The spy novels just keep on coming. The latest one comes courtesy of the FT which speculates that due to numerous delays and technical setbacks in Iran's nuclear program, it could have been the target of sabotage. "A series of recent reverses, notably affecting Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, is prompting debate over whether the programme is being undermined by sabotage, sanctions, or the incompetence of the regime’s scientists." Of course, while the latter is most likely the correct answer, the fact that the FT is floating this story now is cause for concern. The reason: Iran will likely not take too kindly to even mere speculation that its control structure is weak enough to allows spies to interfere with its identity-defining and critical nuclear program.
More from the FT:
In the past year, a dramatic reduction has taken place in the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at the regime’s nuclear plant in Natanz.
In May 2009, the International Atomic Energy Agency said there were 4,920 operational centrifuges. Twelve months later the IAEA stated that Iran was running only 3,936, a reduction of 20 per cent.
Iran also appears to be having difficulties on other fronts. Ivan Oelrich, of the Federation of American Scientists, said the centrifuges were only working at 20 per cent efficiency. The latest IAEA report says that 4,592 centrifuges are installed at Natanz – but are sitting idle and doing nothing at all.
Some security analysts see this as evidence of covert sabotage by western intelligence agencies. “There are signs that there has been a concerted intelligence operation which is able to debilitate and set back the Iranian programme,” says one academic, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is not foolproof. But a large number of Iranian centrifuges have crashed and up to half have had to be replaced in recent times. This success didn’t happen entirely accidentally.”
Oddly, the FT also recognizes that a far more innocent alterantive may be in play here:
Others are less willing to give western intelligence total credit.
“Nothing we know can rule out sabotage and clearly something fishy is
going on,” says Mr Oelrich. “But just because there is sabotage does not
rule out the possibility that the Iranians are also grossly
Iran, to be sure, is not too happy about such talk of sabotage:
Iran insists talk of sabotage is western propaganda. “I strongly deny Iran’s nuclear programme is sabotaged. This is a media war to suggest the Islamic Republic is dependent on foreign help,” says Kazem Jalali, a member of the Iranian parliament’s foreign policy and national security committee. “Our nuclear programme is 100 per cent localised. We do not need to stretch our hands to the world markets.”
However, some security analysts are confident that an international sabotage operation is having an effect. “The central question in international diplomacy is whether Iran will acquire the bomb or whether Iran will be bombed,” says the academic. “This is not a question that western leaders are having to worry about in the coming weeks and months. This may well be because of the effectiveness of concerted intelligence operations.”
Certainly an odd timing for this kind of article coming out in a major newspaper. And just to keep the middle class audience on their toes, and unconcerned about the fact that the politicos and the bankers of any given developed country are doing far greater damage to their welfare than Iran ever could, the FT has provided the following pretty picture describing all the lay person needs to know about enrichment.
Let the Beastie Boys lyrics trickle down.