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Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threw a party in Teheran today, complete with tribal dancers, musicians, and party streamers to announce that Iranian researchers had succeeded in enriching uranium -- the first step towards nuclear energy and nuclear weapons:
Iran has succeeded in enriching uranium to new levels, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday, proclaiming a technical breakthrough that advances both the country's nuclear program and the international controversy surrounding it.
"I'm announcing officially that Iran has now joined the countries that have nuclear technology," Ahmadinejad said in a carefully staged presentation televised live across Iran. "This is a very historic moment, and it's because of the Iranian people and their belief. And this is the start of the progress of this country."
Standing before a sweeping backdrop featuring doves around an Iranian flag, Ahmadinejad said the country was moving toward enriching uranium on an industrial scale to supply nuclear fuel for power plants, not the weapons that the Bush administration and other governments say are Tehran's real goal.
The Iranians announced their defiance of the UN Security Council, which demanded a halt to all enrichment activities within 30 days of the delivery of the resolution to Iranian diplomats at Turtle Bay. Two weeks later, Ahmadinejad televised his triumphal announcement, thumbing his nose at the UN and at the EU-3, the trio of nations that insisted it could negotiate an end to Iran's nuclear program.
Experts tried to soothe Western worries about a nuclear-armed mullahcracy, assuring reporters that the 164-centrifuge cascade used by the Iranians was insufficient to develop weapons-grade fissile material. In answer to that, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh announced that the nation would roll out a 3,000-centrifuge system within the next year. In a system that large, it would take about a year to develop enough material to make a weapon, meaning that we can expect Iran to go nuclear in the spring of 2008 -- assuming that Ahmadinejad is telling the truth now.
The national holiday apparently created by Iran in celebration sends a different message to its subjects, which have mixed feelings about the development of nuclear energy. Some Iranians have openly criticized the manner in which Teheran has pursued nuclear energy, finding the confrontational attitude unhelpful and unnecessarily provocative. Ahmadinejad wants to cast a rejoiceful mood to overwhelm the internal criticism through the staged buoyancy we saw today.
The celebration may have intended to intimidate the locals, but Ahmadinejad aimed the main message abroad. Pictures at the Washington Post and USA Today shows signs in clear English that read, "Nuclear energy is our indisputable right". The Iranian president also warned hostile nations not to "cause an everlasting hatred" by sanctioning Iran for its defiance of the UN and IAEA. He struck a more diplomatic tone today than yesterday, when he crowed that the UNSC couldn't "do a damned thing" about Iranian nuclear development and that the IAEA were a bunch of liars for alleging that Iran had cheated on the NPT. Today he said that he would now honor the NPT and work with the IAEA.
Does this sound familiar? For students of the second World War, it certainly will. Adolf Hitler made a career of breaking treaties and immediately offering to work within them once again, all the while advancing his military position against that of the Western alliance. He started from a position that could kindly be described as prostrate when he came to office in 1932 and immediately began working on building his arsenal in secret. As Hugh Hewitt notes, the first major test of Hitler's program came when he defied the Versailles Treaty and reoccupied the Rhineland. He had two divisions, a ridiculously small force that could easily have been routed by Britain and France without even much of strain. Instead of confronting Hitler, they meekly shrugged at his defiance, rationalizing it (as the British put it) as simply walking into his own back yard. Hitler won that test of wills and knew the true measure of his foes. He would not miscalculate their will until at least his attack on Poland, and even then he correctly guessed that neither country would actually open a new front in the West until well after he had digested Poland. In fact, they would wait until Hitler attacked them almost a year later.
This is no different; only the stakes have changed. If we allow Ahmadinejad to celebrate this defiance without fixing consequences to his actions, then we will have re-enacted the capitulation of 1936 seventy years later. It will also render the NPT moot and once again show the UN as nothing more than the League of Nations with a better flag and tonier address. The UNSC must take action against Iran's flagrant violation of both the NPT and its unanimous resolution of last month. Failure to do so will cement its reputation as an anachronistic relic of the Cold War.
If Russia and China will not allow any sanctions against Iran, then we need to make it clear that the Western nations no longer feel bound by the strictures of the UN and will instead act on our own to develop bilateral and multilateral agreements for diplomatic efforts in the future. This may actually motivate both countries to join against the Iranian mullahcracy, as they see the UN as a handy brake on American influence and power. Once freed of the bonds of Turtle Bay, they understand that we will act with much more aggressiveness to stop potential threats before they develop, endangering their strategies of diplomatic obstructionism.
We had better draw the line now. If we wait much longer, we may soon confront the reality of Iranian nuclear weapons instead of the potential, with all of the implications for terrorism that implies.Sphere It View blog reactions
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