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Outside View: Alarm on Iran's nukes
by James Zumwalt
Herndon, Va. (UPI) Feb 26, 2013

Iran nuclear crisis timeline
Tehran (AFP) Feb 26, 2013 - Iran and six world powers -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany -- met in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Tuesday for new talks on Tehran's controversial nuclear programme.

Key developments in the long-running conflict:


- August 8: Iran resumes its uranium conversion activities, insisting that it only seeks to generate energy, and not as international powers suspect, to build nuclear bombs. It had suspended the activities a year earlier following a deal with European Union members Britain, France and Germany.


- December 23: The UN Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology. It strengthens the measures in 2007 and 2008.


- April 9: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his country can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.


- April 9: Iran declares major advances in its atomic drive as Ahmadinejad opens a nuclear fuel plant at Isfahan.

- September 25-28: Iran reveals a previously unknown uranium enrichment plant, Fordo, being built inside a mountain near the central holy city of Qom.


- February 9: Iran starts enriching uranium to 20 percent.

- June-July: World powers impose new military and financial sanctions.


- January 22: New talks between Iran and six world powers in Istanbul fail.

- November 8: The UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, points to a possible military dimension to the Iranian programme.

- December 31: US President Barack Obama signs into law tough new sanctions.


- February 15: Ahmadinejad unveils what is said to be Iran's first domestically produced, 20-percent enriched fuel for a research reactor.

- April 14: In Istanbul, world powers and Iran hold their first substantive talks in 15 months, and agree to meet again in May.

- May 23: A new meeting takes place between Iran and world powers in Baghdad. The world powers demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment to 20 percent, in return for various sweeteners but not Iran's key demand of relaxing some of the UN Security Council and unilateral sanctions.

- June 8: The IAEA and Iran, meeting in Vienna, fail to agree a deal allowing greater access to Tehran's nuclear programme, notably the Parchin military site.

- July 1: An EU embargo on Iranian oil comes into force.

- July 12: The United States announces a fresh wave of financial sanctions against Iran, targeting more than 50 front companies and banks.

- August 24: The IAEA says that "intensive" talks with Iran failed after it fails to gain unconditional access to certain sites.

- October 15: The EU agrees tough new financial and trade sanctions against Iran.

- November 5: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is ready to order a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities "if necessary".

- November 16: The IAEA says Tehran has completed installation at its Fordo site, allowing it to significantly ramp up uranium enrichment.

- November 30: New US sanctions.


- January 16-17: Talks between the UN atomic agency and Iran in Tehran end without agreement on access to its nuclear programme, as do further talks on February 12-14.

- February 26: Iran and world powers open new talks in the Kazakh city of Almaty, with both sides vowing to present offers in a bid to end the crisis.

With talks scheduled between Iran and the P5+1 nations -- China, England, France, Russia, the United State and Germany -- on Tehran's nuclear program, a world leader is expressing urgency the negotiations yield concrete results.

Perhaps shaken by the recent test of a nuclear device by North Korea, he fears failure simply allows Tehran to do what Pyongyang did -- complete building a bomb under the continuing cover of negotiations.

Recognizing the ineffectiveness of talks with Iran to date, he warns, "We should not give much more time to the Iranians and we should not waste time. We have seen what happened with (North Korea). It ended up that they secretly, quietly, without any obligations, without any pressure, (were) making progress" toward developing a nuclear weapon.

The P5+1 have been unable to present a unified front to Iran due to two uncooperative members: Russia and China. It is more the group of P5+1-2 with such lack of unity inhibiting effective enforcement by the United Nations while enabling Tehran to advance its nuclear program objectives.

One would hope it was U.S. President Barack Obama sounding the clarion call for urgency; it wasn't.

Obama's most recent admonition to Iran was his State of the Union Address in which he warned (or, more accurately, "encouraged") Iranian leaders they "must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon."

To underscore the seriousness of his concern to the Iranians, he then goes off to play golf with Tiger Woods.

Iran's mullahs don't take Obama's words seriously due to his actions and because, contrary to his claim, the coalition isn't "united." Accordingly, there is very little indication P5+1-2 intends "to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon."

The words and sanctions directed against Tehran won't keep the Iranians from their appointed rounds of possessing nuclear weapons in fulfillment of the religious prophecy those weapons are to trigger. The prophecy centers on the "12th Imam" who, as world chaos evolves, supposedly descends from a state of occultation, into which he ascended centuries earlier, to restore Islam to greatness, ridding the world of non-Muslims in the process.

The Iranians don't hide their belief catastrophe looms large on the horizon for non-believers, even producing a documentary film explaining this. Their openness that a future death sentence awaits infidels is tied to inevitability as, regardless of what the West does, Allah will make it happen. All that is lacking is the necessary world chaos -- which Tehran will trigger by detonating a nuclear device once it is acquired.

The new sense of urgency injected into the upcoming nuclear discussions with Iran comes from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. During five years of leadership, Ban has closely monitored Tehran's nuclear program. He sees nothing reassuring about claims its intentions are peaceful. Accordingly, Ban says the Security Council must "show a firm, decisive and effective, quick response" that the world still remains unconvinced.

Negotiations with Iran have been ongoing for almost a decade with nothing to show for it. The last meeting took place in July 2012. Based on how far apart the parties remained then on key issues, no substantive progress should be expected from the upcoming talks.

Meanwhile, in a constant effort to keep the West guessing as to its intentions, Tehran sends mixed signals. While recently trying to buy specialized items for its nuclear program, suggesting it seeks to shorten the path to weaponization, contrarily it makes weaponization more difficult by converting some of its uranium stockpile into metal form.

Questions arise:

-- Why would Iran choose to confuse the issue as to the purpose of its nuclear program if, in fact, it is peaceful?

-- Why would Iran subject its economy to such a beating from sanctions if, in fact, its purpose is peaceful?

-- Why force its people to undergo such hardship when the problem can be so easily resolved?

-- With a straightforward solution to the issue possible -- i.e., simply allowing inspections -- why complicate the problem, creating lingering doubts by rejecting verification? (Of course, the same could be said about Obama's refusal to release his original birth certificate.)

As for Iran's lack of cooperation, the answer should be clear -- it has every intention of developing a nuclear weapon!

While Ban is to be congratulated on understanding the Iranian threat, a quicker lesson was learned by Yukiya Amano who, in 2009, became head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Quickly grasping Iran's methodic game plan of buying time to continue its program, he kept pressing the P5+1 to pressure Tehran.

By November 2011, Amano was so concerned about Iran's program, he announced it was his duty to report to the world Tehran was involved in nuclear weapons research. Last month, with Iran much closer to its nuclear armament goal, Amano repeated his earlier warning while adding, "I have absolutely no reason to soften my report. ... The overall pattern led me to the decision to alarm the world. The more pieces (of information), the clearer the pattern becomes."

Amano is sounding his "alarm to the world" but it is falling on deaf ears in the White House.

(James G. Zumwalt, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and infantry officer, served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Persian Gulf war. He is the author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will--Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran--The Clock is Ticking." He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)


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