COMMENTS: Accelerated Cascades

ABC chose to lead with Brian Ross' warning about Iran. No, not the continuing stand-off over the 15 captured British sailors and marines--Ross revealed a "dramatic upgrade" in the last three months in Teheran's nuclear weapons program. Its facility for enrichment of uranium now consists of a cascade of 1,000 centrifuges assembled 70 feet underground at Natanz. Once operational, the cascade can make enough weapons-grade fuel for a bomb by 2009, instead of 2015, as the US officially estimates. Ross, confusingly, contradicted Iran's claim that it wants nuclear fuel in order to produce electricity. He asserted that power plants "could not run on the kind of uranium they are now producing." Yet earlier he had said that the cascade was not yet up and running.

As for those sailors, CBS' David Martin rebroadcast two more videotaped confessions that they had indeed strayed into Iranian territorial waters. Now that even the captured officers are on the record, none of them would be put on trial, an Iranian diplomat announced. Martin consulted his regular expert, former spy Bill Riedel at the Brookings Institution, who told him the videotapes are made for a domestic Iranian audience not a worldwide one. Mused Martin: "If this crisis is really about a power struggle between moderates and hardliners inside Iran, then Britain and its American ally can do very little to effect the outcome."


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