U.S. Downplays Extremist Seizure of Low-Grade Uranium in Iraq

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki speaks to the press in Washington in February. On Thursday, the spokeswoman downplayed risks associated with the seizure of a quantity of low-grade uranium in Iraq by extremist insurgents.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
Add to Briefcase
Rachel Oswald
July 11, 2014, 10:33 a.m.

The U.S. State De­part­ment on Thursday moved to re­duce con­cern about the re­cent seizure of low-grade nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al in Ir­aq by Is­lam­ic ex­trem­ists.

Bagh­dad in a Ju­ly 8 let­ter no­ti­fied the United Na­tions that roughly 88 pounds of urani­um com­pounds were now un­der the con­trol of the Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and Syr­ia after the group took con­trol of a uni­versity in Mo­sul, where the nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al was used for sci­entif­ic re­search. Though the Ir­aqi gov­ern­ment has warned that IS­IS mil­it­ants could try to use the sub­stance in a ter­ror­ist act, in­de­pend­ent is­sue spe­cial­ists have said the urani­um is not suit­able for use in a nuc­le­ar device or even a ra­di­olo­gic­al “dirty bomb.”

State De­part­ment spokes­wo­man Jen Psaki dir­ec­ted re­port­ers to a state­ment put out by the In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency, which said it un­der­stood the urani­um to be of low grade and to pose no sig­ni­fic­ant pro­lif­er­a­tion risk.

The Vi­enna-based nuc­le­ar watch­dog agency is “the ap­pro­pri­ate en­tity to make any de­cision about wheth­er there is a risk or con­cern, but it doesn’t seem that is the case at this point in time,” Psaki said in a Thursday brief­ing.

Psaki noted that Bagh­dad had said the urani­um was “used for sci­entif­ic and med­ic­al pur­poses.” That fact, she ad­ded, was “an im­port­ant con­tex­tu­al point on our level of con­cern.”

Mat­thew Bunn, a nuc­le­ar weapons spe­cial­ist at Har­vard Uni­versity, in a Fri­day web post for Na­tion­al In­terest said it was likely that the urani­um in ques­tion was “nat­ur­al or de­pleted urani­um — use­less for a ter­ror­ist group try­ing to make a nuc­le­ar bomb. It’s of no sig­ni­fic­ant use for a ‘dirty bomb’ either, as urani­um is only very weakly ra­dio­act­ive.”

The Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and Syr­ia at one point was a re­cog­nized al-Qaida fran­chise. However, ties between the two ex­trem­ist groups were said to be form­ally severed earli­er this year after al-Qaida lead­er Ay­man al-Za­wahiri grew angry that IS­IS mil­it­ants were fight­ing with an­oth­er al-Qaida-af­fil­i­ated group and in­dis­crim­in­ately killing ci­vil­ians. Al-Qaida’s in­terest in car­ry­ing out a nuc­le­ar or ra­di­olo­gic­al at­tack on a West­ern tar­get has been well doc­u­mented.

What We're Following See More »
ANNOUNCED BY SCARAMUCCI
Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is New Press Secretary
6 hours ago
THE LATEST
SAYS IT WAS “AN HONOR”
Spicer Staying on Through August
6 hours ago
THE LATEST
FIRST IN WEEKS
On-Camera Press Briefing Today at 2
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
HE LASTED SIX MONTHS
Sean Spicer Resigns
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

He resigned this morning, "telling President Trump he vehemently disagreed with the appointment of New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director." Per Politico, "chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon" were opposed to the appointment, while "Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell" were supportive..."Another White House official said Spicer was gracious while breaking the news of his departure, offered some praise for Scaramucci, while saying he would help with a transition."

Source:
STAFF IS PUSHING BACK
Trump Wants Scaramucci to Helm WH Communications
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump is expected to announce that Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci will be White House communications director, according to two sources familiar with the planning. Trump has left the role open since Mike Dubke resigned in May, and the President has vented frequently to his friends about the performance of his press operation." According to NBC News, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus are resisting the move.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login