The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 25           July 6, 2004  
Imperialists threaten Iran over effort to develop nuclear power
(front page)
The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passed a resolution June 18 warning Tehran to end its alleged slowness in cooperating with United Nations “inspectors,” and pressing it to drop plans to build a research reactor for nuclear power.

The document—presented by the governments of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, with Washington’s backing—acknowledged that for the past six months Tehran has provided IAEA snoops with “access to all requested locations.” At the same time, it claimed, “Iran’s cooperation has not been as full, timely and proactive as it should have been.”

Officials of the IAEA and these four governments—all of which have developed nuclear power, and three of which control massive atomic arsenals—especially criticize the Iranian government for allegedly failing to come clean about attempts by its scientists to produce enriched uranium.

The ability to enrich uranium is essential in the development of nuclear power, as well as in the production of weapons. After extraction from the ground, the element is milled into yellowcake and then converted to uranium hexafluoride (UF6), a gas, before being enriched and turned into nuclear fuel for use in reactors. The uranium waste is then stored or reprocessed. This whole process is known as the nuclear fuel cycle.

“Has Iran declared fully to us its enrichment program?” IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei asked in a press statement released after the 35-member board unanimously adopted the resolution. “That is really the issue that is still before us…. The ball remains in Iran’s court.”

The resolution noted Tehran’s “voluntary decisions” over the past year “to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and to permit the Agency to verify that suspension.” It charged, however, that “this verification was delayed in some cases… and the suspension is not yet comprehensive because of the continued production of centrifuge equipment.”

High-tech centrifuges are used in uranium enrichment. While Tehran suspended its enrichment of uranium last October, it did not promise to halt development of this technology.

The resolution referred to the discovery by IAEA “inspectors” of traces of enriched uranium on Iranian equipment. Iranian officials explain that the equipment was already contaminated at the time of its purchase on the international market.

“With the passage of time,” the resolution said, “it is becoming ever more important that Iran work proactively to enable the Agency to gain a full understanding of Iran’s enrichment program by providing all relevant information, as well as by providing prompt access to all relevant places, data, and persons.”

In addition, the resolution urged the Iranian government to “reconsider its decision to start construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water.” Such a step, it said, “would make it easier for Iran to restore international confidence undermined by past reports of undeclared nuclear activities.” On its web site, the IAEA describes programs to assist the governments of Canada, China, and India with the development of heavy water reactors. Such reactors, it says, “are a significant proportion of world reactor installations. They provide fuel cycle flexibility for the future and can potentially burn the spent fuel from LWRs (light water reactors), with no major reactor design changes, thus extending resources.”  
New charges against Iran
As British, French, and German officials hashed out the finishing touches to the resolution, imperialist powers leveled new charges at the Iranian government. “Diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity said the IAEA was looking into accusations that Iran was razing parts of a restricted area next to a military complex in a Tehran suburb,” reported the Guardian. “Satellite photos showed that several buildings had been destroyed and topsoil had been removed at Lavizan Shiyan, one diplomat said.”

“There is nothing there,” responded Seyed Hossein Mussavian, the head of Iran’s delegation to the IAEA. He told the Associated Press that agency officials were free to visit the site and see for themselves.

The charges and smears in the resolution had appeared earlier in a June 1 report by the IAEA director. On June 17, ElBaradei acknowledged that his report had wrongly charged Iran with failing to reveal its purchase of magnets destined for centrifuges.

“This is not a major mistake,” ElBaradei immediately added. “This technical correction doesn’t change the fact that we need transparency from Iran.”  
Conflicts among imperialist powers
While Washington backed the resolution, it made it clear that it is pursuing a still more aggressive approach. The Associated Press noted June 16 that the resolution contained “no deadline or ‘trigger mechanisms’ as sought by the United States and its allies”—measures that “could set in motion possible sanctions if Iran continued its foot-dragging past a certain date.” U.S. officials indicated that they would press for stronger action at the next IAEA board meeting in September.

Kenneth Brill, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, told reporters June 2 that Iran’s alleged lack of cooperation with the UN agency “fits a long-term pattern of denial and deception that can only be designed to mask Iran’s military nuclear program.

“Almost two years after the IAEA became aware of Iran’s covert nuclear program,” he claimed, “delayed access, inconsistent stories and unanswered questions continue to be the hallmark of Iranian cooperation with the agency.”

Brill said the “international community” will not tolerate this for too long. “Iran can clear up these serious questions quickly, if it is willing to confess its clandestine nuclear weapons program and activities, like Libya,” he said.

After decades of economic, political, and military pressure from Washington and other imperialist powers, the Libyan government of Muammar Qaddafi declared an end to all researches into nuclear and chemical weapons late last year and allowed sweeping inspections of its facilities.

In February of this year U.S. president George Bush included Iran and north Korea as prime targets for the so-called Proliferation Security Initiative. This agreement, crafted by Washington, legitimizes the seizure of ships on the high seas by the U.S. military and its allies allegedly to stop the proliferation of materials, equipment, and technology that could be used in the production of nuclear weapons. A year ago when Washington launched this move to legalize high seas piracy, 14 nations agreed to participate. One year later the list of participating governments has swelled to over 60.  
Moscow indicates agreement
After the Group of 8 summit in early June—which includes seven imperialist powers and Moscow as an observer—Sergei Prikhodko, an aide to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, told reporters that Moscow “would continue to cooperate with Iran in nuclear power generation.” Prikhodko said his government would also proceed with the construction of the nuclear reactor at Bushehr, Iran—a project that has drawn Washington’s ire.

However, Prikhodko added, “This is conditional on Iran fulfilling the International Atomic Energy Agency’s conditions.”

For their part, the main imperialist powers in Europe—especially Paris and Berlin—have sought, on occasion, to distance themselves from Washington’s collision course towards Iran, seeking room to push their own economic, military, and political interests, and increase their influence over Tehran and the broader oil- and resource-rich Mideast region.

In the face of such insinuations about Tehran’s alleged covert interest in developing nuclear weapons, top Iranian officials have continued to explain that their nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity. Nuclear power plants would allow Tehran to channel oil and gas reserves for export, they say.

The country’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi insisted June 13 that his government “won’t accept any new obligations. Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club. This is an irreversible path.

“That somebody demands that we give up the nuclear fuel cycle…is an additional demand,” Kharrazi said. “We can’t accept such an additional demand, which is contrary to our legal and legitimate rights.”

A June 13 AP report said that Kharrazi was referring to demands by “U.S. and European countries that Iran halt operations of a plant it inaugurated in March in Isfahan… that processes uranium into gas,” and abort “plans to build a heavy-water reactor in Arak.” Both cities are in the country’s central region. Meanwhile, Democratic Party presidential candidate John Kerry has emphasized his agreement with the White House’s approach. In a statement released June 1, his campaign officials said that Kerry would “support the International Atomic Energy Agency’s efforts to discern the full extent of Iran’s nuclear program, while pushing Iran to agree to a verifiable and permanent suspension of its enrichment and reprocessing programs.”

The statement went on, “Kerry will also strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by closing the loophole that allows countries like Iran and North Korea to use civilian nuclear power programs as cover for weapons development.”

In another sign of the escalating tensions, three British navy boats reportedly entered Iranian territorial waters June 21 and were captured by Tehran’s coast guard on the Iranian side of the Shatt al Arab waterway, which forms part of the Iran/Iraq border to the south of both countries. The Al Aram TV channel reported that the British sailors had admitting to being “inside Iran’s waters” at the time of their arrests. According to the report, Iranian authorities collected weapons, cameras, and maps of Iraq and Iran from the boats.

The eight sailors would “be prosecuted for illegally entering Iranian territorial waters,” said an Iranian military official. Tehran, however, released the sailors two days later but kept their three boats.
Related article:
The war over electricity  
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