Iran, 'The Club' and the Saudi Shift
Iran announced yesterday that it is now an indisputable member of ‘The Club’, having successfully enriched uranium for the first time in their 164-centrifuge cascade at Natanz. Having finally cleared this hurdle, it is on to the next step: Their stated goal of arraying 3,000 centrifuges in cascade for usable amounts of enriched uranium, the precursor for the 50,000 centrifuge set-up eventually desired.
Iran accomplished enriching uranium in their centrifuges to a 3.5% purity. The goal is to set up enough cascades to enrich it to a level of 80-90% purity and amassing weapons-grade fissile material. Iran has actually enriched uranium to a 15% purity already using laser enrichment in experiments in 2002.
But perhaps most curious is the Saudi Arabian angle following a diplomatic exchange with Iran. Little noticed was the development that Ali Larijani , the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, went to the Arabian Peninsula to hold talks with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz. Iranian state-run media paraphrases King Abdullah’s reception as warm, and that he sees Iranian-Saudi cooperation on security matters “effective in repelling the threats and establishing permanent security in the region and the entire international community as well.”
Last week, the Kingdom sent Prince Bandar bin Sultan to Russia. The former Ambassador to the US and now head of the Saudi National Security Council had curious words in support of the Iranian nuclear quest. He was quoted as saying that he “urged Russia to strive to prevent the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution which the US could use as justification to launch a military assault to knock out Iran’s nuclear facilities.” These are curious words from the principle regional adversary in the eyes of the Iranian regime.
Saudi Arabia is thought to be in its own nuclear quest, ironically seen to be principally a defensive reaction to Iran’s own race for nuclear arms. This backdrop makes Prince Bandar’s statement that Saudi Arabia now officially believes Iran’s program is purely peaceful more than curious. He declared, “That is why we don’t see a danger in Iran acquiring knowledge about nuclear energy provided it does not lead to (nuclear) proliferation. Of course, we believe proliferation is a threat.”
Saudi Arabia may now see the futility in opposing Iranian nuclear progress and instead seek to begin justifying their own. They echo the assertion made by Iran’s Ambassador to the UN that Iran is not a proliferation threat and, like Ambassador Zarif, conveniently dismiss that proliferation (via the AQ Khan network) is precisely how Iran acquired much of its nuclear knowledge and equipment to-date. As was earlier stated in a rebuttal to Ambassador Zarif, is the West – and now apparently Saudi Arabia – to believe that iran is suddenly going to ‘play by the rules’?
The regime is using the nuclear development achievements with some success to rally popular support among a fiercely nationalistic Iranian population. Without doubt, the public ceremony was a nationalistic celebration, complete with doves, dancing and flags. This is in sharp contrast to the recent furious public display in the form of the Great Prophet military maneuvers, complete with aggressive rhetoric, stretched claims of military advancement, missile tests, and dire warnings of the destruction of any (US) aggressors.
With ElBaradei in Tehran for talks, many have high hopes yet hold low expectations. But it is the ElBaradei arrival that is the prime cause for the highly public, celebratory announcement. Former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani made this clear when he said during his announcement yesterday that ElBaradei “faces new circumstances.”
This announcement may indeed have come before the actual accomplishment or, conversely, may have been delayed some in order to have the psychological effect that comes with good timing. But the US annouced that it cannot confirm Iran’s enrichment claim. In truth, no one can. But whether they achieved it last month, yesterday or will in reality next month, the point is moot.
The timing certainly could not be more convenient or useful with ElBaradei in the country for discussions. Dr. Judith Klinghoffer speculates on the purpose of ElBaradei’s recent Nobel Peace Prize and says, “Unlike previous winners, his was intended to strengthen his hand for just such an existential moment. Will it be enough?” She hopes that it will serve to bolster his efforts to bring Iran into line with the international community. Though, as Russia, China and now Saudi Arabia demonstrate, that international community is less than homogenous and the United Nations typically less than united. She recalls 1967 and current parallels between ElBaredei’s trip to Iran and U Thant’s trip to Egypt ahead of the 6 Days War.
Ed Morrisey at Captain’s Quarters recalls the duplicity of Hitler before World War II. “Does this sound familiar? For students of the second World War, it certainly will. Adolf Hitler made a career of breaking treaties and immediately offering to work within them once again, all the while advancing his military position against that of the Western alliance.”
With certainty, conflict is brewing.
And observers should look beyond the doves and dancers on public display in Tehran and view developments within the context of the chest pounding that resonated from the Great Prophet Persian Gulf exercise, the mobilization of Hizballah, tacit support of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, let alone the usefulness of Iran’s ‘house arrest’ of top al-Qaeda operators who fled from US forces pursuing them in Afghanistan. For this is the true nature of the regime touting ‘peaceful’ progress and ambitions.