By James Phillips
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today used the annual celebration of the anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution to announce that Iran has become a “nuclear state.” Although the bombastic dictator has made this claim before, his exultant announcement came shortly after Iran had announced that it would enrich uranium to the 20 percent level that it claims it needs to fuel a research reactor that is scheduled to run out of fuel later this year.
Ahmadinejad proclaimed: “I want to announce with a loud voice here that the first package of 20 percent fuel was produced and provided to the scientists.” In a speech broadcast live on state television he said: “We have the capability to enrich uranium more than 20 percent or 80 percent but we don’t enrich (to this level) because we don’t need it.” He told the crowd: “When we say we do not manufacture the bomb, we mean it, and we do not believe in manufacturing a bomb. If we wanted to manufacture a bomb, we would announce it.”
Ahmadinejad spoke before a huge crowd in Tehran mobilized by the regime, in part by transporting loyalists in from outlying regions. The opposition Green Movement also staged counter-demonstrations despite the attacks and intimidating tactics used by Iran’s police, Revolutionary Guards, and Basij militia. Many opposition leaders were attacked by thugs when they tried to meet with protesters. Presidential candidate Mehdi Karrubi and former President Mohamed Khatami were physically beaten.
Opposition sources charged that the police also fired tear gas and shots at an opposition rally led by Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad’s chief rival in the fraudulent presidential elections last June.
Ahmadinejad yesterday also made a phone call to Syrian leader Bashar Assad in which he warned Israel against attacking Syria, Lebanon or elsewhere in the region. “If the Zionist regime should repeat its mistakes and initiate a military operation, then it must be resisted with full force to put an end to it once and for all.” Tensions have been rising along Israel’s border with Lebanon, which was the battlefield for a 34-day war between Israel and the Hezbollah terrorist group in 2006. Hezbollah has been supplied with thousands of Iranian-made rockets and other weapons and has regained its military muscle in southern Lebanon after losing many gunmen and much territory in 2006. Ahmadinejad’s phone call is a pointed signal to Israel that if it launches a preventive strike at Iran’s nuclear program, then Tehran will order Hezbollah to launch terrorist and rocket attacks against Israel.
Iran’s provocative defiance of five U.N. Security Council resolutions and three sets of sanctions now puts additional pressure on the United States and other concerned countries to respond with much stronger sanctions. But China, which has opposed additional sanctions under the pretense that more sanctions would derail negotiations, is not likely to be cooperative.
And Russia also has defended Iran’s interests at the Security Council and cannot be trusted to support effective sanctions against Iran.
The United States is pushing for the strongest possible sanctions at the U.N. Security Council but the end result of these efforts will not approach the “crippling sanctions” that the Obama Administration has promised. Washington therefore must think outside the U.N. box and press its allies and other countries to impose stronger sanctions outside the U.N. framework. Iran would be hard hit by bans on foreign investment, gasoline exports, trade with firms affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other measures undertaken by the European Union, Japan, India, the Gulf Cooperation Council or other countries.
But before it can ask other countries to impose stronger sanctions, the Obama Administration should support stronger U.S. sanctions which both houses of Congress have voted to approve.
The Obama Administration also should take a lesson from Ronald Reagan and support Iran’s freedom-seeking opposition movement.
Given the failure of the Obama Administration’s engagement policy to halt Iran’s nuclear efforts, Israel soon may be forced to take military action against Iran. For a look at the implications for the United States, see:
An Israeli Preventive Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Sites: Implications for the United States.
For more on U.S. Iran policy, see: Iran Briefing Room