The Pentagon Fast Tracks Development of MOP

ABC News reports that Pentagon is shifting spending from other weapon programs to fast forward the development and procurement of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) is a program funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency [DTRA] to develop a 30,000-pound conventional penetrating weapon that will defeat a specialized set of hard and deeply buried targets. The MOP is designed specifically to attack hardened concrete bunkers and tunnel facilities and it is being developed jointly by Boeing and Northrup Grumman.

According to ABC News, the Pentagon comptroller sent a request to shift the funds between programs to the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees over the summer. The comptroller said the Pentagon planned to spend $19.1 million to procure four of the bombs, $28.3 million to accelerate the bomb's "development and testing", and $21 million to accelerate the integration of the bomb onto B-2 stealth bombers.

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The President on Iran's Right to Nuclear Energy

"Without going into specifics, what I do believe is that Iran has legitimate energy concerns, legitimate aspirations. On the other hand, the international community has a very real interest in preventing a nuclear arms race in the region." President Barack Obama in comments to the BBC

The President today in an interview with the BBC asserted that Iran had a right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Additionally, President Obama restated the Administration's plans to pursue direct diplomacy with Tehran to encourage it to set aside any ambitions for nuclear weapons it might harbor.

While Iran has long insisted that its nuclear program, which dates to 1970s, is aimed at generating electricity, the US and other Western governments suspect the Iranians of playing a double game in seeking to self-enrich uranium. More from the Washington Post:

The comments echo remarks Obama made in Prague last month in which he said his administration would "support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections" if Iran proves it is no longer a nuclear threat.

Iranian state television described the news as Obama recognizing the "rights of the Iranian nation," a phrase typically used to refer to Iran's nuclear program.

The president has indicated a willingness to seek deeper international sanctions against Tehran if it does not respond positively to U.S. attempts to open negotiations on its nuclear program. Obama has said Tehran has until the end of the year to show it wants to engage.

"Although I don't want to put artificial time tables on that process, we do want to make sure that, by the end of this year, we've actually seen a serious process move forward. And I think that we can measure whether or not the Iranians are serious," Obama said.

No one should dispute the right of the Iranians to nuclear energy development for peaceful purposes. Iran's oil production peaked in 1974 and has been declining ever since. There is little doubt that Iran needs to plan for a post-oil world.

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Iran and the Virtual Bomb

The Financial Times is reporting that the  International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, believes that Iran has has built up a stockpile of enough enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb.

In a development that comes as the Obama administration is drawing up its policy on negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme, UN officials said Iran had produced more nuclear material than previously thought.

They said Iran had accumulated more than one tonne of low enriched uranium hexafluoride at a facility in Natanz.

If such a quantity were further enriched it could produce more than 20kg of fissile material - enough for a bomb.

"It appears that Iran has walked right up to the threshold of having enough low enriched uranium to provide enough raw material for a single bomb," said Peter Zimmerman, a former chief scientist of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

Chalk up another failure for the Bush Administration whose unwillingness to have even back channel communications played right into Iranian hands. Let's face it, the mullahs know their geo-political poker and they have been nothing but coy and ambiguous. Iran's goal, according to a number of analysts, is not a bomb but a virtual bomb. That is, Iran wants the capability to build one on short notice if need be. David Albright, the head of the Institute for Science and International Security finds that if Iran does decide to build a nuclear weapon, "it has reached a point in which it could do so quickly."

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