Live Debate over Iran’s
Nuclear Program

Zimmerman(?) responds to Casey,
and Cyrus Safdari umpires

Iran Affairs
July 16, 2008

Someone using the name Peter Zimmerman and matching email address name from a generic ISP account ( has posted a comment to my blog entry about Casey's deconstruction of the Zimmerman oped.

I don't know Peter Zimmerman. I can't verify that this is the real Zimmerman who has commented. And frankly I am hoping this really isn't him, because the response consists of a series of non-sequiturs and innuendo which evade the substance of Casey's criticisms. So, read this with this caveat in mind: this may NOT BE the real Peter Zimmerman. It could be a just some guy posing as Zimmerman.

I have reproduced the alleged Zimmerman comment below. I have even rearranged this blog's layout to do justice to the full text of the comment. The material in blue italic are snipped quotes from the Casey piece. The black bolded text is Zimmerman's response to Casey's points. The material in red is my commentary on Zimmerman's responses (I won't presume to speak on behalf of Casey, but since this is MY blog then I can write MY comments.) Everything except for the material in red is cut-and-pasted directly from the comment I received, reproduced in full as I received it. The only thing I edited out was the right-angle quotes and other symbols that were automatically inserted by the computer:

============COMMENT BEGINS=========

ZIMMERMAN: Peter Zimmerman replies to Peter Casey's hit-job.

What's NOT in the IAEA Iran Reports
by Peter Casey
July 15, 2008

Peter Zimmerman carries august credentials. He is a nuclear physicist. He has degrees from Stanford in experimental nuclear and particle physics. He was the top scientist for arms control at the State Department for a number of years. He later served as chief scientist for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has written scores of papers on nuclear arms and arms control. He is currently emeritus professor of science and security at King's College in London. All in all, he sounds like someone who knows about nuclear technology, including nuclear weapons, and has the time to think carefully about anything he might write on the subject.

Or so you would think. But on July 6, 2008, Zimmerman published an opinion piece in the Boston Globe entitled "Time for Iran to Face More Sanctions," a screed that badly misuses the International Atomic Energy Agency's May 2008 report on its monitoring of Iran's nuclear power activities. In his piece, which was later republished in the International Herald Tribune, Zimmerman blatantly tries to terrify Americans about an Iranian nuclear menace that does not exist, may never exist, and poses no realistic threat whatsoever to the United States in any case. His commentary is also solid evidence that the New York Times, which owns both the Globe and the Tribune, is intent on once again disseminating the same sort of nonsense that facilitated a "case" for the Iraq invasion.

ZIMMERMAN: If Iran gets nuclear weapons, it will pose a threat to the US because of its threats to US interests in the Gulf and as far north-west as Rome.

CYRUS: First, it is arguable whether a nuclear armed Iran would be in fact any more of a threat than a nuclear-armed Israel or Pakistan.

Second, this reply resorts to scaremongering. One could just as easily say "If" Brazil gets nukes, or "If" Japan gets nukes...the whole reason for the existence of the IAEA is to detect the use of nuclear material for making nukes. If that's not good enough, then try to renegotiate the NPT, otherwise the NPT recognizes the right of countries to have nuclear programs. 

Third, Zimmerman's assertion is a non-sequitur anyway since the Iranians vehemently deny seeking nukes, no evidence of nukes has turned up after 5 years of investigations, and the Iranians have even offered to put additional restrictions on their nuclear program beyond the NPT requirements and what other countries have agreed to, to further ensure that their nuclear program could not even hypothetically be used to secretly make bombs.

And fourth, the Bush administration doesn't simply say that Iran shouldn't have nukes (something the Iranians agree with) but that Iran shouldn't even have civilian nuclear know-how, which amounts to a violation of the NPT.

CASEY: Zimmerman asserts that the IAEA has "recently reported that it has questions that
Iran refuses to answer":
 "Why is
Iran using high explosives to implode a hemispherical shell of heavy metal? The only known use for such tests is to perfect a lightweight nuclear bomb.
"Why is
Iran developing the kinds of detonators needed in an atomic weapon?
"Why is
Iran designing, or redesigning, a ballistic missile warhead so that it can contain a nuclear weapon?"
This appears to be a deliberate attempt to spread multiple deceptions.
 First, Zimmerman falsely depicts the IAEA's "reported questions" as relating to matters of fact. As the report itself makes clear, the questions relate to allegations based on what the IAEA calls the "alleged studies" – documentation found on a laptop computer purportedly obtained by
U.S. intelligence agencies in mid-2004. (The bona fides of these laptop documents, whose origin is as murky as the infamous "Niger yellowcake" forgery, remain in substantial doubt, but that is a whole different story.)

ZIMMERMAN: My sources at IAEA do not dispute the authenticity of the laptop documents. Indeed, I got an e-mail on my article from the personal assistant to ElBaradei. All my source could say was that I wasn't helpful because I didn't support the Director General's "freeze for freeze" initiative. He did not take issue with anything substantive.

CYRUS: First, this reply does not address the substance of Casey's point, which is that Zimmerman posits the allegations as if they were already established fact, by asking "Why" instead of "Whether". Even by Zimmerman's own account, these "sources at the IAEA" didn't endorse the Laptop of Death's content either, so this is a nonsequiter which doesn't address Caseys' point about the veracity and reliability of the Laptop of Death. Zimmerman claims that his sources have not questioned the validity of the laptop, but first of all, we can't rely on what unverifiable "sources at the IAEA" say or don't say. The IAEA is still checking on the laptop and so can't be expected to tell you that they agree or disagree with it beforehand. 

Second,  speaking of "sources at the IAEA", Reuters has quoted IAEA officials of explicitly accusing the US of using the same "hype tactics" against Iran as were used against Iran because "some people don't want to see the Iran issue resolved."  This isn't exactly an endorsement by the IAEA, is it?

Third, others have raised legitimate questions about the Laptop, and there is good reason to doubt its provenance - even according to "European diplomats" and reportedly some US intelligence analysts - and especially in light of the "Uranium from Niger Documents". In fact, according to some reports, the Iranians have also pointed out that the supposedly "secret" documents on the laptop carry no government stamp or label either to identify them as government documents or conveying secrets, in any way. If that's true, that's one big problem right there.

Fourth, the IAEA has specifically stated that it has no actual evidence of the use of nuclear material itself to back up any of the allegations of contained in the Laptop of Death.

Fifth, this argument about the laptop misses the bigger point: There is reason to doubt the entire scenario where Iran is confronted with this Laptop material and is expected to disprove a negative, as I have explained in my "Nukie the Iranian Nuclear Spaghetti Monster" post.

CASEY: Zimmerman also fails to disclose that the IAEA report states that "it should be emphasized … that the Agency has not detected the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies" (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 28 [.pdf]). The immediately preceding board report was even more explicit: "[I]t should be noted that the Agency has not detected the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard" (emphasis added; IAEA Gov/2008/4 at paragraph 54 [.pdf]).

ZIMMERMAN: In this sense "nuclear material" refers to enriched uranium. Iran, as of now, does not have any useful quantity of enriched uranium. It does have natural uranium metal which was used.

CYRUS: But the IAEA's point, mentioned by Casey, was that it found no evidence that nuclear material was used for these alleged studies - a point left out by the Zimmerman piece which falsely claimed that Iran had in fact used the material for the "alleged studies".

As for Iran's other activities in the past, the IAEA has said that Iran's explanations were all consistent with the IAEA's own information. It is the specific job of the IAEA to determine whether countries are secretly using their nuclear programs to build nukes or not. If Zimmerman the nuclear weapons expert has additional information, he's free to take it to the IAEA.

CASEY: Unfortunately, in Zimmerman's editorial, the issue is not whether Iran is doing or has done any such things. It is "why" it is doing them. It would be one thing for Zimmerman to state that he thinks that the uncorroborated "laptop" allegations are fact. What he thinks probably would have little likelihood of terrorizing most newspaper readers. But by misinforming readers that the IAEA itself considers these circumstances established fact, Zimmerman fortifies both the credibility and the impact of the lie.

Second, Zimmerman misleadingly indicates that the IAEA report describes questions about multiple, ongoing activities that can only relate to nuclear weapons. For example, he asserts that Iran is "using high explosives to implode a hemispherical shell of heavy metal" whose "only known use" is for a "nuclear bomb." But the IAEA report actually states, "A second aspect [of the alleged studies] concerns … the testing of at least one full-scale hemispherical, converging, explosively driven shock system that could be applicable to an implosion-type nuclear device" (emphasis added; IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 17).

ZIMMERMAN: IAEA is not in the business of identifying nuclear weapons activities (under the safeguards agreement with Iran), and so it is not allowed to say that Iran *is* involved in weapons-related activities. I've been around the weapons business since 1959, one way or another, and held design clearances since 1984. I've also studied a lot of metal forming processes while researching nuclear proliferation for the US government. Let me state categorically: I know of no use for high explosive implosion of spherical shells of heavy metal except in fission nuclear weapons. Period. If Mr. Casey knows of a benign explanation, he owes it to us to tell us what it is.

CYRUS: Well, Casey never claimed that there are any benign explanations for "high explosive implosion of spherical shells of heavy metal" in the first place, did he?  He merely pointed out that there is in fact no evidence that Iran was "using high explosives to implode" these things in the first place, despite what Zimmerman asserts. In other words, according to Casey, Zimmerman is once again confusing allegations with reality.

An allegation, based on unauthenticated documents, that refers to a test that could have been applicable to a nuclear device is not the same as a fact regarding ongoing tests for nuclear devices. But even if Zimmerman had missed the nuance between that which may have been and that which is, the IAEA report goes on. "It should be noted that the Agency currently has no information … on the actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear material components of a nuclear weapon or of certain other key components, such as initiators, or on related nuclear physics studies" (emphasis added; IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 24). A person of Zimmerman's background and education surely ought to recognize that treating "no information" about X as proof of X is not very good reasoning.

ZIMMERMAN: Iran has learned how to extract polonium, the crucial radioactive material in a World War II type of initiator. Perhaps they have some defectors to poison, I don't know. But note that I did not state anything about "key components" such as initiators. They're so trivial to make (or to adapt from oil well logging instruments), that Iran need not play that game yet. Anyway, I didn't discuss such manufacture, because I don't think Iran is yet at the stage of needing to manufacture components. The US went from its first tests of implosion in the summer of 1944 to a completed design for Fat Man in February of 1945. And that was in an era when nobody really knew if nukes worked.

CYRUS: With the snide comment about polonium, Zimmerman implies that anytime Iran works with any advanced technology, it must necessarily be for evil reasons (to 'poison defectors' or make 'Fat Man' bombs.) But in any case Zimmerman is avoiding the substance of Casey's point: that Zimmerman has asserted something (namely, the use of high explosives with uranium spheres) as being truthful when there is no actual evidence for it - again, confusing allegations with reality.

And as for the polonium experiments: the Iranians said they wanted to use it for satellite batteries which is a legitimate use of polonium (polonium is also used as anti-static substance in industrial uses) and that the experiments were stopped many years ago - which the IAEA verified as being true. There are many different substances that have potential military uses -- to suggest that Iran shouldn't learn about any of them is simply ridiculous.

 CASEY: It is possible that Zimmerman's "hemispherical shell of heavy metal" was a reference to the so-called "uranium metal document," which reportedly describes procedures for converting "yellowcake" into uranium metal and casting it into hemispheres. Gareth Porter recently reported that in January 2005, IAEA inspectors stumbled across this document gathering dust in some old files that Iran had let them rummage through. According to the IAEA, Iran claimed that in 1987 it had received the document, unsolicited, from Pakistan when it acquired centrifuge enrichment components and related documentation (IAEA Gov/2007/58 at paragraph 25 [.pdf]). Pakistan confirmed to the IAEA that it possesses an identical document (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 24). And the IAEA has seen "no indication of any [uranium metal conversion] and casting activity in Iran" (IAEA Gov/2007/58 at paragraph 25). If Zimmerman had the "uranium metal document" in mind, his exaggerations are even wilder.

ZIMMERMAN: I did not have the "uranium metal document" in mind. It is true that the Pakistanis confirmed that they had an identical document. That makes me think that the Pakistanis sold or gave the technology to Iran.

CYRUS: If Zimmerman did not have the uranium metal document in mind, then the question is what the heck was he talking about when referring to high explosive testing of spherical metal forms, since according to the IAEA there is no evidence of Iran using such technology. Note that Iran would not need the technology from Pakistan anyway, since bomb-making isn't secret information, and furthermore the IAEA has not found any of this technology anywhere in Iran.

In any case, even according the Western experts, the document given to Iran by the Pakistanis was not actually useful for making a bomb since it contained no specific design information. Suppose I draw a picture of a nuclear bomb on the back of a napkin - does that mean I intend to make a bomb?

Zimmerman's assertion that the report states that "Iran refuses to answer" IAEA questions is grossly misleading. As documented in every single IAEA board report since the laptop allegations first surfaced, Iran has consistently and adamantly answered many of the allegations by describing them as baseless and fabricated. In addition, it was only in February 2008 that the U.S. gave the IAEA permission to show any of the documents to Iran to enable it to respond (IAEA Gov/2008/4 at paragraph 37). The U.S. further manipulated the IAEA's efforts by providing "much of this information [to the IAEA] only in electronic form" and "not authorizing the [IAEA] to provide copies to Iran" (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 16). The U.S. even refused to give the IAEA itself copies of some material. For example, the U.S. did not let the IAEA have copies of key documents concerning the "ballistic missile warhead" for a "nuclear weapon" Zimmerman refers to. The agency was "therefore unfortunately unable to make them available to Iran."

ZIMMERMAN: The allegations are not "baseless and fabricated." They are well documented by IAEA. Hell, to believe that the Iranians answered the allegations you have to believe that the Iranians are telling the truth, when their entire response to IAEA has been one of obfuscation and evasion. Of course we only could give the IAEA the docs in electronic form; that's how we got them. That's, in any event, how I would want them. The reason we did not furnish the documents in detail to the IAEA and Iran is quite simple: they contain weapons details, and the IAEA (let alone Iran) is not allowed to receive that information.

CYRUS: This is where Zimmerman starts to go off the rails entirely. Zimmerman claims the allegations are "well documented by the IAEA" when the IAEA itself said that it was not allowed to see some of the documents either and has found no evidence of nuclear work in Iran to support them.

Note also the a priori assumption by Zimmerman that the Iranians simply can't be telling the truth, backed up with nothing more than a doctrinaire rant about how the Iranians have been "obfuscating" all along. 

As for Iran "refusing" to answer -- note what the IAEA report itself speciffically stated: that Iran had filed a response to the allegations, but that the IAEA had not yet had time to go over the response when the IAEA report was issued. (According to some sources, the Iranian response consisted of over 230 pages.)

Finally, Zimmerman's justification for why the Iranians aren't permitted to see the allegedly Iranian document about making nukes (since they contain information on making nukes) and why yet the Iranians are supposed to disprove the documents anyway, has got to the funniest thing I have read in a long, long time. This sort of contorted logic does not come along often - it belongs in a Monty Python skit.

Just Imagine this conversation:

Me: I have a picture of a spaghetti monster that you intend to create.

You: I don't intend to create a spaghetti monster. Show me your proof.

Me: I can't show you the picture of the spaghetti monster you intend to create, since then you'd see how to create a spaghetti monster. But, you still have to prove to me that you don't intend to create a spaghetti monster.

Iran's declination to respond to allegations based on documents it has never been shown, or has only been allowed to peek at, may qualify as a "refusal" to answer. But Zimmerman's failure to mention this circumstance that at least partly explains a "refusal to answer" is incredibly misleading.

Moreover, the IAEA report discloses that Iran has in fact specifically "answered" questions that Zimmerman claims it has "refused to answer," such as, "Why is Iran developing the kinds of detonators needed in an atomic weapon?" The "detonators" (exploding bridgewire detonators) were for civilian and conventional military activities, according to
Iran (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 20). More generally, Iran has told the IAEA that documentation it was permitted to look at was not authentic and had been fabricated. Nevertheless, it "did not dispute that some of the information contained in the documents was factually accurate, but said that the events and activities concerned involved civil or conventional military applicants" (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 18). The report also noted that Iran continued to respond to questions posed by the IAEA.

ZIMMERMAN: Suspicious little me. Exploding bridge wire detectors have some civilian applications, but not many.

CYRUS: How many applications they have is besides the point. THE POINT was that the Iranians did answer the allegation, contrary to Zimmerman's claim that the Iranians had "refused to answer."

CASEY: Zimmerman's piece is seriously misleading in other important respects. He claims that Iran "has 320 tons of uranium hexafluoride [UF6] gas to feed its centrifuges, enough for almost 100 bombs, but not for even a fraction of one reactor refueling operation." What he does not mention is that "all of [the UF6] remains under [IAEA] containment and surveillance" (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 9). He also fails to inform readers that:

ZIMMERMAN: Yes. The UF6 in Iran is under safeguards. With a 90 day notice (as ElBaradei indicated in his statement quoted at the beginning of my article), Iran can abrogate the Nonproliferation Treaty, toss out the inspectors, and break the seals on the UF6 and use it for whatever it wants.

CYRUS: And so could any other signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In fact the treaty itself allows this under Article X. Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Holland, Canada, Egypt, etc. all "could" theoretically at some indefinite point in the future decide to exercise their options to do so. But is that Iran's fault?

But again, note how Zimmerman, by raising this spurious hypothetical, refused to address Casey's main point: that Zimmerman's piece failed to mention that Irans' uranium was in fact safeguarded.

Without enrichment, 320 "tons" of UF6 is no more dangerous than 320 tons of silly putty.

ZIMMERMAN: True indeed. Iran is building enrichment plants which are capable of enriching the UF6 either to fuel grade or weapons grade. But, umm, don't give your kids UF6 instead of silly putty. It's awfully corrosive and toxic.

CYRUS: Non-sequitur. Iran's centrifuges operate under IAEA safeguards and monitoring, so they can't be used to make weapons-grade uranium.

CASEY: * Since it began to enrich uranium, in February 2007, Iran has fed 3,970 kilograms, or less than four metric tons, into enrichment cascades (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 2).
* To get fissile material, uranium must be enriched to consist of 90 percent U-235. Iran's enrichment levels, however, have never exceeded 4.7 percent U-235, a level that could only be consistent with producing nuclear electricity (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 5).
Iran is scarcely "well on is way" to "mastery" of U-235 production, despite Zimmerman's claim.

ZIMMERMAN: I think Mr. Casey is being deliberately obtuse here, and certainly misleading. The amount of material fed to the cascades to date is no measure of what could be fed later. Uranium-235 is fissile at any enrichment; that's a function of the nuclear structure, not the amount, but only a physicist would care. Mr. Casey picks a figure of 90% at which uranium is "fissile;" I think he means an enrichment at which the material is useful in nuclear explosives. He is wrong.

In theory, but not in practice, one can get an explosive chain reaction from 7% material. At 20% Eugene Wigner told me decades ago *he* could build a bomb but, "Peter, you couldn't." I concur completely, and the bomb would be enormous. But 90% is not the threshold for a useful nuclear weapon. The threshold is much lower, but I am not allowed even to hint. But you may well find information in the open literature that points at the actual enrichment in the Hiroshima bomb.

Casey also doesn't understand the physical process of enrichment -- that's clear. The amount of work that goes into enriching uranium is measured in an exotic quantity called Separative Work Units, or SWU (pronounced "swoo."). It should be clear that if you start with natural uranium containing 0.7% U-235, and if you separate that out, tossing away the useless U-238, to reach 4.75% concentration you have done a lot of "separative work". Indeed, by the time you reach 4% you have done MORE than half of the separative work needed to reach 90% U-235. So it is perfectly factual that Iran is well on its way to mastery of the production of weapons quality Highly-Enriched Uranium (HEU). And, of course, a stockpile of 4.7% uranium can be reinserted into a centrifuge cascade and quite quickly further enriched to, say, 90%.

CYRUS: Here, Zimmerman again confuses hypothetical scenarios with reality. Sure, Iran "could" perhaps one day decide to make highly-enriched uranium that is used to make bombs -- as could any other member of the NPT which has an independent nuclear fuel cycle such as Brazil and Argentina -- but Casey's point is that Iran has NOT sought to make HEU despite Zimmerman's claim that Iran is "well on its way" to doing so. 

I should add that in fact, Iran has offered to place a legally binding, IAEA monitored ceiling on its enrichment program to ensure that it can't secretly make HEU -- even though Iran is under no obligation to do so (since the NPT does not impose any such limit on enrichment).  Other countries, unlike Iran, have made highly-enriched uranium. In fact, the US even gave some highly-enriched uranium to Iran for research purposes.

CASEY: As have all of its prior reports, the IAEA's May 26 report states: "All nuclear material [at the two Iranian enrichment facilities] remains under Agency containment and surveillance" (IAEA Gov/2008/15 at paragraph 4).

ZIMMERMAN: As I warn, 90 days after Iran files a notice of abrogation, the inspectors are gone. ElBaradei says the same thing.

CYRUS: And as pointed out, that 90-day provision is applicable by Article X OF THE THE NPT ITSELF, and applies to ALL members of the NPT, not just Iran.

And Elbaradei does NOT say the same thing - Elbaradei specifically  said that Iran could NOT build nukes without first withdrawing from the NPT and blocking inspections, which would make it obvious but then it would take years before Iran could actually build a weapon AND THUS IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM DID NOT POSE AN IMMINENT DANGER.

Zimmerman also contends that Iran's current plans for enrichment are "too small … to provide fuel for a nuclear power program of any consequence," but big enough to enable it to build "twice as many nuclear weapons a year … than they otherwise could have done," providing further evidence that "it is apparent that the real purpose of Iranian enrichment is to provide fuel for weapons, not reactors." This is specious reasoning. Iran's program is R&D.

ZIMMERMAN: Ah yes, the old R&D excuse. Folks you have to ask why a country rich in oil, very rich, and which has been offered all the 4.7% uranium it needs for all the reactors it might ever build at market prices or below wants to invest billions in mastering an exotic technology that will produce reactor fuel at considerably higher prices than market rates.

CYRUS: Ah, the old "Iran has oil and so can't really need nuclear energy" argument. At this point, I am simply embarrassed for Zimmerman. Actually the only "folks" who have been asking this nonsense question are the Bush administration folks, who largely were the same folks who made the opposite argument during the Shah's time when the US was an active participant in Iran's nuclear program, as noted by the Washington Post. In fact, study after study has verified that Iran has a legitimate economic case for nuclear power, and Iran has an even more legitimate strategic case for having independent access to nuclear fuel since it has repeatedly seen its nuclear contracts with other countries fall victim to US pressure, usually with no compensation for Iran. To this day, Iran has a stake in EURODIF - and has not received a single ounce of nuclear fuel.

CASEY: Laying out plans to construct the Taj Mahal before you know whether you can build a hot-dog stand wouldn't make much sense. Despite its simplicity, moreover, Zimmerman's observation somehow has escaped the IAEA's attention. As recently as May 20 of this year, Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, stated, "We haven't seen indications or any concrete evidence that Iran is building a nuclear weapon and I've been saying that consistently for the last five years."

ZIMMERMAN: Let us repeat; ElBaradei's organization is not empowered to look for weapons-related activities. It is only allowed to ask Iran to prove that all of its uranium remains under seal and hasn't been hidden away. At the moment that is true; there have been no diversions of uranium. The only time IAEA was allowed, told, to look for weapons-related activities was when the Iraqi program was taken down in 1991-98. Since Iran has disavowed its "additional safeguards protocol," the IAEA can't even make snap inspections.

CYRUS: And let us also repeat that Iran voluntarily implemented the Additional Protocol for 2 years, which allows more stringent inspections than Iran's existing safeguards, and still no evidence of a nuclear weapons program was found, and Iran has offered to ratify the Additional Protocol once its nuclear rights are recognized. Indeed, the whole discussion is irrelevant since Zimmerman states plainly that Iran's uranium is safeguarded but instead argues that Iran INTENDS to make bombs in the future. No amount of inspections by the IAEA and no safeguards agreement can prove that something can't happen in the indefinite future. (And, the last IAEA report stated that they had conducted 14 surprise inspections on Iran's centrifuge program.)

CASEY: Apparently, ElBaradei does not share Zimmerman's Cheney-esque logic that the possibility that Iran may intend to develop nuclear weapons is evidence that it intends to develop them. And can there be any doubt that, had Iran's current plans been big enough (or when they become big enough) in Zimmerman's opinion to embrace a nuclear power program "of consequence," he would be one of the first to claim that those plans evidence Iran's intent to create even greater multiples of weapon-production capacity?

ZIMMERMAN: Would I? Casey is wrong. I maintain, correctly, that for more than a decade before 2002 Iran surreptitiously engaged in a uranium enrichment program in violation of its safeguards obligations. If that program had been exclusively peaceful and commercial, why didn't the Islamic Republic declare it at the inception?

CYRUS: First of all, Iran was under no legal obligation under its safeguards to declare the sites at Natanz and Arak until 180-days prior to the receipt of fissile material.

And secondly, actually, Iran did tell the IAEA that it planned to develop enrichment technology -- and announced the discovery of uranium and plans to mine it and import nuclear technology as early as 1982. The IAEA even planned on participating in the project with Iran under its Technical Assistance Program in 1983 to make nuclear fuel. But then the US stepped in and prevented the IAEA from doing so. The US then proceeded to interfere in all of Iran's other overt contracts with other nations to acquire the necessary technology. It was only then that Iran resorted to obtaining some of its nuclear technology components furtively -- but Iran's plans to obtain the full nuclear cycle were never a secret, were only announced on national radio, and were widely known. I have written on Iran's not-so-hidden enrichment program before.

ZIMMERMAN: If the plans for Natanz had been for about 100,000 or 150,000 P1-class centrifuges, I would have believed that, against economic rationale, Iran was planning to enrich its own uranium for Bushehr because the demand would have matched the output, more or less. It was the small size of the plant that gave away the game. Why? Because Iran would have no need to produce the hundreds of bombs a year that 150,000 machines would allow. But it could keep its reactors going. Oh, just by the way, Iran has no need to enrich uranium for Bushehr: its contract with Russia includes guaranteed fuel services and the removal of spent fuel.

CYRUS: Zimmerman assumes that the Bushehr reactor will be the only one Iran will ever have. Iran has already announced plans to construct more reactors too. In fact, since the days of the Shah, Iran has planned to build about 22 reactors. Iran naturally doesn't want to become reliant on Russia to power its country -- as neither would the US -- especially when Cheney himself accused Russian of practicing energy blackmail against other countries.


CYRUS: Anyway at this point I'm going to cut this short because I'm getting bored and Zimmerman is basically repeating the same nonsense arguments that have been discounted so long ago.