Iran has now announced the existence of their native nuclear enrichment program:
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s hard-line president said Tuesday that the country “has joined the club of nuclear countries” by successfully enriching uranium for the first time — a key process in what Iran maintains is a peaceful energy program.
The announcement from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was certain to heighten international tensions surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop all enrichment by April 28 because of suspicions the program is designed to make nuclear weapons.
Ahmadinejad warned the West that trying to force it to abandon uranium enrichment would “cause an everlasting hatred in the hearts of Iranians.”
Iran has successfully enriched uranium for the first time, a landmark in its quest to develop nuclear fuel, hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday. He insisted, however, that his country does not aim to develop nuclear weapons.
In a nationally televised speech, Ahmadinejad called on the West “not to cause an everlasting hatred in the hearts of Iranians” by trying to force Iran to abandon uranium enrichment.
“At this historic moment, with the blessings of God almighty and the efforts made by our scientists, I declare here that the laboratory- scale nuclear fuel cycle has been completed and young scientists produced enriched uranium needed to the degree for nuclear power plants Sunday,” Ahmadinejad said.
“I formally declare that Iran has joined the club of nuclear countries,” he told an audience that included top military commanders and clerics in the northwestern holy city of Mashhad. The crowd broke into cheers of “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great!” Some stood and thrust their fists in the air.
The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop all uranium enrichment activity by April 28. Iran has rejected the demand, saying it has a right to develop the process. The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, is due in Iran this week for talks to try to resolve the standoff.
Joe Gandelman has, of course, ably reported and analyzed the story.
I have to admit that I’m rather distressed at what I’m reading in the blogosphere on this story (particularly in comments sections). The Left Blogosphere is lamenting that the development may serve to strengthen the Republicans’ hand. Here’s a sample comment:
Iran is a little over # years away from having a small bomb, not the under 2 years some people are saying. Which makes 2008 summer Bush’s target date for operation “get the GOP’s ass out of a sling, with a new war” on schedule.
That the development may strengthen the Republicans’ hand does not mean that it only strengthens the Republicans’ hand, however. There is actually a real world out there and there are more important concerns than domestic political advantage.
I’ve read comments in the Right Blogosphere that I can only interpret as an urge to bomb/invade/destroy Iran on what sounds like the precautionary principle:
Radical Islam has rendered useless the concept in which we have always believed to save us all from nuclear holocaust – mutually assured destruction. Iran has already stated that they are aware of the cost and not only don’t care, all the dead Iranians will be martyrs – so it is a good thing…
So, when Iran decides it is time, they will attack one and probably more cities with nuclear weapons, knowing full well the price they will pay and not caring. Millions of people will die. The world will forever be changed.
And it will be our fault. We could have stopped them but we didn’t.
I continue (possibly over-optimistically) to believe that a nuclear-armed mullahocracy is unacceptable but there are still actions that should be taken short of targetted bombing, invasion, or utter destruction. The wise observation of ZenPundit Mark Safranski bears note:
The conflict with Iran is a basic one the United States and the West will face again and again. Signatories to the NPT are allowed to import nuclear technology and expertise for “peaceful” uses under IAEA safeguards. Because technology and knowledge are fungible – and atomic bombs are 1945 technology and miniaturized warheads suitable for ballistic missiles are late 1950’s to early 1960’s technology – states can simply set up parallel programs and tear up the treaty when their clandestine programs are sufficiently advanced, having secured the means under false pretenses.
Iraq, Iran and North Korea were all caught red-handed but only one of the three was eventually disarmed. This situation is going to happen again regardless of the outcome with Teheran because approximately ten to twenty years ago a number of states – China, Pakistan, Russia, Germany and France elected to turn a blind eye to proliferation of nuclear weapons or in the case of Pakistan, actively encourage proliferation. This was a matter of policy or at best, corruption of policy.
The alternatives he presents are all rather discouraging. His excellent collection of links to other blogospheric commentary is also worthy of your attention.
My concerns about an Iranian bomb are many including the likelihood of Iran’s using nuclear weapons against our troops in Iraq, Israel, or American interests in the region; the likelihood of other countries in the region also seeking nuclear weapons as a deterrent to Iran notably the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; and the possibility of Iranian (or Saudi) nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or another terrorist organization.
But I’d like to get some opinions on a (at this point) counter-factual. Let’s say that Country A has nuclear weapons and a means of delivering them. Officials of Country A say to officials of Country B “Unless you pull your troops out of Country C/pay us $100 billion/whatever, we’ll use our nuclear weapons on you/your troops in Country C/your interests in the region”. Does Country B have a casus belli against Country A? If so, does the situation warrant a preemptive attack with nuclear weapons?
These aren’t rhetorical questions and I haven’t made up my mind. I’m looking for arguments pro and con with support, evidence, and explanations. Anyone?
UPDATE: Dafydd ab Hugh has an excellent analysis of the announcement and related info. I’m sorry to say that I (mostly) agree with his analysis. I’m still hoping for some measures to be taken before actually going to war.