Saturday, October 27, 2012

NY Times Sanger and Broad obsess over Iran's Fordo Enrichment Plant

David E. Sanger and William J. Broad continue their obsession with the Fordo nuclear enrichment facility in Iran in their Thursday, October 25 article "Iran Said to Nearly Finish Nuclear Enrichment Plant" <>.

They are more careful in hedging their commentary by comparison with other reporting, but the implication is still that Iran is on the road to manufacturing nuclear weapons. "The installation of the last of nearly 3,000 centrifuges at a site called Fordo, deep under a mountain inside a military base near the holy city of Qum, puts Iran closer to being able to build a nuclear weapon, or come up to the edge, if its leaders ultimately decide to proceed." This continues the right-wing denizens' mantra in which, failing to provide any evidence whatever that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, they condemn Iran developing a "capacity" for producing a nuclear weapon. Later in the article, they throw caution aside and assert: "The fact that the Fordo plant is approaching full operation, shortening the amount of time it would need to build a weapon, gives Iran added ability to exert pressure on the United States and its allies."

It is hard to know why this story is appearing now. The Fordo plant is no news. It was announced by Iran and has been regularly monitored by the IAEA. Moreover, as Sanger and Broad report, ". . . as Mr. Vietor (Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, and the only official quoted by name) noted, with inspectors visiting, 'We are in a position to closely observe Iran’s program and detect any effort by Iran to begin production of weapons-grade uranium.' "

The Fordo plant has produced some 20% enriched uranium, some of which has been converted to plates for use in an isotope-generating medical reactor, thus reducing the stock of 20% enriched uranium available for any other purpose. So, Fordo has been "functioning" all this time. What is the point now of announcing that it is "approaching full operation" if not simply to provide another alarmist report exaggerating the already over-hyped brouhaha about Iranian danger? Sanger and Broad's attempt to fan the dying embers of hair-on-fire reporting on Iran's nuclear danger is all the more strange given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's retreat from threats to attack Iran over the issue.

Candidate Mitt Romney, citing President Obama's supposed "weakness" on Iran, asserted in the recent Presidential Debates that Iran had enough enriched uranium to make "five bombs." This is a total fantasy fabrication, and misleading as well, since low-enriched uranium cannot be weaponized without further enrichment. Reporters are not supposed to engage in partisan advocacy, but it seems Messrs Sanger and Broad in issuing this total non-story are trying to tip the scales in Mr. Romney's favor.