Iran Formalizes Threat of Enrichment
Iran is now set to be referred to the Security Council, as the IAEA head, Mohamed ElBaredei says that Iran has one month to comply and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani repeated the now-daily threat that Iran will resume uranium enrichment ”without restrictions”if they are referred. This time around, however, the Iranian threats came in the form of a formal letter to the IAEA. Even still, ElBaredei downplayed the situation by stating, “We are reaching a critical phase but it is not a crisis.”
From the Iranian Culture Center in Peshawar, Pakistani Finance Minister Sirajul Haq declared that an attack on Iran would be construed as attack on Pakistan. This is likely not the view held by President Musharraf, to say the least. Haq also added, in speaking to the largely Iranian-heritage crowd, that President Ahmadinejad was now the ’spokesman of the entire one billion Islamic Ummah.’
In Turkey, however, after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that Iran take a more “moderate and amenable” approach to the current stand-off with the West over its nuclear program, Iran sent their response in the form of cutting of 80% of the natural gas supplied through a pipeline between the two countries. While Iran blamed the cut-off on poor winter weather conditions, they did manage to ‘restore’ supplies to Georgia, which had been cut off in the same timeframe.
Iran is also looking to draw the Chinese into a role in the Russian proposal, which looks to have Iranian uranium enriched outside the Islamic Republic and have spent fuel returned to Russian soil. Iran also recently signed with China an agreement to explore for oil in the Caspian Sea. The Chinese appear to be Iran’s best hope at throwing a wrench into the UN Security Council process.
President Bush has recently said that he supports the Russian proposal, which can be seen as troubling. While, if agreed upon, can mean a peaceful solution for now, it will only forestall a nuclear armed Iran, and not prevent it. The only way to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program is to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program. It should not be assumed that if Iran signed such a proposal that they would not continue forth underground in developing a nuclear weapon, with or without the IAEA occasionally probing around sites. At the end of the day, the IAEA will go where the Iranians want them to go, and will not go where the Iranians do not want them to go. This much should be learned from experience in both North Korea and (in the form of weapons inspectors) Hussein’s Iraq.
Under Secretary of state Robert Joseph reminds that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons from both uranium and plutonium, citing the construction of a heavy water plant and a heavy water research reactor. Both of these facilities have been known for some time. Heavy water plants are used to produce plutonium, much more effective than Uranium in bombs, allowing for either a far greater blast or a far smaller and lighter warhead, important when considering missile capability restraints. Plutonium can be produced by reprocessing spent uranium fuel, which is why the Russian proposal calls for the return of spent fuel to Russian soil. This does not take into account fissile material produced or acquired from outside the Russian facilities’ control, which is one of the weaknesses that makes any Russian proposal appear as a false sense of security.
Regarding the nuclear crisis and the row with the US, EU and the UN/IAEA, President Ahmadinejad characterized it as a waste of Iran’s time by saying, “The enemies initial impression was that if the new Iranian government finds the chance to implement its policies for one year, their withdrawal from the region and the Middle East will be definite. That is why they are trying to waste our time by getting us involved in the nuclear case and political games in this respect. But we have called their cards.” He also went on to denounce the West’s attempts to bring on regime change from within.
Senator Brownback said that the U.S. must fund Iranian opposition groups within Iran. This is something that should have been undertaken decades ago. If this had been undertaken, the world would likely not be in the position it finds itself today, facing the threat of a nuclear Iran. Had the course of tangibly and effectively supporting internal opposition to the mullah regime been undertaken then, we would likely be debating Iranian politics and their preference between communist parties and socialist parties. But we would likely not be debating which bad option available is the least painful.