Today's Blogs

Nuclear Options

Bloggers assess the IAEA’s November findings on Iran’s nuclear program and Barry Bonds’ indictment.

With the release of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report on Iran’s nuclear program, opinions are split in cyberspace as to what the thing actually means. The report concluded that the Islamic Republic currently has 3,000 active centrifuges at Natanz, but it also found that the uranium being processed is only up to fuel–not weapons—grade, or 4 percent enrichment.

At the National Review’s Corner, Stanley Kurtz writes, “[W]ith the Iranians making a ten-fold improvement in their capacity in just one year’s time, how secure can we feel when they could conceivably be only months away from bomb-level efficiency, and an additional 12-18 months away from actually producing enough fuel for their first bomb? It seems obvious that official claims by U.S. intelligence that Iran won’t have a bomb until 2015 are nonsense.” Liberal Cernig at Newshoggers is having none of that: “The report mentions nothing whatsover about a timeline to produce enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon - unsurprising since the report does say that Iran has only managed low-level enrichment barely adequate for reactor fuel so far, and that the 3,000 centrifuges are running way below capacity. Dr. Jeffrey Lewis and others have calculated 20% efficiency and suggest problems with contaminated feedstock - which means multiplying that timeline by five!”

Noah Shachtman at Wired’s Danger Room concurs: “Plus, while 3,000 sounds like a huge number, Arms Control Wonk Jeffrey Lewis has repeatedly reminded us, it’s way, way below what Tehran would need even for its smallish, homegrown reactor. We’re talking more on the order of 18,000 centrifuges for that.” Shachtman repeats an old line: “Is Iran dangerous as hell? You bet it is. Do we need to do something soon about this? You bet we do. Is this sky falling this second? No, it’s not.”

The Vineyard of the Saker goes further in calling off the alarms: “1) Iran has proven that its nuclear program is fully accounted for and thereby that it is purely civilian in nature 2) Iran refuses to stop enriching uranium, which it is fully entitled to do as a member of the NPT, even though the UNSC (illegally, in violation of NTP obligations) demands that Iran stops all enrichment Iran is thus no ‘threat’ to anyone. The ‘illegal Iranian nuclear weapons program’ canard is dead.”

One bit of the report that Michael Goldfarb of the conservative Weekly Standard’s Worldwide Standard picks up on is the disclosure that Iran had ” ‘accidentally’ received blueprints for a nuclear warhead (as part of an illegal transfer of nuclear know-how), which were ‘accidentally’ discovered by the IAEA, and we are still supposed to believe that (a) they aren’t working towards a nuclear weapon, (b) they don’t have other blueprints with which they weren’t quite so careless, and (c) the IAEA’s standard for compliance has always been ‘generally truthful.’ This wishful thinking can only lead to one conclusion–a nuclear Iran. And, while the use of force to prevent such an outcome is certain to be painful for all parties involved, diplomacy just isn’t going to work, because the IAEA is all trust, and no verify.”

Strategic Thinking sayis similarly cynical, writing that “while Iran has been in violation of its safeguard commitments for failure to report facilities and provide other information, this is alone not sufficient to conclude that Iran is seeking to produce nuclear weapons. It is essentially circumstantial evidence, albeit, in some cases, compelling circumstantial evidence. For example, it doesn’t make much economic sense for Iran to build a capacity to produce nuclear power plant fuel at several times the cost it would pay Russia for that fuel.”

Read more about the IAEA report on Iran.

Bail Bonds: Baseball slugger Barry Bonds was indicted Thursday for perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to a grand jury in 2003 about his use of steroids. Sports bloggers think this means the end of his career and also that the whole belated and belabored affair stinks of a witch hunt.

Deadspin argues there’s no real evidence against Bonds: “The key point to remember in the Barry Bonds indictment that went down yesterday afternoon is that we really don’t have any new information. Whatever your thoughts on Bonds, it’s clear that the government is out to get him. You might think he deserves it. He probably does. But there is no smoking gun; the feds have been trying for four years to come up with the definitive piece of damning information on Bonds.”

Brit Lawrence Donegan at the Guardian’s sportblog seconds that notion: “[W]e are not at that point yet and won’t be until (or, more accurately, unless) Barry Bonds is convicted of lying when he told the grand jury he hadn’t knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs. Until then he should be granted the rights, the privileges and the respect an innocent man is entitled to receive. And if you don’t think Bonds deserves the benefit of the doubt, then surely you’d agree that common decency and the rule of law does.”

Wizbang Sports speculates, “Something tells me we’ve seen the last of Barry Bonds as a major league player. And that asterisk is the least of his worries now, isn’t it?”

The Big Lead is magnanimously worried about sports journalism: “We’re actually slightly terrified about what will happen if he gets sentenced to jail time! ESPN’s comprehensive coverage of Bonds has us suffering from fatigue. Did it not seem like anyone who had ever witnessed a Bonds at-bat was chiming in with their opinion on what the indictment meant?”

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom points out that Bonds’ actual use of steroids is a no-brainer: “[F]irst, just about anybody who’s followed Bonds’ career knew he’d done something to his body, as evidenced by the drastically increased size of his melon. … This cheapens the records, and does a disservice to those who held the records prior to the steroid era.” He adds a but, however: “I don’t like the federal government getting so involved in these kinds of steroid ‘probes.’ In fact, the White House has already issued a statement expressing ‘disappointment.’ So let the pretend shock begin!”

Read more about Bonds’ indictment.