Addressing a crowd gathered in Birjand, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that despite warnings of a military attack, Iran has built 3,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges.
“The nation stood firm, we started with a cascade of 164 centrifuges… They [the West] shouted a bit…They said: Stop at 164. Don’t move forward… At one point messages were being sent to Iran suggesting that 500 or 1,000 targets in Iran would be attacked unless the country stopped its enrichment activities… You [Iranian nation] didn’t pay attention to them. We moved forward. Today, we’ve reached 3,000 machines,” Ahmadinejad said (IRINN, 7 November).
Ahmadinejad is confirming that (A) Iranian leadership has received explicit messages that up to 1,000 targets in Iran will be attacked if the enrichment program continues, and (B) Iran has reached 3,000 centrifuges, in defiance of international demands to halt the enrichment program.
The 3,000 mark is generally considered a milestone for a uranium enrichment program that is past the experimental stage and is capable of producing enriched uranium at industrial scale, enough for producing nuclear weapons if the country chooses to go nuclear.
Ahmadinejad revealed for the first time that he and the Iranian leadership have been warned of a military attack on the country if the enrichment continues. Yet, on the eve of IAEA and EU reports on the country’s compliance with UN resolutions and international demands to halt its enrichment program, Ahmadinejad announces that Iran has reached the milestone needed to produce enough material for nuclear weapons if the country chose that route.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Tehran in mid-October and reportedly gave a message to Iran’s supreme leader that if Iran does not halt its enrichment program it will face a military attack by the US and its allies and that Russia can not help Iran if it chooses to continue its program. Ahmadinejad’s reference in his speech to the messages received by Iranian leaders might well be the confirmation of the reports on Putin’s meeting with Khamenei.
Ahmadinejad appears to be willing to accept all consequences, including attacks on some 1,000 targets in Iran. In a highly risky calculation, the government of the Islamic Republic has decided to defy UN Security Council and to challenge President Bush who has repeatedly called for suspension of the enrichment program as a prerequisite for the peaceful resolution of the nuclear standoff. The Iranian leaders apparently believe that the US would not be able to launch an attack on Iran due to problems in Iraq and lack of political support at home.
The problem with their analysis is that the US administration is serious to stop Iran going nuclear. Nuclear weapons controlled by leaders who are on record calling for disappearance of Israel will not be acceptable. President Bush has even warned of a WWIII if Iran goes nuclear. Ahmadinejad’s announcement on 3,000 centrifuges has just made it that much easier for President Bush to open a third front in the Middle East.
If other leaders in Iran disagree with Ahmadinejad, they need to move quickly to avoid a devastating attack on the country.