April 11, 2008
By Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.
Amid chilling rhetoric reminiscent of Europe of the 1930s,
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has promised to give the West
a "bloody nose" and "smash it on the mouth."
The threats came as Ahmadinejad announced that an additional
6,000 centrifuges will be deployed in clusters called "cascades" in
the nuclear research city of Natanz. These will be in addition to
the existing 3,000 Pakistan-designed centrifuges already there.
Centrifuges are capable of enriching uranium to low grade
nuclear reactor fuel to produce electricity, or highly enriched
nuclear weapons explosives.
Tehran plans to expand the number of new cascades of
centrifuges, some of the advanced IR-2 design, to 54,000. This is
an expensive and unnecessary effort in a country so rich with
natural gas that it flares a good part of it. These Iranian gas
flares contribute to global warming, are literally burning tens of
millions of dollars a year, and are so large they can even seen
from satellites in space.
Tehran's centrifuge-based uranium enrichment is totally
unnecessary for any peaceful purpose, as Russia is supplying
low-level enriched uranium fuel for the nuclear power station it
built in Bushehr, and Russia's capable nuclear industry could
supply Iran with cheap uranium for decades to come.
Nevertheless, Iran has launched an expensive domestic program to
mine and enrich uranium, which will be located in Ardakan, central
Iran. According to Hossein Faghihian, deputy director of the
Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, the Ardakan plant, which will
produce a uranium precursor known as yellowcake, will open in a
year. Yellowcake is processed into uranium hexafluoride, a
feedstock for the Natanz enrichment facilities. This will be the
second Iranian uranium enrichment plant; the first one is already
open near the port city of Bandar Abbas.
Spent uranium fuel from a nuclear reactor, such as Bushehr, is
currently exported back to Russia. Having its own source of uranium
fuel would allow Tehran to turn processed reactor fuel into, among
other things, potentially weapons-grade plutonium.
If Iran has a nuclear reactor not under IAEA control, they can
easily irradiate spent fuel into bomb-grade plutonium. In addition,
Tehran is developing an enrichment plant in Arak, which will
provide it with an additional source of plutonium, experts told the
Senate Finance Committee last Tuesday.
An expensive full-cycle nuclear industry in Iran goes well
beyond legitimate energy needs. Moreover, in a country as rich in
natural gas as Iran, it would have been cheaper by a factor of 10
to address any legitimate energy demands through the construction
of gas-powered stations.
Instead, Tehran's nuclear ambitions are triggering wave after
wave of economic sanctions, and endangering Iran's plans to supply
gas to the Nabucco pipeline to Europe and build an
Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline in the process.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, foreign minister of Germany, and Donald
Tusk, prime minister of Poland, are just two of the Western leaders
who have recently expressed deep concerns about the Iranian nuclear
program. And there are those who go beyond mere declarations.
The new Senate bill (S. 970), sponsored by Oregon Republican
Gordon H. Smith , would impose sanctions on Iran and countries
doing business with it. The bill enjoys bipartisan support, with
about 70 co-sponsors divided between the two parties, thus
guaranteeing its passage. If enacted, the bill would:
It is likely that at least some European countries, and possibly
Australia and other U.S. allies, could join in a similar sanctions
regime. The downside of these kinds of measures is that Russia,
China, and possibly other European states would not
Russia, in particular, advocates a package of incentives for
Tehran at the forthcoming April 16 meeting on Iran sanctions in
Shanghai, which the U.N. Security Council members plus Germany will
attend. Yet, sooner or later even Russia and China may recognize
that carrots aren't working, and that sticks, possibly big ones,
may be necessary.
The clock may be running out for Ahmadinejad's irrational
behavior. According to Ahmad Shirzad, a former Iranian MP and an
expert on nuclear issues, Tehran must soften its position toward
the U.N. Security Council.
"The next UNSC sanctions on Iran's nuclear program could be
tougher and may lead to an economic crisis in the country. Iran
does not need to enrich its uranium. The isolation of the country
because of this unnecessary program is the wrong policy. Official
Tehran should not be negligent about the anxiety concerning its
nuclear program," Shirzad told the Azerbaijani news agency
The Soviet Union was once derisively called Upper Volta with
nukes. Ahmadinejad is turning Iran into а North Korea with
oil, a pariah state which its neighbors near and far are afraid of,
and which is already paying a price - and one day may pay an even a
higher one - for its leadership's dangerous ambitions and
Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.,
is senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
First Appeared in the Middle East Times
Amid chilling rhetoric reminiscent of Europe of the 1930s, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has promised to give the West a "bloody nose" and "smash it on the mouth." The threats came as Ahmadinejad announced that an additional 6,000 centrifuges will be deployed in clusters called "cascades" in the nuclear research city of Natanz. These will be in addition to the existing 3,000 Pakistan-designed centrifuges already there.
Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.
Senior Research Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy, The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies
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