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Feb 22nd, 2010

Iran to Build Nuke Facilities ‘Inside Mountains’

Move appears to be aimed at shielding sites from potential military attack

What if Israel Bombed Iran? // Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (© Andre Penner / AP)

Feb. 22, 2010

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said Monday it plans to build two new uranium enrichment facilities deep inside mountains to protect them from attack, a new challenge to Western powers trying to curb Tehran’s nuclear program for fear it is aimed at making weapons.

Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also Iran’s vice president, said Tehran intends to use its more advanced centrifuges at the new sites, a decision that could add to growing concerns in the West over Tehran’s program because the technology would allow Iran to accelerate the pace of its program.

The two plants are among 10 industrial scale uranium enrichment facilities Iran approved the construction of in November, a dramatic expansion of the program in defiance of U.N. demands it halt enrichment.

“Hopefully, we may begin construction of two new enrichment sites in the next Iranian year as ordered by the president,” the semiofficial ISNA quoted Salehi as saying Monday. The Iranian calendar year begins March 21. …

Israel considers Iran’s nuclear program a strategic threat, and has hinted at the possibility of airstrikes against Iran if world pressure does not halt Tehran’s nuclear efforts.

The Israelis have launched such strikes in the past. In 1981, an Israeli air attack destroyed an unfinished nuclear reactor in Iraq. Israel also hit a suspected nuclear facility in Syria in September 2007.

Iran’s enrichment of uranium is the central concern of the United States and other nations negotiating with the country over its disputed nuclear program. The technology can be used to generate fuel for power plants and isotopes for medical purposes, but it can also be used to make weapons-grade uranium for atomic bombs. …

Tehran has already said it may install its more advanced centrifuges at its small enrichment site near the holy city of Qom, which was made public last September. The new centrifuges are more advanced than the decades-old P-1 type centrifuges in use at the country’s main enrichment facility at Natanz, in central Iran. …

The new models will be able to enrich uranium much faster than the old ones — which means Iran could amass more material in a shorter space of time that could be turned into the fissile core of missiles, should Tehran choose to do so. …

Tehran produced its first batch of uranium enriched to a higher level earlier this month, prompting the U.S. and its allies to seek new U.N. Security Council sanctions.


Related reports

Iran Now a ‘Nuclear State’ (Feb. 11, 2010)

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threat assessment

Iran, North Korea Threat Level Rises (Dec. 13, 2009)

Obama Demands Access to Nuke Site (Sept. 26, 2009)

Obama: Iran ‘must now cooperate fully’ (NBC Nightly News, Sept. 26, 2009) — Iranian leaders declared Saturday that international inspectors would be allowed access to a newly disclosed nuclear site as President Barack Obama continued his push for more transparency from Iran during his weekly internet address. NBC’s Mike Viqueira reports. (03:15)



3/30/10 Update

Iranian Scientist Defects to U.S.

March 30, 2010

WASHINGTON — An Iranian nuclear scientist who had been reported missing since last summer has defected to the U.S. and is assisting the CIA in its efforts to undermine Iran’s nuclear program, ABC News reported Tuesday.

The scientist, Shahram Amiri, has been resettled in the U.S., according to the report.

The CIA had no comment on the report, a spokesman said.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday he hopes international sanctions against Iran for pursuing its nuclear ambitions will be in place this spring. Iran maintains that its nuclear research is for peaceful purposes and not to develop weapons.

Amiri, who worked at Tehran’s Malek Ashtar University, an institution closely connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, disappeared last June while in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage. While his disappearance led to speculation that he had defected and was assisting the West in its efforts to keep track of Iran’s nuclear program, the foreign minister for Iran accused the U.S. of helping to kidnap him.

Citing people briefed on the intelligence operation, ABC News said Amiri’s disappearance was part of a long-planned CIA operation to persuade him to defect. The CIA reportedly approached Amiri in Iran through an intermediary who made an offer of resettlement on behalf of the United States, ABC News said.

Amiri has been extensively debriefed since his defection, according to the report, and has helped to confirm U.S. intelligence assessments about the Iranian nuclear program.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — February 22, 2009

Bachmann ‘Marie Antoinette-ish’

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), criticizing the economic stimulus plan on KTLK radio in the Twin Cities with her trademark gloom-and-doom histrionics, foresaw a “national rationing board,” claimed “your doctor will no longer be able to make your health care decisions with you,” and catastrophized that “we’re running out of rich people in this country.”

7 Responses to “Iran Ramps Up Nuclear Program”
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