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Obama official: Iran medical isotopes claim a “transparent ploy”

The Iranian regime’s February decision to increase the level of its uranium enrichment to nearly 20 percent reveals that Iran’s claims that it needs to enrich uranium for medical use is a "transparent ploy," a top Obama administration official said Tuesday. "It has nothing to do with trying to help Iranian cancer patients who will ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

The Iranian regime's February decision to increase the level of its uranium enrichment to nearly 20 percent reveals that Iran's claims that it needs to enrich uranium for medical use is a "transparent ploy," a top Obama administration official said Tuesday.

"It has nothing to do with trying to help Iranian cancer patients who will need medical isotopes later this year," Dan Poneman, the deputy energy secretary, told an audience Wednesday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, adding that the decision was "a provocative move that calls into question its nuclear intentions."

"We have even offered to facilitate Iran's procurement though world markets of the medical isotopes its citizens need," he said, "but there's been no follow-up and Iran has refused to discuss its nuclear program further, despite the Geneva understanding."

The Iranian regime’s February decision to increase the level of its uranium enrichment to nearly 20 percent reveals that Iran’s claims that it needs to enrich uranium for medical use is a "transparent ploy," a top Obama administration official said Tuesday.

"It has nothing to do with trying to help Iranian cancer patients who will need medical isotopes later this year," Dan Poneman, the deputy energy secretary, told an audience Wednesday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, adding that the decision was "a provocative move that calls into question its nuclear intentions."

"We have even offered to facilitate Iran’s procurement though world markets of the medical isotopes its citizens need," he said, "but there’s been no follow-up and Iran has refused to discuss its nuclear program further, despite the Geneva understanding."

The Obama administration offered Iran a deal to exchange nuclear material in a third country in order to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor, the U.S.-built facility where the enrichment is suspected to be taking place, but the IAEA has still never received a formal response. "It’s out there. It has not been formally withdrawn," Poneman said.

He also launched the opening salvo in what many believe will be a bitter confrontation between the United States and Iran when the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty comes up for discussion in a major review conference in May. Iran is poised to disrupt the conference significantly by raising objections to any U.S. initiatives and generally working to thwart any attempts to address what Western powers see as its clear failure to comply with the treaty.

"Iran essentially has not been in compliance with its IAEA safeguards agreement since 1982," Poneman said, referring to Iran’s pattern of undeclared nuclear material, facilities, and experiments.

"In the case of Iran, it does not appear that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes," he added. "The NPT does not contain the right to pursue nuclear efforts of this character. After all it is the nuclear non-proliferation treaty."

Poneman said the latest IAEA report on Iran "clearly shows Iran’s continued failure to live up to its international obligations."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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