Iran’s leaders issued dual, defiant statements on Sunday, with the president announcing that the nation had 3,000 active centrifuges to enrich uranium and the top ayatollah appointing a new Islamic Revolutionary Guards commander who once advocated military force against students.Read the rest. It's extremely interesting that Iran finds its self-interest in intensifying its rejection of international demands at this time.
The pairing of the messages, just days after the United Nations’ top nuclear official said Iran was striking conciliatory poses, appeared intended to reaffirm the country’s refusal to back down to pressure from the United States over its nuclear program and its role in Iraq, political analysts in Iran said. And it came as the Bush administration was celebrating progress in its talks with North Korea to shut down that country’s nuclear programs.
Indeed, the timing and tone of Iran’s declarations may be more politically significant than their content, particularly in the case of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s announcement that Iran had finally reached its stated goal of developing 3,000 centrifuges.
Many technical experts have expressed skepticism over Iran’s periodic claims of enrichment breakthroughs, saying the assertions often turn out to be exaggerated.
That seemed to be the case again on Sunday, though nuclear experts said that even if Mr. Ahmadinejad was overreaching, it would be only a matter of time before the boast became true. The most recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency, released Thursday, said Iran had 1,968 centrifuges enriching uranium at its main Natanz plant, 328 in testing, and 328 in assembly — for a total of 2,624. The report noted that the assessment was accurate as of Aug. 19, or two weeks ago.
The goal of 3,000 centrifuges is significant to nuclear experts: they say that if Iran could spin that many centrifuges nonstop for a year, it could make enough highly enriched uranium for a single atom bomb.
But Mohamed ElBaradei, the atomic energy agency director general, said in an interview last week that Iran seemed to be intentionally slowing its progress in an effort to strike a conciliatory note as the United Nations Security Council demanded it stop the nuclear work completely. “My gut feeling,” he said, “is that it’s primarily for political reasons.”
Still, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s new claim was a direct challenge to that notion, and to efforts by the United States and European countries to impose harsher sanctions against Iran. “The West thought the Iranian nation would give in after just a resolution, but now we have taken another step in the nuclear progress and launched more than 3,000 centrifuge machines, installing a new cascade every week,” state television quoted the president as saying.
The White House warned that a new round of sanctions was likely in the wake of Iran’s refusal to cooperate. “This kind of announcement is inconsistent with Iran’s recent comments on cooperation with the I.A.E.A.,” said a spokesman, Robert W. Saliterman.
There has, of late, been a steady drumbeat of increasingly belligerent statements among the world's great powers. So it seems counterintuitive for Tehran to test international resolve now, just as the West's patience is wearing thin.
I'll be interested to see how radical bloggers spin this story, if they address it all. As I've noted in recent entries, there's an increasing effort among the most fanatical Bush-bashers to demonize the adminstration as hellbent on war (see here and here, for example).
For more, see Michael Van Der Galien, who notes the heightening shrillness to the Bush-demonization project among pro-Iran bloggers.