Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Brewing Confrontation with the US

US and Israeli Air Forces began large-scale air maneuvers in the Negev Desert in Israel. The week-long exercises are organized to mimic a possible US-Israeli joint military operation against the Iranian nuclear facilities. In a related development, The Jerusalem Post quoted a high-ranking US military officer as saying the US Navy has drawn up plans for a naval blockade designed to cut off Iran’s oil exports. According to the report, the US Navy would not block the Straight of Hormuz but instead would patrol farther out and turn away tankers on their ways to load Iranian oil (Please see posting on 11 June 2007 on this blog).

These days rising tensions over the country’s nuclear program and a sense of “brewing confrontation” between US and Iran, as IAEA chief Mohammad El Baradei puts it, is in evidence in Tehran. President Ahmadinejad became the first Iranian official to openly express concern over a possible military attack on the country. Ahmadinejad told reporters the intelligence he has received indicate that the US is planning an attack on Iran (Keyhan, 6 June 2007).

The Iranian leaders, however, are remaining as defiant as ever, if not indeed more militant, on the nuclear standoff. IAEA reported that Iran could have 8,000 operational centrifuges enriching uranium by the end of the year. 8,000 centrifuges in operation would be a significant rise in Iran’s nuclear capability. On 18 April, IAEA reported the existence of only 1,300 centrifuges. The rise in numbers translates to Iran’s capacity to bring some 30 new centrifuges on line every day. At this rate, within the next two years Iran could have some 30,000 centrifuges enriching uranium.

Iran is set to produce a large amount of enriched uranium, although it does not have even a single nuclear power reactor in operation. Such rush to produce nuclear fuel without a reactor makes sense only if Iran was using this amount of fuel to produce tens of nuclear warheads. Hence, the brewing confrontation: US is on record not to allow a nuclear Iran and Iran is on the verge of becoming nuclear.

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