Did Robert Gibbs let the cat out of the bag?
Last week, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the world that Iran, unable to get fuel rods from the West for its U.S.-built reactor, which makes medical isotopes, had begun to enrich its own uranium to 20 percent.
From his perch in the West Wing, Gibbs scoffed:
"He (Ahmadinejad) says many things, and many of them turn out to be untrue. We do not believe they have the capability to enrich to the degree to which they now say they are enriching."
But wait a minute. If Iran does not "have the capability" to enrich to 20 percent for fuel rods, how can Iran enrich to 90 percent for a bomb?
What was Gibbs implying?
Is he confirming reports that Iran's centrifuges are breaking down or have been sabotaged? Is he saying that impurities, such as molybdenum, in the feed stock of Iran's centrifuges at Natanz are damaging the centrifuges and contaminating the uranium?
What explains Gibbs' confidence? Perhaps this.
According to a report last week by David Albright and Christina Walrond of the Institute for Science and International Security, "Iran's problems in its centrifuge programme are greater than expected. ... Iran is unlikely to deploy enough gas centrifuges to make enriched uranium for commercial nuclear power reactors (Iran's stated nuclear goal) for a long time, if ever, particularly if (U.N.) sanctions remain in force."
Thus, ISIS is saying Iran cannot make usable fuel for the nuclear power plant it is building, and Gibbs is saying Iran lacks the capability to make fuel rods for its research reactor.
Which suggests Iran's vaunted nuclear program is a busted flush.
ISIS insists, however, that Iran may still be able to build a bomb. Yet, to do that, Iran would have to divert nearly all of its low-enriched uranium at Natanz, now under U.N. watch, to a new cascade of centrifuges, enrich that to 90 percent, then explode a nuclear device.
Should Iran do that, however, it would have burned up all its bomb-grade uranium and lack enough low-enriched uranium for a second test. And Tehran would be facing a stunned and shaken Israel with hundreds of nukes and an America with thousands, without a single nuke of its own.
Is Iran running a bluff? And if Gibbs and Albright are right, how long can Iran keep up this pretense of rapid nuclear progress?
Which brings us to the declaration by Ahmadinejad on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which produced this headline in The New York Times: "Iran Boasts of Capacity to Make Bomb Fuel."
Accurate as far as it went, this headline was so incomplete as to mislead. For here is what Ahmadinejad said in full:
"When we say that we don't build nuclear bombs, it means that we won't do so because we don't believe in having it. ... The Iranian nation is brave enough that if one day we wanted to build nuclear bombs, we would announce it publicly without being afraid of you.
"Right now in Natanz we have the capability to enrich to more than 20 percent and to more than 80 percent, but because we don't need to, we won't do so."
On Friday, Ahmadinejad sounded like Ronald Reagan: "We believe that not only the Middle East but the whole world should be free of nuclear weapons, because we see such weapons as inhumane."
Now, if as Albright suggests, Tehran cannot produce fuel for nuclear power plants, and if, as Gibbs suggests, Iran is not capable of enriching to 20 percent for fuel for its research reactor, is Ahmadinejad, in renouncing the bomb, making a virtue of necessity?
After all, if you can't build them, denounce them as inhumane.
Last December, however, The Times of London reported it had a secret document, which "intelligence agencies" dated to early 2007, proving that Iran was working on the final component of a "neutron initiator," the trigger for an atom bomb.
If true, this would leave egg all over the faces of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies whose December 2007 consensus was that Iran stopped seeking a bomb in 2003.
The Times credited an "Asian intelligence service" for having ably assisted with its story.
U.S. intelligence, however, has not confirmed the authenticity of the document, and Iran calls it a transparent forgery. When former CIA man Phil Giraldi sounded out ex-colleagues still in the trade, they, too, called the Times' document a forgery.
Shades of Saddam seeking yellowcake from Niger.
Are the folks who lied us into war on Iraq, to strip it of weapons it did not have, now trying to lie us into war on Iran, to strip it of weapons it does not have?
Maybe the Senate should find out before voting sanctions that will put us on the road to such a war, which would fill up all the empty beds at Walter Reed.