x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Clinton concedes Iran might become nuclear power

In what appeared to be an admission that efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear programme might fail, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said that the United States could extend a 'defence umbrella' over the Middle East. Israel's minister for secret services, Dan Meridor criticised Mrs Clinton's statement, saying that it implied a willingness to reconcile with the eventuality of a nuclear-armed Iran.

In what appeared to be an admission that efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear programme might fail, Hillary Clinton said that the United States could extend a 'defence umbrella' over the Middle East. "The US secretary of state, speaking on the way to a security summit in Thailand, later said she was not suggesting a new policy. But her comments marked the first time a senior US official has publicly contemplated the option of containment in the event of Iran's succeeding in building a nuclear weapon," The Guardian reported. "Until today such an option was a taboo subject among US government officials and their British counterparts, who have insisted Iran would be ultimately stopped from constructing a warhead. "Iran says its nuclear programme is not for military purposes, and refuses to comply with UN security council resolutions calling on Tehran to suspend the enrichment of uranium. The impasse has grown into a crisis as the enrichment programme has expanded over the past few years. " 'We will still hold the door open [for negotiations], but we also have made it clear that we will take actions, as I have said time and time again, crippling action working to upgrade the defences of our partners in the region,' Clinton told Thai television. " 'We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment: that if the United States extends a defence umbrella over the region, if we do even more to develop the military capacity of those [allies] in the Gulf, it is unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer because they won't be able to intimidate and dominate as they apparently believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon.' Israel's minister for secret services, Dan Meridor criticised Mrs Clinton's statement, saying that it implied a willingness to reconcile with the eventuality of a nuclear-armed Iran. "I heard, unenthusiastically, the Americans' statement that they will defend their allies in the event that Iran arms itself with an atomic bomb, as if they have already reconciled with this possibility, and this is a mistake," Mr Meridor told Israel's Army Radio. "Now, we don't need to deal with the assumption that Iran will attain nuclear weapons but to prevent this." Haaretz reported: "The US has asked 10 uranium-rich countries to tighten their monitoring of sales of the mineral to Iran, according to a document obtained by Haaretz. The move is based on an American estimate that Iran's uranium reserves will run out by 2010. A senior American delegation will arrive in Israel next week for talks on the dialogue between Iran and Western countries, especially regarding the Iranian nuclear programme. "The document was distributed by the US State Department to 10 countries that produce yellowcake, a uranium concentrate used as a raw material for enriching uranium. The United States wants the countries to increase monitoring of the sale of yellowcake to Iran. "According to the document, 'As a consequence of its geology, Iran's reported indigenous uranium reserves are insufficient to support its current nuclear reactor program for sustained period of time .... Calculations based on Iran's rate of uranium conversion thus far suggest that Iran will run out of yellowcake in 2010.' "The document is defined as a so-called non-paper to be used in contacts with privately owned companies that produce the concentrate. It was sent to Russia, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Britain, Kazakhstan and three others countries. "UN sanctions prohibit the sale of uranium to Iran, but the United States fears that the Islamic Republic might be trying to acquire the material anyway. 'Iran could soon begin, or may have already begun, to look for outside suppliers of uranium,' the document says. 'Extreme vigilance in dealing with Iran and its nuclear programme is necessary given the requirements of the UN Security Council and the significant threat Iran presents to international peace and security.' " GlobalPost reported: "In the eyes of US leaders, North Korea and Burma have long assumed roles of Asia's villains. "Both are run by military regimes as paranoid as they are oppressive. The thought of either possessing a nuclear weapon potent enough to scorch a rival country is terrifying indeed. "Now, with the two reclusive nations strengthening military ties, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is among the openly disturbed. A patchwork of evidence suggests that Burma, with the help of North Korean scientists and Russian advisers, wants to cobble together a nuclear weapons programme - even as Burma's state-run power agencies struggle to keep the lights on for its citizens. "Among leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - a group that includes Burma - Clinton this week said the US takes the potential of a nuclear Burma very seriously. 'It would be destabilising for the region,' Clinton said. 'It would pose a direct threat to Burma's neighbours. And it is something, as a treaty ally of Thailand, that we are taking very seriously.' "What's the evidence? There is no smoking gun. But analysts and US officials have cited a confluence of events that suggest nuclear ambitions in Burma, also called Myanmar. "North Korean engineers, who specialise in building tunnels and underground bunkers, have led a massive construction project in Naypyidaw, the regime's remote capital. This network of 800-odd tunnels, exposed by Burma expert Bertil Lintner, is quite like the subterranean facilities in which North Korea's defense department has built up a fledgling nuke program away from satellites' prying cameras." The Los Angeles Times said: "In recent weeks, North Korea sent a freighter, the Kang Nam I, with a suspected arms cargo, to Southeast Asia. Myanmar was a suspected destination. The US Navy shadowed the ship, and US officials pressed other countries to deny it entry under a recently passed UN Security Council resolution. "Eventually, the vessel turned around and headed home. "Clinton denounced Myanmar authorities for human rights violations, especially those toward young women and girls and demanded fair treatment for dissident Aung San Suu Kyi." The New York Times reported: "After meeting the foreign ministers of China, Russia, Japan and South Korea, Mrs. Clinton said they were united in demanding that North Korea undertake a 'complete and irreversible denuclearisation' before receiving any economic or political incentives from these countries. "She did not detail the steps that would be part of such a process, though she confirmed they could include the disabling of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, where the North Koreans are reprocessing fuel rods to recover plutonium, and the surrender of its plutonium stockpile. " 'We do not intend to reward North Korea just for returning to the table, nor do we intend to reward them for actions they have already committed to taking and then reneged on,' Mrs Clinton said at a news conference in this island resort, where Asian and other countries are meeting."

pwoodward@thenational.ae