Iran may be justifiably proud of the new nuclear power generating facility at Bushehr. The plant will be up and running Saturday evening, in spite of global efforts to prevent it; it will be officially inaugurated on September 12. Iranian state-run television aired a broadcast, seen world-wide, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is touring the impressive new plant, and helping to load fuel rods into the reactor core.
Ahmadinejad is always outspoken and enigmatic; he has kept the world guessing as to Iran’s future nuclear ambitions, declaring that Iran has a right to be armed with nuclear tipped missiles, as other nations are, and he’s made a number of threats, most particularly in regards to Israel. He insists the people of Israel are interlopers, and has threatened to annihilate them.
With the new plant now in operation, Iran and Ahmadinejad have expressed a willingness to reopen talks after more than a year of silence. Saeed Jalili, chief nuclear negotiator for Iran, sent a letter to the European Union requesting a resumption of talks with Western leaders at the “earliest possible time.” We may wonder what prompted this sudden apparent change in attitude.
The Iranian request for talks is interpreted by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as an indication that Iran may be considering or reconsidering any plans it may have had to produce atomic weapons. The Pentagon now believes that Iran wouldn’t strike targets in the United States unless Iran is attacked first. Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, the Director of National Intelligence with the Defense Intelligence Agency, in speaking to a congressional committee, said Iran is, “Unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict.”
The Iranian government and many observers have said that sanctions now in place against Iran are having little effect. Iran can transcend the sanctions because of an alliance with Russia and China. But the US Treasury is continuing heavy pressure on Tehran for reasons beyond the most critical issue of nuclear proliferation, including alleged human rights abuses and support for terrorist organizations. Iran has acknowledged support for Hezbollah and Hamas, but denies aiding the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
European officials are “closely studying” Mr. Jalili’s letter. In America, Secretary of Defense Panetta cited a need to determine what the next steps should be. He said, “We have always maintained that it’s in our interest to try to resume talks with Iran, assuming that those talks are constructive.”
It’s possible that Iran’s more cooperative stand is due in part to continuing harsh words from Israel, which is completely earnest in a resolve to preemptively attack Iran should provocation from Tehran continue. An article in Hebrew, written in Israel and distributed by Reuters and interpreted by internet sources, states, “Top echelons of U.S. intelligence estimate that Israel has yet to decide whether it intends to attack Iran, but if so, Tehran would respond, and it may even launch missiles against U.S. forces and its allies. The articlea sses likelihood of an attack by either Israel or Iran, quoting General Burgess as saying “Iran could block the Strait of Hormuz, at least temporarily, and may even launch missiles against U.S. forces or our allies in case of being attacked… However, we estimate that Iran will not initiate a confrontation itself.” The General added that Iran could also try to run terrorist groups worldwide.
Prior to the Iranian offer to negotiate, James Clapper, Commissioner of Government Intelligence, said that Iran has not made a final decision as to nuclear weapons production. At that time he stated, “Iran now has the technical, scientific and industrial knowledge to eventually create a nuclear weapon. Despite increasing international pressure on Israel, we estimate that it will not abandon those plans.” Mr. Clapper continued, “If Israel does attack, improving spring weather may bring Israel to decide to attack during this period.”
(Photo courtesy of USA Today)