Great fun from the Wikileaks docu-dump:
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: A plain-spoken nuclear physicist told Econoff [the U.S. consulate's Economics Office] that those spreading rumors that Venezuela is helping third countries (i.e. Iran) develop atomic bombs "are full of (expletive)." He said Venezuela is currently unable to provide such assistance particularly as the Chavez administration "does not trust scientists." He added that Venezuela's nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia finalized May 4 is pure political theater as Venezuela is incapable of cooperation with Russia on the development, design, construction and operation of nuclear reactors. Also contrary to the agreement with the Russians, to the knowledge of the scientific community, there is no exploration or exploitation of uranium, ongoing or planned, in Venezuela.The scientist contended that, even if the Venezuelan government used all Cuban scientists, exploring for commercially viable uranium deposits in Venezuela would require a large taskforce and news of such an effort would leak quickly.
As this blog has been known to take seriously the contention that Venezuela could be helping Iran with the uranium-mining link of the nuclear chain, I will now consume my requisite portion of humble pie. (John Bolton, btw, should get a double-helping.)
The cables on nuclear matters are pretty categorical: the U.S. just doesn’t perceive announcements of a Venezuelan nuclear program as a credible threat. One cable – helpfully entitled VENEZUELA INCAPABLE OF SUBSTANTIVE NUCLEAR
COOPERATION WITH IRAN/RUSSIA – basically laughs off the threat, and another notes that no serious scientists are currently involved in any kind of nuclear program in Venezuela, estimating it would take 10-15 years to make any real progress from the current starting point.
I do have to add that the way that cable exposes the Embassy’s sources is simply appalling. Really bad. Unforgivable, really. If those guys end up in jail, I’m going to make it my life’s mission to punch Julian Assange on the mouth one day.
Update: A further cable published by Spain’s El País paints a slightly more complex picture about this. In this one, the embassy makes a clear difference between a nuclear program and mere prospecting for uranium yellowcake: it dismisses the former, but says there is reason to believe Venezuela and Iran (and also Bolivia) may at least be considering the latter.
The picture it paints is of a really incipient, very early-stage effort in this regard, which may amount to nothing more than intentions. Interestingly, the Embassy treats Venezuela’s plans in this regard as a major diplomatic own goal, noting that some countries (i.e., France) that refuse to get worked up about Chávez’s authoritarian tendencies suddenly sit up and take notice when cooperation with Iran over nukes is mentioned.
Considering my 2009 post about this focused on prospecting, maybe Caracas Chronicles isn’t as full of expletive as all that…