Iran Ramping Up Nuclear Program

Iran is ratcheting up its game of nuclear chicken with the international community.

AP’s Ali Akbar Dareini reports,

Iran intends to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment involving 54,000 centrifuges, the country’s deputy nuclear chief said Wednesday, signaling its resolve to expand a program the international community has insisted it halt. Iran’s president announced Tuesday the country had succeeded in enriching uranium on a small scale for the first time, using 164 centrifuges. The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop all enrichment activity because of suspicions the program’s aim is to make nuclear weapons. “We will expand uranium enrichment to industrial scale at Natanz,” Deputy Nuclear Chief Mohammad Saeedi told state-run television Wednesday.

He said Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it plans to install 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz by late 2006, then expand to 54,000 centrifuges, though he did not say when. He said using 54,000 centrifuges will be able to produce enough enriched uranium to provide fuel for a 1,000-megawat nuclear power plant like the one Russia is currently putting the finishing touches on in southern Iran.

Since nobody believes that oil rich Iran needs the materials for domestic power, the move will obviously be read as an acceleration of their nuclear weapons program. And a thumb in the eye of those countries–which is to say, almost all of them–which have demanded a halt to said program.

[T]he announcement quickly raised condemnations from the United States, who said the claims “show that Iran is moving in the wrong direction.” Russia also criticized the announcement Wednesday, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin saying, “We believe that this step is wrong. It runs counter to decisions of the IAEA and resolutions of the U.N. Security Council.” The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, was heading to Iran on Wednesday for talks aimed at resolving the standoff. The timing of the announcement suggested Iran wanted to present him with a fait accompli and argue that it cannot be expected to entirely give up a program showing progress.

Former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani — a powerful figure in the country’s clerical regime — warned that pressuring Iran over enrichment “might not have good consequences for the area and the world.” If the West wants “to solve issues in good faith, that could be easily possible, and if they want to … pressure us on our nuclear activities, things will become difficult and thorny for all,” Rafsanjani said in an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai Al-Aam, published on Wednesday. Rafsanjani — who heads Iran’s Expediency Council, a powerful body that arbitrates between the parliament and the clerical hierarchy — said planned talks between Iran and the United States on stabilizing Iraq could lead to discussions on the nuclear dispute.

Unfortunately, there has been zero evidence thus far that the Iranian regime is willing to negotiate. Increasingly, therefore, it appears that two incredibly bad options are all that remain: accepting a nuclear Iran or fighting an incredibly nasty war that could iignite the Middle East.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

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    So, what are the choices? Wait until one of theirs explodes in a population center, killing millions before we incinerate them, or do we strike them first. Either way we piss off the islamic world. If we strike first, they will be pissed off, but in a quiet way, so as to not draw our attention. There is a time for quiet walking and a time for big sticks. Its big stick time.

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