(Edited from AP, Veinna) Washington calls the latest U.N. sanctions on Iran a diplomatic victory, a show of unity by the world’s big powers and a powerful way to prevent the country from making nuclear weapons.

Iran says the sanctions are an unfair attempt to keep it from developing a peaceful civilian energy program.

(Edited from AP, Veinna) Washington calls the latest U.N. sanctions on Iran a diplomatic victory, a show of unity by the world’s big powers and a powerful way to prevent the country from making nuclear weapons.

Iran says the sanctions are an unfair attempt to keep it from developing a peaceful civilian energy program.

Whatever Iran’s ultimate goal, it is clear that, like three previous sets of sanctions, the new measures are unlikely to crimp a nearly mature nuclear program that can be turned to both peaceful purposes and making atomic weapons.

The new sanctions authorize countries to inspect cargo to and from Iran; strengthen an arms embargo by banning transfers of more types of conventional arms and missiles; expand restrictions on Iran’s access to nuclear technology; add more institutions to a financial sanctions watch list and urge “vigilance” in doing business with any organization linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

But because many aspects of a civilian nuclear program can also serve military purposes, Iran already has most of what it would need to make a weapon. And the cost of getting China and Russia to approve the new sanctions was the removal of provisions that would have really hurt Iran, such as an embargo on Iranian oil or a ban on gasoline sales.

After the U.N. vote, Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee accused the United States, Britain and their allies of abusing the Security Council to attack Iran.

“No amount of pressure and mischief will be able to break our nation’s determination to pursue and defend its legal and inalienable rights,” Khazaee said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, in its newest tally last month said Iran was now running nearly 4,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges and had amassed nearly 2.5 tons of low-enriched uranium that can be used for fuel, once Iran’s first reactor goes on line, which is planned for some time this year.

That’s also enough for two nuclear bombs if enriched to weapons-grade levels. Iran recently began enriching to higher levels for what it says will be research reactor fuel.

The process is turning out less than weapons-grade uranium. If Iran should decide to pursue a weapon, however, it would take less work to turn such higher-enriched feedstock into fissile warhead material.

It will be hard to keep Iran from obtaining more nuclear technology. Many of the companies and entities mentioned in the new sanctions list have already been subject to sanctions and Iran has found ways in the past to circumvent the penalties or create cover companies to procure items on its behalf.

“I don’t think anybody thinks these particular sanctions are going to trigger Iran to give up its nuclear program,” said Sharon Squassoni, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Secret Iranian nuclear activities were first revealed eight years ago when an Iranian dissident group provided evidence of a nascent government program of uranium enrichment — the technology that can make both nuclear fuel and fissile warhead material.

Iran resisted years of calls to permanently stop enriching, prompting a December 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution that called for member nations to prevent the supply, sale or transfer of all materials and technology that could contribute to Iran’s nuclear activities.

It was too late. Building on black market components and know-how, Iran already had most of what it needed to maintain — and expand — its enrichment capacities. And clandestine deliveries of equipment continued despite the sanctions — as reflected in dozens of convictions worldwide of people found guilty of nuclear smuggling to Iran.

Subsequent U.N. resolutions in March 2007 and March 2008 repeated demands that Iran come clean on unexplained aspects of its nuclear program that hardened suspicions it might interested in nuclear arms.

But Iran refused — and continued expanding enrichment.

“Sanctions won’t stop Iran from continuing its nuclear, missile and space program. It may create some obstacles but Iran can find ways to go around it,” said Abbas Pazooki, an Iranian commentator.

Iran says that despite its oil reserves it needs nuclear energy to guarantee its future economic sustainability.

Western intelligence reports say it is clear that Iran is interested in at least achieving the ability to produce a bomb, even if it has no specific plans to produce it at the moment. The reports from the U.S., Israel, France, Britain and other nations assert that Iran has experimented with most other key aspects of warhead production and delivery.

Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress recently that if and when Iran decides to build its first bomb, it could amass enough highly enriched uranium to do so in as little as 12 months.

An International Atomic Energy Agency document meant to be read by only a handful of the agency’s top officials and leaked to The Associated Press last year expanded on some of that intelligence. It cited Iran experts at the U.N. nuclear monitor as believing that Tehran already has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and worked on developing a missile system that can carry an atomic warhead.

It was the clearest indication yet that those officials share Washington’s views on Iran’s weapon-making capabilities and missile technology — even if they have not made those views public. And because the agency is generally seen as impartial, the findings added to concerns about Iran’s nuclear goals.

In that document, IAEA officials assessed that Iran worked on developing a chamber inside a ballistic missile capable of housing a warhead payload “that is quite likely to be nuclear.”
– That Iran engaged in “probable testing” of explosives commonly used to detonate a nuclear warhead — a method known as a “full-scale hemispherical explosively driven shock system.”
– That Iran worked on developing a system “for initiating a hemispherical high explosive charge” of the kind used to help spark a nuclear blast.

Iran did not comment on the report.

Whatever their efficacy, the latest sanctions may serve Iran’s leadership in their drive to rally domestic support by depicting international opposition to its nuclear drive as an attack on the country.

“If you think that by making fuss and propaganda you can force us to withdraw you are wrong,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a home crowd last month. “The Iranian nation will not withdraw one inch from its stance.”

In Vienna, International Atomic Energy Agency officials say that Iran recently served notice that it would further cut back on cooperation with the U.N. nuclear monitor if new sanctions were adopted.

That would reduce the outside world’s already narrow window on Iran’s nuclear program.


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