(by Eli Lake, WashingtonTimes.com) – The Iranian government on Monday stepped up military threats in advance of an anniversary celebration as major powers continued talks on a new round of sanctions.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in Tehran that his country would stun the Western world on Thursday, the 31st anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution. Iran’s defense minister announced on Monday that its forces had conducted successful tests on new armed unmanned aircraft and advanced air defenses.
“The Iranian nation, with its unity and God’s grace, will punch the arrogance [Western powers] on the 22nd of Bahman [Feb. 11] in a way that will leave them stunned,” Ayatollah Khamenei was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.
The anniversary is expected to produce a new round of anti-government demonstrations as Iranian opposition groups continue to protest the June 12 presidential election that resulted in acts of civil disobedience. Former prime minister and opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has called for anti-government demonstrations timed to coincide with the nationwide commemoration of the revolution on Thursday.
Also on Monday, Iran’s ambassador to the [United Nations] International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], Ali Asghar Soltanieh, notified the agency in a letter that Tehran will begin the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent levels for use in medical equipment, and that it would add 10 nuclear sites in the coming year, raising new fears about its covert nuclear program.
According to the IAEA report from November, Iran possesses 1.8 tons of low-enriched uranium that has been enriched to 3.5 percent. An atomic bomb requires uranium to be enriched to 90 percent.
Ahmad Vahidi, the Iranian defense minister who is also wanted by Interpol for his role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina, announced that Iran had successfully tested a drone attack craft that cannot be detected by sensors.
On Monday, senior officials from the United States, France and Russia suggested that tougher sanctions against Iran are forthcoming.
“The only thing we can do, alas, is apply sanctions given that negotiations are impossible,” Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said Monday in Paris.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, also in Paris, suggested that Iran would face new sanctions.
Last week, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told Congress that the United States did not know whether Iran’s leader had ordered the construction of a nuclear weapon to proceed.
A U.S. intelligence official urged caution on reports of Iran’s new weapons development. The official said Monday, “While the Iranians are up to more than their share of mischief, they’re good storytellers, too, especially when it comes to talk of their military and nuclear capabilities.”
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “They’ve certainly been known to exaggerate for effect, and that appears to apply to their claims of massive production plans in the atomic field and supposedly undetectable attack drones, too.”
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said Iran’s technical achievement does not always match its boasts. However, he said the announcement of Iran’s plans to enrich uranium to nearly 20 percent was provocative.
“From a technical point of view, it may not mean much depending on how much they enrich,” he said.
But he added that it was a provocative political gesture.
“From a political point of view, you can’t know how much they will enrich and it calls for increased sanctions and application of more measures to contain and isolate Iran,” he said.
Michael Adler, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, said, “Iran’s increasing uranium enrichment to just under 20 percent would be a significant expansion of its nuclear work, since it would bring it much closer to being able to make weapons-grade uranium.”
“Iran says it is doing this for the most peaceful of purposes, to make isotopes for medical diagnosis, but it will only feed U.S. concerns that Tehran seeks nuclear weapons,” Mr. Adler said.
“The frustration for Washington is that it is hard to see how the current U.S. push for new sanctions will slow Iran down at this point, unless [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is just blustering or trying to make a deal.”
Copyright 2010 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. For educational purposes only. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at washingtontimes.com.
1. What will Iran celebrate on Thursday, February 11th?
2. What threat did Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, make against Western nations?
3. Why will Iranian citizens also stage protests on February 11th?
4. What did Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA inform the agency Iran will begin doing regarding its nuclear program?
5. What announcement did Iran’s defense minister make regarding military equipment?
6. a) How are U.S. and other officials reacting to Iran’s nuclear plans?
b) What type of sanctions, if any, do you think will be effective in persuading Iran to give up its nuclear program?
7. What do you think of the opinion of officials and experts quoted in paragraphs 11-20 about the threat Iran poses to the U.S.?
ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT:
Enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to monitor and control enriched uranium supplies and processes in its efforts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and curb nuclear weapons proliferation (buildup).
IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM:
- Iran’s 20 year secret nuclear program was discovered in 2002. Iran says its program is for fuel purposes only, but it has been working on uranium enrichment which is used to make nuclear bombs.
- Under the United Nations’ NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons (except for the 5 that had nuclear weapons prior to the treaty – the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom).
- Safeguards are used to verify compliance with the Treaty through inspections conducted by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).
- The IAEA issued a report on Sept. 15, 2008 that said Iran has repeatedly blocked an investigation into its nuclear program and the probe is now deadlocked.
- The U.N. Security Council has already imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear defiance. Despite the sanctions, Iran has refused to end its nuclear program.
- A group of U.S. and Russian scientists said in a report issued in May 2009 that Iran could produce a simple nuclear device in one to three years and a nuclear warhead in another five years after that. The study, published by the nonpartisan EastWest Institute, also said Iran is making advances in rocket technology and could develop a ballistic missile capable of firing a 2,200-pound nuclear warhead up to 1,200 miles “in perhaps six to eight years.”
- The Iranian government has called for the destruction of Israel on numerous occasions. It is believed that once obtained, Iranian President Ahmadinejad would use nuclear weapons against Israel.
IAEA CENSURES IRAN:
- The board of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency censured Iran (Nov. 27, 2009) for its nuclear program, in a motion endorsed by all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
- Twenty five nations in the 35-member board of the International Atomic Energy Agency voted in favor of the censure motion, which calls on Iran to halt construction of a recently revealed uranium enrichment plant.
- The measure says the plant violates a United Nations Security Council resolution. The motion also demands that Iran cease enriching uranium.
- The vote was significant because Russia and China voted in favor of the censure motion, along with the three other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – the United States, France and Britain – as well as Germany.
- While the motion may not make a difference in itself, it carries weight in a push for tougher U.N. sanctions against Iran.
Daily “Answers” emails are provided for Daily News Articles, Tuesday’s World Events and Friday’s News Quiz.