Hyping Iran’s Nuke Capabilities

As Iran and the Obama administration maneuver toward a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, the Western news media continues to stoke the crisis by hyping Iran’s capabilities, including misreporting the significance of a new report on Iran’s supply of 20-percent enriched uranium, Gareth Porter writes at Inter Press Service.

By Gareth Porter

News stories on the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report suggested new reasons to fear that Iran is closer to a “breakout” capability than ever before, citing a nearly 50-percent increase in its stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium and the installation of hundreds of additional centrifuges at the Fordow enrichment installation.

But the supposedly dramatic increase in the stockpile of uranium that could theoretically be used to enrich to weapons grade is based on misleading figures in the Nov. 16 IAEA report. The actual increase in the level of that stockpile appears to be 20 percent.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaking before a photo of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. (Photo credit: Iranian government)

The coverage of the completion of the installation of 2,800 centrifuges at Fordow, meanwhile, continued the media practice of ignoring the linkage between large numbers of idle centrifuges and future negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program. The latest round of media coverage of the Iran issue again highlights the failure of major news outlets to reflect the complexity and political subtleties of the Iranian enrichment program.

The IAEA report created understandable confusion about the stockpile of uranium enriched to 20-percent also called 20 percent LEU (low enriched uranium). It does not use the term “stockpile” at all. Instead, it says Iran produced 43 kg of 20-percent enriched uranium during the three months since the August report and cited a total of 135 kg of 20-percent uranium now “in storage,” compared with only 91.4 kg in August.

Based on those figures, Reuters suggested that Iran might already be two-thirds of the way to the level of 200-250 kg that “experts say” could be used to build a bomb. The Guardian’s Julian Borger wrote that Iran was enriching uranium at a pace that would reach the Israeli “red line” in just seven months.

But analysis of the figures in the last two reports shows that the IAEA total for 20-percent LEU “in storage” actually includes 20-percent LEU that has been sent to the Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant in Esfahan for conversion to powder for fuel plates to be used by Iran’s medical reactor but not yet converted.

The November IAEA report includes the information that, as of Sept. 26 six weeks after the data in the August report were collected the total amount of 20-percent LEU fed into conversion process in Esfahan stood at 82.7 kg. That figure is 11.5 kg more than the total of 71.25 kg fed into the conversion process as of the August report. The difference between the two indicates that 11.5 kg had been taken out of the stockpile and sent to the Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant at Esfahan during September 2012.

In another indicator of the difference between the IAEA’s “in storage” figure and the actual stockpile size, the current IAEA report gives the figure of 73.7 kg of 20-percent LEU from the Fordow facility “withdrawn and verified” by the IAEA over the entire period of such enrichment. That total is 23.7 kg higher than the total of 50 kg from Fordow “withdrawn and verified” given in the August report.

A total of 23.7 kg of 20-percent LEU was evidently taken out of the stockpile available for higher level enrichment and sent for conversion to powder for fuel plates during the last quarter. The current IAEA report nevertheless uses the same overall total of 96.3 kg of 20-percent LEU fed into the conversion process that it used in the August report.

Subtracting the 23.7 kg additional uranium “withdrawn and verified” by the IAEA during the quarter from the total 20-percent enriched uranium production of 43 kg during the quarter reduces the amount added to the stockpile of 20-percent LEU to 19.3 kg. Adding the 19.3 kg to the August total of 91.4 kg gives a total for the stockpile of 110.7 kg a 20-percent increase over the August level rather than the nearly 50-percent increase suggested by news stories.

The IAEA declined to respond to the substance of an IPS e-mail query citing the apparent inconsistencies in the data presented in the last two reports. IAEA Press Officer Greg Webb said in an e-mail that safeguards department officials who had been sent the query “reply that the report is clear and accurate as it stands”.

However, the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, D.C., which normally supports everything in IAEA reports, said in a Nov. 16 commentary that the current report “does not make it clear if Iran has sent additional near 20 percent LEU hexafluoride to the Esfahan conversion site after August 2012.”

The Washington think tank added, “However, it if did, the near 20 percent LEU remains in the form of hexafluoride.” The comment implied that the IAEA may have included 23.7 kg of 20-percent enriched uranium sent to the Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant during the quarter as being “in storage.”

The IAEA report also said Iran had halted its conversion of 20-percent LEU for fuel plates during the quarter, although it did not indicate how long the halt might last. Reuters cited that halt as “another potentially worrying development.” But in light of the actual level of the stockpile, that halt could simply reflect the fact that Tehran is content to keep the figure from rising too far above 100 kg.

The spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, Hossein Naqavi, said Oct. 6 that Iran was taking “a serious and concrete confidence-building measure” by converting some of the 20-percent LEU into powder for fuel plates.

More surprisingly, an Israel official leaked to an Israeli daily that Iran was believed to have consciously avoided allowing its stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium to go much beyond 110 kg by diverting much of it for conversion to fuel for its scientific research reactor.

Citing “defense sources,” Ha’aretz military correspondent Amos Harel wrote Oct. 9 that the Israeli policymakers had new information they considered “highly reliable” that each time new production of 20-percent enriched uranium could have brought the total above 130 kg, Iran had “diverted 15 or 20 kg to scientific use.” Harel indicated that the new information was the justification for the Israeli position that the threat of Iranian threat of a breakout capability had receded for many months.

Media coverage of the addition of the last of 2,800 centrifuges added to Fordow enrichment facility over the past year played up the idea that the centrifuges could become operational at any time. “They can be started any day,” a “senior diplomat” from an unnamed country was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The fact that half of those centrifuges have not been put into operation was treated as a mystery. The Los Angeles Times said, “For unknown reasons, Iran has not begun feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into more than half of the machines.” None of the stories mentioned the obvious connection between Iran’s continuing to add centrifuges but not putting them into operation and its maneuvering for a deal with the United States.

Iran has been suggesting both publicly and privately throughout 2012 that it is open to an agreement under which it would halt all 20-percent enrichment and agree to other constraints on its enrichment program in return for relief from harsh economic sanctions now levied on the Iranian economy.

Iranian strategists evidently view the unused enrichment capacity at Fordow facility as an incentive for the United States and the P5+1 to seek such an agreement.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. [This story originally appeared at Inter Press Service, http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/11/iaea-data-on-sensitive-iranian-stockpile-mislead-news-media/]

7 comments for “Hyping Iran’s Nuke Capabilities

  1. Long Live Iran & Palestine
    November 26, 2012 at 14:55

    Well Borat I guess the difference between Arabs and Jews is that the arabs don’t kill CHILDREN.

  2. paschn
    November 25, 2012 at 13:57

    Ahhh the unholy 2. Although the entire West is under the control of the Synagogue, the “head of the Beast” is certainly the “Christian” nation of AmeriKa, (my sincere apologies to blameless countries in Central and South America for using a geographically general term for the premier axis of evil, U.S.A.).
    I wonder if it would be possible to correlate The forced insertion of the Synagogue’s usurous global central/fractionalized banking system with the more than 500 wars and military actions of peace-loving “Christian” AmeriKa? I would assume so since atleast the first world war banking reps of the Synagogue have been seen lurking in the shadows behind the “Christian” dogs of war slicing up the pies post apocolypse…

    Interesting article below outlining the tail,(Israel), wagging the DOG, (AmeriKa), regarding the tail’s fear that too many nations are planning on shoving Israel’s nuclear/Bio/Chemical weapons programs into the public’s glazed over, one chromosome short “Christian”consciousness.


    The synagogues whining mantra re; their being in constant danger from closet monsters seems a tad pedestrian when you consider they control, (through their usurous global system of Central Banks and associated “benevolent” international money loving tabernacle’s….I.M.F. / World Bank/ Bank of International settlements etc ad nauseum), close to 70 or 80 percent of the world’s wealth, and have corrupted almost the entire Christian/ Muslim world. Not to mention over 90 percent of the world media and nearly 100 percent of the media in their AmeriKan colony.

    Wow,…if that’s what it means to be oppressed/picked on/ abused and threatened….except for the pure evil and hatred it also icludes, GIMME SOME!!

  3. paschn
    November 23, 2012 at 16:34

    One who worships via the Talmud should abstain from using the word “honor” in either voiced or written format. The mantra of “the tribe”, through deception we wage war, should cause even the mostly drooling Westerners to perk up their ears and begin listening for the whistling scream of an Israeli or U.S.A. made nuclear device heading for ground zero, (wherever they and the blow-flies in D.C. decide it will be this time).
    There are a small cadre of sane/honorable countries standing between Israel and their dream to annihilate or enslave we “goy” world wide….Among these honorable nations are China, Russia,Iran,Libya,(pre regime change from the West/Israel), Venezuela etc….
    As for Israel? They have no “friends”, only the rotting corpses of nations foolish enough to allow their “leaders” the chance to “serve” until they have bled their latest “host” into historic oblivion. It’s only through the comic arrogance/ignorance of Western “Christians” that friend/alliance is voiced in speech. There is, in fact no “friendship” in the relationship with Israel…The word itself hints at a symbiotic relationship in which both parties benefit. A more accurate adjective would be “parasitic” with AmeriKa playing the leading role of “host”. I doubt the majority of Western “leaders” are even aware of that bit of reality….they only pay attention to their numbered accounts off shore to make certain the latest installment from AIPAC has reached it’s destination before they kneel to feed from their masters.
    Please, refrain from using words so completely foreign to your ilk….words such as “friend”, “honor”, character, kindness, humanity, honesty, (when using it first person),equality etc. Do you get my drift? Although the vast majority of Western “Christians” have bought your mouthed feces, there are some of us who have not and never will.
    In closing, shall we discuss the male sexual mutilation called circumcision in AmeriKa via the Talmudic controlled AMA etc? The tribal mutilation of Western men.


    Seems rather perverse that one of a child’s first memories would be an act of fellatio performed on him.So, when you babble about mistreatment of citizens
    “…in the paradises in the sand.”, please use yet another word phrase foreign to the tribe’s lexicon, “balanced and fair”, eh?

  4. borat
    November 23, 2012 at 14:13

    what about women who have to obliterate themselves w/forced burqua wearing? They can’t even drive a car in Saudi Arabia. “Honor” killings abound in the paradises in the sand.

  5. eCitizen
    November 21, 2012 at 08:08

    Hilary writes: “so Iran is no longer a threat as Israel steps up its Ethnic Cleansing in Palestinian.”

    In fact, what Israel wants is to be able to finally invade, occupy and annex south Lebanon up to the Litani River. It tried to do this in 1983 and ultimately was expelled by Hezbollah. Hezbollah is the main obstacle that stands in Israel’s way. Israel has had designs on South Lebanon since Zionist lobbyists like Chaim Weitzmann showed up at the Versailles peace conference at the end of World War One and tried to get South Lebanon included in the British Mandate for Palestine. David Ben Gurion plotted in the 1950s to foment civil war in Lebanon so the Israelis could intercede on behalf of the Christians, then occupy, settle and annex the territory. Menachem Begin and Arield Sharon invaded South Lebanon in 1983 and settled in to occupy it for two decades after the stated goal of expelling the PLO had been accomplished. Israel wants to eliminate Iran so that it will be able to eliminate Hezbollah and take over South Lebanon.

  6. incontinent reader
    November 21, 2012 at 01:19

    Excellent article with just the type of thorough investigation and research we’ve learned not to expect from the MSM.

  7. Hillary
    November 21, 2012 at 00:57

    Moderator please help.

    “Hyping Iran’s Nuke Capabilities”

    Muslims compose 25% of the world’s population so what’s in this for the US ?

    As it was with Iraq the weakening of Iran has been underway for years with

    1.Crippling sanctions
    2 Concocting internal unrest to topple Ahmadinejad .
    3 Threatening a Military even nuclear attack 24/7.

    Israel wants Iran like Iraq , weak, partitioned and broken up, so Iran is no longer a threat as Israel steps up its Ethnic Cleansing in Palestinian.

    Israel’s interests are NOT and should not be the same as those of the US.

Comments are closed.