Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Iran's Nuclear Ambitions: Myth or Reality?

The Birth of a Bomb

A History of Iran's Nuclear Ambitions
By Erich Follath and Holger Stark, Spiegel Online, June 17, 2010

In the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program, the UN Security Council has imposed new sanctions. Is Iran truly building a nuclear bomb as Western countries claim? Or are countries playing up the dangers to bring Iran to its knees? SPIEGEL traces the history of Tehran's nuclear program -- with stops in Washington, Vienna and Isfahan.

It is yet another of those secret meetings at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The deputy director general of the agency, who works on behalf of the United Nations to prevent nuclear bombs from getting into the wrong hands, has invited 35 diplomats to a meeting on the fifth floor of the UN building in Vienna. Some take pictures with their mobile phones of the ice floes on the Danube River drifting by below. Everyone is prepared for a routine meeting. But everything will be different this time. With the help of high-tech espionage, history is written on this February day in 2008. And perhaps it will later be said that it was the day Iran finally lost its innocence, and the day the Israelis were provided with arguments for a war.

Olli Heinonen confronts the diplomats with new information about Tehran's nuclear program. The Finnish nuclear scientist, the IAEA's deputy director general and head of the Department of Safeguards, has been to Natanz and Isfahan several times himself, and his inspectors, or "watchdogs," report back to him regularly. In addition, cameras monitor nuclear activities in many of the Iranian facilities. As useful as all of this is, it doesn't replace supplementary, secret information.
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