David Sanger and William Broad at NYT:
Six months after the revelation of a secret nuclear enrichment site in Iran, international inspectors and Western intelligence agencies say they suspect that Tehran is preparing to build more sites in defiance of United Nations demands.
The United Nations inspectors assigned to monitor Iran’s nuclear program are now searching for evidence of two such sites, prompted by recent comments by a top Iranian official that drew little attention in the West, and are looking into a mystery about the whereabouts of recently manufactured uranium enrichment equipment.
In an interview with the Iranian Student News Agency, the official, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ordered work to begin soon on two new plants. The plants, he said, “will be built inside mountains,” presumably to protect them from attacks.
“God willing,” Mr. Salehi was quoted as saying, “we may start the construction of two new enrichment sites” in the Iranian new year, which began March 21.
The revelation that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, now believe that there may be two new sites comes at a crucial moment in the White House’s attempts to impose tough new sanctions against Iran.
Marty Peretz at TNR:
Actually the news was deliberately leaked by Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, when he told Iranian Student News Agency that the president of the country “had ordered work to begin on two new plants” that “will be build inside mountains.” Is this meant as a challenge to the U.S. or as a dare to Israel?
The aforesaid “previous story” about the hidden site at Qom was actually revealed by Obama in September in the hope that the news would evoke international support four more stringent sanctions. It didn’t. Russia and China knew already that the president would pull back as, of course, he has.
Scott Lucas at Enduring America:
After weeks of silence, the Iran Nuclear Beat of The New York Times (reporters David Sanger and William Broad) are back with two pieces of fear posing as news and analysis. The two, fed by dissenting voices in the International Atomic Energy Agency and by operatives in “Western intelligence agencies”, declare, “Agencies Suspect Iran Is Planning New Atomic Sites”.
The leap from their sketchy evidence to unsupported conclusion — Iran is not just pursuing an expansion of uranium enrichment but The Bomb, bringing a climactic showdown — is propped up by Sanger’s “Imagining an Israeli Strike on Iran“.
Iran has an interest in spreading out its nuclear program to make it more difficult to destroy that program. The West really doesn’t know what Iran has. Russia and China are still unwilling to go along with sanctions against Iran.
What could go wrong?
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary
John McCormack at The Weekly Standard