The New York Times reports:
Israel’s defense minister said Tuesday that the country had interpreted Iran’s conversion of some enriched uranium to fuel rods for civilian use as evidence that Iran had delayed ambitions to build a nuclear weapon.The assertion, by Defense Minister Ehud Barak... amounted to the first explanation from him as to why he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu softened their position in September over the possibility of a military strike to thwart what they called Iran’s drive toward imminent nuclear weapons capability.Mr. Barak, who was visiting London, was quoted by the newspaper as saying an immediate crisis had been averted this summer because Iran had chosen to use a third of its enriched uranium for use as fuel rods in a medical research reactor. The conversion of that uranium, which was reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency in August, makes it much more difficult to use militarily.
Wait, what—August? Ehud Barak got this information in August and is just now sharing it some two months later? Well, yes. We all got the information in August, when the IAEA's report appeared in the press. But Israeli officials have been going on for months as if these facts never came to light. Nuclear experts noted that Netanyahu ignored this dynamic completely in his late-September U.N. address. And now, for some reason, Israeli officialdom pipes up. In the interim, there've been unprecedented tensions between Netanyahu and Barack Obama; so fraught was the relationship that Members of Congress and mainstream liberal commentators denounced Netanyahu for interfering in the U.S. elections. Perhaps that accusation has been lent credence by the tardiness of Barak's public assessment. Either way, the question remains: why the wait? (HT: Matt Duss and Adam Serwer)