'What We Know Suggests the Development of Nuclear Weapons'

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is not shrinking in the face of Iranian denials. Once again, he has asserted his suspicions that Iran's goal is a nuclear-weapons capability:

"What we know suggests the development of nuclear weapons," he was quoted as saying in comments published in German on Thursday, adding Iran had so far failed to clarify allegations of possible military links to its nuclear program.

"We want to check over everything that could have a military dimension."

An IAEA delegation, to be headed by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, is expected to seek explanations for intelligence information that indicates Iran has engaged in research and development relevant for nuclear weapons.

Of course, before any military action takes place against Iran (and I hope it never happens), those who launch such an attack better be certain of Iran's intentions. Amano's IAEA, though, is continuing to push on this issue, which is a useful and clarifying thing. By the way, I was talking to a friend yesterday, another reporter who covers this issue, and he took note of something important: There isn't anyone in the Obama White House who believes that Iran's intentions are peaceful. Why is this important? Because this isn't a neoconservative-dominated Administration; this is an Administration that ran against a neoconservative approach to the world. Still, it's worth knowing more about what Iran is doing before irreversible and dramatic decisions are made.

In other news, French President Sarkozy states something obvious, warning "against any military intervention against Iran over its nuclear program, saying a strike on Iran would 'trigger war and chaos in the Middle East.'" Well, obviously. The next conclusion he reached isn't so obvious or logical: "At his annual New Year's address to diplomats in Paris, Sarkozy warned 'a military intervention would not solve the problem (of Iran's nuclear program) but would trigger war and chaos in the Middle East and maybe the world.'" I actually think a military strike could solve the problem -- at least for three to ten years -- posed by Iran's nuclear program. But it would also definitely trigger war and chaos. The formula remains the same, for the moment at least: An attack on Iran to prevent a theoretical nightmare -- a possibly-uncontainable nuclear Iran -- could cause an actual nightmare, an all-out conventional war raging across the Middle East.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/01/what-we-know-suggests-the-development-of-nuclear-weapons/251696/