Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Ahmadinejad-Israel Saga Continues

A senior member of the Israeli cabinet suggested today that his country is running out of patience with the US-backed diplomatic overture to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Shaul Mofaz, Israel’s deputy prime minister, said, “I believe diplomatic efforts should bear results by the end of 2007” (AFP, 6 June 2007).

The latest Israeli threat against Iran came a few days after President Ahmadinejad renewed his rhetoric against Israel. Ahmadinejad told a gathering in Tehran that the “reverse countdown for the destruction of Israel has begun” (ISNA, 3 June 2007).

Israel has repeatedly stated that it will not accept the full development of Iran’s uranium processing and enrichment program. At present Iran is producing UF6 gas at uranium conversion facility (UCF) in Isfahan. UF6 is then being enriched by centrifuges at Natanz uranium enrichment facility to produce enriched UF6. The concern is that Iran could use the centrifuge systems to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) which would then be sent back to Isfahan for reconverting it to natural and enriched uranium metal. The uranium metal is the core ingredient of a nuclear warhead.

Iran argues that the enriched uranium will only be used as the fuel for its nuclear power reactors, and it has the right to operate these reactors. The problem with this argument is that Iran does not have any nuclear power plants in operation.

Iran has reported that it has already produced more than 270 tons of enriched UF6 and it is substantially increasing its capability to produce much more enriched uranium. The present inventory is enough for a number of reactors. In the absence of even a single reactor in operation, Iran’s emphasize to develop its enrichment program could be seen as a strong indication that the program is a part of a nuclear weapon project.

Israel argues that it can not accept a nuclear Islamic Republic. Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric against Israel provides justification for Israel’s concerns.

On domestic front, Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric is unraveling his presidency. The moderate forces in Iran blame the growing international isolation of the country on its president’s call for destruction of Israel.

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