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.