Is Iran closer to nukes than we thought?

Is Iran closer to nukes than we thought?

Is Iran closer to nukes than we thought?

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 17 2006 12:36 PM

Centrifugal Force

The New York Times leads with Iran's claim that it is pursuing a more effective form of nuclear enrichment than the country had previously admitted, and how it has raised suspicion that Tehran's contacts with infamous Pakistani proliferator A.Q. Khan may have been longer and more extensive than previously thought. A rundown of how the uniformed military had already been subverting its civilian leadership long before the current dust-up over Donald Rumsfeld tops the world-wide newsbox of the Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post leads with a delay in the formation of the Iraqi government. The U.S. government's plan to develop mobile field hospitals for domestic emergency use is foundering, USA Today reports. The top nonlocal story in the Los Angeles Times explains that as the U.S. has moved close to a flat income tax, the resulting growth in the economy has been concentrated in the hands of the already wealthy.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week that the country was "presently conducting research" on an advanced type of centrifuge, called the P-2. Tehran has been arguing that it abandoned research on the P-2 three years ago. If the new claim is true, it could mean that Iran is on track to develop nuclear weapons more quickly than previously supposed. But U.S. and international nuclear experts are still stung by Saddam Hussein's claims about Iraqi nuclear weapons that turned out to be bluster and worry that Ahmadinejad may also be exaggerating. The Times says International Atomic Energy Agency officials will question Iranian nuclear officials on the claim this week. Khan is implicated because he is known to have supplied Libya and North Korea with P-2 centrifuges in the 1990s. Although it's suspected he did the same with Iran, it has never been confirmed.

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The Journal outlines several examples of how top brass have gone beyond merely complaining about Rumsfeld and have been making policy contrary to his wishes. The top U.S. commander in the Pacific has been pushing engagement with China; Rumsfeld is more hard-line. Army and Marine Corps officers have blocked the implementation of a new combat doctrine that Rumsfeld favors. And Marine and Army National Guard commanders successfully lobbied Congress to thwart an administration plan to shrink those forces. One former Army officer calls Rumsfeld an "increasingly spent force." The NYT, WP (via AP), and USAT all stuff stories on generals going on the Sunday talk shows to defend or criticize Rumsfeld. The most interesting tidbit is the NYT noticing that former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Richard Myers, normally a staunch Rumsfeld defender, subtly defended former top Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, a hero to the anti-Rummy forces.

The Iraqi parliament had been scheduled to convene today to resolve a dispute about the makeup of the country's new government. The speaker of parliament delayed the meeting a few days, a move the Post calls "not entirely unexpected." The unpopular incumbent prime minister Ibrahim al-Jafari appears to be on the way out, but that and the issue of who will fill other top posts is still unresolved.

Congress spent $20 million on the field hospitals program in 2005, but it cut off funding in the current fiscal year and the project is still not finished. USAT notes that the cost of the program is tiny by federal government standards and that mobile hospitals would be a key element to the response to a large disaster. The Department of Homeland Security, which was running the program, also appears to be to blame for the lag. One former top official says the department "by and large has not been serious about the medical issues."

The LAT finds that Americans earning more than $500,000 a year pay about 22 percent of their income in taxes, barely more than the 20.6 percent paid by people earning $100,000 to $200,000. Those earning $40,000 to $50,000 pay 15.8 percent. Advocates of a flat tax have argued that this would lead to economic growth benefiting all. But, citing stats most of us have heard, the LAT argues that the gap between rich and poor in the U.S. is still growing, putting the lie to the flat-tax pushers.

When Chinese President Hu Jintao met with President Bush last year in China, Hu told Bush that he was too busy dealing with domestic crises to embark on an expansionist foreign policy, the NYT reports on the front page. Hu visits the U.S. this week.

The NYT also fronts a look at how European governments—which often criticize the U.S. for its harsh anti-terrorism measures—are themselves slowly beginning to favor security over civil rights in their own countries. The U.K., France, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands are all mentioned.

The Post fronts an investigative piece about whistle-blowers at Boeing who argue that the company is knowingly using faulty parts on its 737 jets that have to be "shoved and hammered into place." Boeing says the planes are safe; the dispute is in court.

Joshua Kucera is a journalist based in Istanbul and the Turkey/Caucasus editor of EurasiaNet.