Could they be slowing down their enrichment program so the US would be more likely to join them for direct negotiations?
In discussions with White House and State Department officials in recent days, Europeans have described the inspectors’ findings, clearly hoping to influence a debate within the Bush administration over whether to change strategy and engage directly with Iran. But hard-liners in the administration say they are unconvinced and think any slowdown may be merely a tactical ploy by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “It could simply mean we’re not looking in the right places,” said one senior official with access to the intelligence and who has long suspected that Iran has a secret weapons program.
Nuclear experts, accustomed to measuring the efficiency of uranium centrifuges rather than of diplomatic initiatives, caution, too, that the slowdown may mean that Iran has run into technical obstacles on its nuclear road. Centrifuges are machines whose rotors spin extraordinarily fast to enrich, or concentrate, uranium into material that can fuel nuclear reactors or atom bombs.
Diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the topic’s political delicacy, say that Iranian engineers stopped pouring a raw form of uranium, called UF6, into arrays of centrifuges after just 12 days, even as the nation erupted in celebrations of the enrichment feat. The reports, which have now been widely circulated, say the Iranians kept the empty centrifuges spinning, as is standard practice because slowing the delicate machines can cause them to wobble and crash.
Yes, it could all be a deft PR move, but after how Iraq has gone…I’m certainly hoping we can actually negotiate our way out of this mess.