Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No to Bomb, Yet Keep Enriching Uranium

Today, in an interview with BBC, President Ahmadinejad said that Iran does not need nuclear weapons and is against having the bomb. His words echo those of the country’s supreme leader. Ayatollah Khamenei said last Sunday in a meeting with the commanders and the officers of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corp. (IRGC) that “Iran has no bomb,” and that “Iran has no plans to create the deadly weapon.”

Why the rush to enrich uranium then? IAEA chief Elbaradei, who lately has been defending Iran’s new approach, today reiterated his call for a double time-out of Iran’s enrichment program and UN sanctions against the country. The Iranian leadership, including Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, has, however, rejected all proposals to suspend uranium enrichment.

With their recent statements on nuclear weapons and their pledge that Iran is not seeking to build the bomb, Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have cornered themselves on the enrichment issue. Let’s suppose the purpose of enrichment is not to make the bomb. We know that the country does not have an operating nuclear reactor, and will not have one for at least another year (for which the Russians will provide nuclear fuel when and if it is built). Then what is with the rush to enrich uranium? Why the rush especially when the country is being isolated in the international arena and it is at a heightened risk of being attacked by the US or Israel or both?

Either Iran’s leaders have delivered statements contrary to Iran’s capabilities and/or intentions, or the country’s leadership is suffering from what I call a Saddam Syndrome. You exaggerate your capabilities to the point of your collapse. Iran is under immense pressure form IAEA chief as well as Russia, China and EU to suspend enrichment now. They can suspend now, and resume activities in a year from now if the reactor is ready and Russia refuses fuel delivery. It does not make sense otherwise.

Why risk everything to produce a fuel that can not be used? The existence of an advanced nuclear weapon program might be the answer.

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