Thursday, November 24, 2011

Iran Continues Nuke Program: Threat to World Peace

Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be conducting secret research, the UN nuclear watchdog said in a report likely to raise tensions in the Middle East.
Citing what it called "credible" information from member states and elsewhere, the agency listed a series of activities applicable to developing nuclear weapons, such as high explosives testing and development of an atomic bomb trigger.
The report immediately exposed splits among the big powers about how best to handle the row over Iran's nuclear aims: the United States signaled tougher sanctions on Teheran but Russia said the report could hurt chances for diplomacy.
It was preceded by Israeli media speculation that the Jewish state may strike against its arch foe's nuclear sites. But Defence Minister Ehud Barak has recently said that no decision had been made on embarking on a military operation.
Iran, which denies it wants nuclear weapons, condemned the findings of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as "unbalanced" and "politically motivated."
IAEA Chief Yukiya Amano is "playing a very dangerous game," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador, said.
Teheran's history of hiding sensitive nuclear activity from the IAEA, continued restrictions on IAEA access and its refusal to suspend enrichment, which can yield fuel for atom bombs, have drawn four rounds of U.N. sanctions and separate punitive steps by the United States and European Union.
The report detailed evidence apparently showing concerted, covert efforts to acquire the capability to make atomic bombs. Some of the cited research and development work by Iran have both civilian and military applications, but "others are specific to nuclear weapons," said the report.
Western powers have pressured the major oil producer, which says its nuclear program is aimed at increasing electricity generation, over its record of hiding sensitive nuclear activity and lack of full cooperation with UN inspectors.
The United States will look to put more pressure on Iran if it fails to answer questions raised by the IAEA report, a senior US official said in Washington. "That could include additional sanctions by the United States. It could also include steps that we take together with other nations," the official told reporters.
Russia criticized the report, saying it would dim hopes for dialogue with Teheran on its nuclear ambitions and suggesting it was meant to scuttle chances for a diplomatic solution.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said: "We have serious doubts about the justification for steps to reveal contents of the report to a broad public, primarily because it is precisely now that certain chances for the renewal of dialogue between the 'sextet' of international mediators and Teheran have begun to appear."
Russia and the United States are among the six big powers, also including China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, which have been involved in stalled attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute with Iran.
Sanction on Iran’s Energy Sector
The US Government has announced that it will slap sanctions directly on Iran's energy sector and warned the financial firms in the world against dealing with the Islamist state.
"Recent days have brought new evidence that Iran's leaders continue to defy their international obligations and violate international norms," US State Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the State Department, referring to the recent alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the United States, and report by the UN nuclear watchdog on Iran's nuclear program.
Iran and its powerful ally Russia have slammed new Western sanctions imposed on Teheran over its suspect nuclear program, saying they were illegal and futile.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry stated that the unilateral measures against Iran's financial, petrochemical and energy sectors announced Monday by the United States, Britain and Canada amounted merely to propaganda and psychological They were "reprehensible" and would prove ineffective, it said.
Russia -- which with China had blocked any possibility of the Western steps going before the UN Security Council for approval -- took a sterner view, saying in a Foreign Ministry statement the sanctions were "unacceptable and against international law."
The declarations set the stage for a hardening of diplomacy over Iran and its nuclear program. The issue has already generated speculation that Israel is mulling air strikes against Iranian nuclear sites.
The country is already subject to four sets of UN sanctions designed to force it to give up uranium enrichment, along with additional, unilateral sanctions by the United States and the European Union (EU).
The latest sanctions put more pressure on Iran's financial sector, with the United States and Britain invoking anti-terrorist laws to target Iran's central bank and other financial institutions.
Rejection of UN Report
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed a report from the United Nations' nuclear agency that highlighted concerns Teheran had worked on designing an atomic bomb, saying it was based on "invalid" information from Washington.
"You should know that this nation will not pull back even a needle's width from the path it is on," he said in a speech carried live on state television.
However, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Iran remains ready to engage in negotiations with world powers concerned about its nuclear program, but only if the other parties show it due respect.
The EU may approve fresh sanctions against Iran within weeks, after a UN agency said Teheran had worked to design nuclear bombs, EU diplomats said.
Iran denies trying to build atom bombs and its Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said any US or Israeli attack on its nuclear sites would be met with 'iron fists'.
The United States and Israel have refused to rule out any option to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear arsenal.
Diplomats in Brussels said preliminary discussions among EU capitals on new measures had begun and plans may be ready for EU foreign ministers in Brussels to approve on December 1.
Iran already faces a wide range of the UN sanctions, as well as some imposed unilaterally by the United States and the EU.
New EU sanctions would be a significant part of Western efforts to ratchet up pressure on Teheran after the UN nuclear watchdog's report this week that laid bare a trove of intelligence suggesting Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.
Teheran’s Confidence
Iran’s confidence emanates from the fact that its nuclear facilities are supported by Russia and China. Or is it that Ahmadinejad is sitting on a nuclear weapon facility already? Well, this is unlikely because nuclear weapons and the delivery system cannot be made overnight and in such secrecy.
The point is that Ahmadinejad’s brave anti-US postures must, in the natural course, make those who dream of an end to the US hegemony and those who detest George Bush, the war-monger, look up to him. And in that context express disgust over the Manmohan Singh regime’s decision to kow-tow the United States and its allies.
A generation that grew up detesting the United States and participated in umpteen demonstrations and other kinds of agitation against the successive regimes in the US — the Vietnam War some 40 years ago and against the Invasion of Iraq now — must feel happy that they are not alone.
Other View
Economic sanctions would hurt the West more than Iran. The premise of this argument is that any sanctions imposed on Teheran would result in a dramatic rise in oil prices, hurting the economies of Western countries and undermining public support for the sanctions.
WhileIran holds the world’s second-largest reserves of oil and gas and is the fourth-largest oil producer, it is in fact a net importer of refined oil products, including gasoline. And internal consumption of oil products in Iran is growing by 5.2 percent a year, far faster than its ability to increase refining capacity. This means that the levels of imports necessary to make the Iranian economy function will only increase over time.
Russia and China would never go along with sanctions. While persuading Russia and China to support sanctions might take some time and effort, these countries are unlikely to prove reliable allies for the Iranian regime.
Russia has little strategic interest in supporting the Iranian cause. While it may see Iran as a useful tool for balancing U.S. power in the Middle East, it has far more to fear from Iran’s nuclear program in the long term than does the United States or Europe. Iran’s support of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism across the Middle East and Central Asia is a direct challenge to Russian interests in territories that were part of the old Soviet empire and are still considered by Moscow to be within its sphere of influence.
Iran might respond to sanctions by irrationally lashing out at Israel and other U.S. allies. One of the most dangerous assumptions about Iran is that it is acting irrationally or is led by people who do not calculate the potential costs and benefits of their actions.

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