500 Pounds of Uranium

russiaIranNuclear_web.jpgToday, the Council on Foreign Relations interviews David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and International Security, who thinks Iran will acquire enough low-enriched uranium this year to “reach the first level of breakout capability, namely enough low-enriched uranium to make one nuclear weapon.” And according to The New York Times a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran has nearly 500 more pounds of enriched uranium than previously thought.

The pieces are interesting, since a key element of Iran’s alleged non-intention to construct a military nuclear program–and of America’s revamped anti-nuke diplomacy efforts–has been Russia’s unwavering financial and rhetorical support of Iran’s nuclear electricity infrastructure, most notably its $1 billion contract to build a nuclear power plant at Bushehr which is expected to go online this year. Today, Russian media reported that trade between the two countries accounted for $3.7 billion last year, “which is expected to be higher this year,” according to Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexei Borodavkin. And in Moscow, Iran’s defense minister, Mostafa Mohammed Najjar, praised the relationship, saying, “Russia has advanced military technologies, we have used them and plan to keep using them.”

This complicated economic and political nexus makes it all the moreunlikely that America will somehow convince Russia to pressure Iran onnuclear issues in return for ditching a plan for a European missileshield. In fact, Russia’s role as both nuclear salesman and pacifistpresents its own conundrum

Here’s what David Albright has to say:

“The United States can engage with Russia in a less confrontational modeand see if in the process, Russia will be more helpful in Iran. It maynot, but the approach taken by the Bush administration clearly didn’twork, because if you increase the tension with Russia, particularly onnuclear issues, they’re less likely to help you on Iran. So it’s worthtrying. Now, it’s not necessary to get Russia, although it would bevery helpful to get Russia to put a bit more pressure on Iran. You atleast don’t want to create situations where Russia has more incentiveto work against U.S. interests on Iran. More productive engagement onnuclear arms-control issues can go a long way in stopping that.”