point for me. Tehran could have gotten nuclear power through the existing international system. But why didn't it? If their intentions were peaceful, there's nothing stopping them.

But unfortunately, Bush has made hay about taking a "strong" stand against Tehran, which has forced it to eschew the carrot side of any negotiations. The U.S. could easily and clearly have said, "We respect your right to nuclear power, but you have to comply with existing international rules." Instead, the threats of war have muddled the message and American credibility, and this latest NIE report casts a further cloud over the President's objectives. It's made it much harder now to work with the IAEA and other countries to find a solution to this mess, and that clearly hurts the American position both right now and in the longer term.

2 comments:

HoBs said...

"Tehran's rationale for pursuing nuclear energy makes a certain economic sense."

Really. So I haven't looked into this, but I thought Iran had so much surplus natural gas that nuclear energy is a massive waste of money. The only possible reason for it is to develop the technology for nuclear weapons (at some point). No?

Chengora said...

It's not so much their supply of natural gas but just straight oil. Iran's got pretty good extraction and transportation systems for crude oil, but very little in the way of refining capacity. They actually import much of their gasoline. Consequently, rather than spend the money to tackle this capacity issue, they'd rather put a greater percentage of their oil on the international market (which I think is boneheaded, but hey, their choice). To do that, they need to cut down on the oil burning power plants. Hence, nuclear power as an option.

Now, you're right: they have enormouas natural gas reserves. But they don't have much technology/capacity to convert that into a transportable form (liquified natural gas). In addition, they have few transportation methods to move that gas around.

But, like I said, I think nuclear power is a cover for them. They COULD invest more in these other capacities/technologies, and they probably should. If they submitted to IAEA inspections, I'd be more willing to believe them. But their resistance is really troubling.