Iran's Nuclear Threat
Despite all the hyperventilating in the Bush and Olmert governments, Iran's progress towards enriching uranium appears to be slow.
Despite Iran being presented as an urgent threat to nuclear non-proliferation and regional and world peace - in particular by an increasingly bellicose Israel and its closest ally, the US - a number of Western diplomats and technical experts close to the Iranian programme have told The Observer it is archaic, prone to breakdown and lacks the materials for industrial-scale production.Observer
One of the main problems appears to be the bearings needed for the centrifuges' carbon-fibre 'top rotors'. Their source in Malaysia is out of business and Iran is having difficulties making them.
Iran is also believed to be critically short of key materials for producing a centrifuge production line to highly enrich uranium - in particular the so-called maraging steel, able to be used at high temperatures and under high stress without deforming - and specialist carbon fibre products. In this light, say some experts, its insistence that it will install 3,000 new centrifuges at the underground Natanz facility in the coming months is as much about domestic PR as reality.
'The reality is that they have got to the stage where they can run a small experimental centrifuge cascade intermittently,' said one Western source familiar with the Iranian programme. 'They simply have not got to the stage where they can run 3,000 centrifuges There is no evidence either that they have been stockpiling low-enriched uranium which could be highly enriched quickly and which would give an idea of a malevolent intent.'
None the less, I expect we will continue to hear how imminent the threat is from our war mongering leaders in Washington and Israel.