On Friday, a group of seven key House Democrats — including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the chairs of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, and long-time grandstander Henry Waxman — wrote President Obama to offer qualified support for his diplomatic overtures to Iran. But in their letter (pdf), the esteemed group of lawmakers caution that the practice of engaging the Iranians can’t be “open-ended”, and argue that unless the Iranian regime suspends its uranium enrichment program, the U.S. should pursue a new round of the type of trade sanctions that worked so well at affecting change in places such as Iraq and Cuba.
Since the letter is about Iran’s nuclear program and is written by U.S. politicians, it also contains a number of, shall we say, misstatements (or as they’re known in the real world: lies). Indeed, in the opening paragraph the lawmakers — six of seven of whom backed the illegal invasion of Iraq, which should give you a good sense of the group’s collective foreign policy acumen — state:
“We are distressed by the recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that Iran has already stockpiled enough low enriched uranium to generate one nuclear weapon.”
Unfortunately for this merry band of bullshitters, the most recent IAEA report (pdf) says that international inspectors have “been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran” to a weapons program. It also says nothing about Iran possessing enough low enriched uranium for a bomb, probably because you can’t make a nuclear weapon from low enriched uranium.
As Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin noted at a hearing in early March, “uranium for civil nuclear power production has to be enriched from two to four percent,” whereas “highly enriched uranium which is necessary for a nuclear bomb or warhead, needs to be enriched to about 90 percent.”
The February 19 report from the IAEA, meanwhile, states that Iran has enriched its uranium to 3.49 percent, a far cry from the level necessary to build a nuke. And as Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair stated at the same hearing, “We assess now that Iran does not have any highly enriched uranium.”
Furthermore, if Iran were to decide to build a nuclear weapon — which Blair, echoing the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, says the Iranian government has not chosen to do — it would need to kick out the IAEA inspectors currently overseeing its enrichment facilities and withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, thus alerting the whole world to its intentions.
Now perhaps Mr. Waxman and Mr. Hoyer et al are simply unaware of these widely reported facts. Or, perhaps, they’re just liars who prefer politically convenient fear-mongering to nuanced, reality-based analysis of Iran’s nuclear program.