Ahmedinejad’s 20pc Enrichment Boast Questioned at Home
Not all of Iran's great are at ease with president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's boast Sunday, Jan. 24 that Iran is now able to process uranium enrichment up to 20 percent grade and he will announce the "good news" during the national celebrations of the Islamic Revolution victory which take place Feb.1-11.
The president confided to his aides: "This is the will of the Iranian people."
Former ambassador to Beijing Javad Mansouri, now presidential adviser on Chinese affairs, said after the announcement: "The world will not dare raise sanctions against us."
But some powerful voices in the Iranian capital think otherwise.
The president they say, by admitting to a gross violation of UN Security Council resolutions which were accompanied by two rounds of previous sanctions, may push Russia and China into supporting a fresh round of penalties moved by the United States and other Western states, whereas until now their commitment to veto this motion had been a foregone conclusion.
Not all these critics are convinced that Iran is indeed capable of producing the 19.75 percent enriched uranium needed to fuel Iran's small research reactor at Amir-Abad, Tehran, which the Six Powers offered in return for Iran's handover of most of its low-enriched uranium stocks for reprocessing overseas.
Is the 20pc enrichment boast hollow as well as unwise?
The most prominent critic is Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani who sent a message to spiritual ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei complaining that "it was neither wise not prudent" of the president to make this intention public.
Hassan Rouhani, National Security Adviser before Larijani, who has turned reformist, agreed that the admission was unwise and could provide the world powers with grist for grinding out tougher sanctions in the coming weeks.
Dr. Ahmad Gharib, a former director of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency research center who is considered knowledgeable about Iran's nuclear capabilities, declared Ahmedinejad's boast hollow. In his view, Iran still requires another two years of intense effort to attain 20 percent enrichment and even then he doubted it was possible.
But according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources, Dr. Gharib has out of touch for the last four years with developments in Iran's military nuclear program.
Other voices in Tehran are concerned that Moscow is moving closer to Washington's position on the Iranian nuclear issue. In private discussions, some officials are concerned that China will eventually be tempted to sacrifice Iran's nuclear interests by major incentives from America. Some advise offering Russia new economic incentives for continuing its diplomatic backing for Iran.
Hawks encouraged by the European Union decision
Undeterred by critics at home and other concerns, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast Sunday echoed the president and announced that Tehran's counter-offer to the West was only valid until the end of January. Failure to meet this deadline had left Iran free to go its own way and produce 20 percent grade uranium itself. This would bring the process weeks away from the 80-90 percent enrichment grade necessary for weapons-grade fuel.
Ahmadinejad and his camp were buoyed up by the European Union foreign ministers decision in Brussels on Jan. 26 which stated: "With Iran, [sanctions] will work out only if all the UN Security Council permanent members agree."
Every one of those ministers knew that there was no chance of getting a tough sanctions motion past the Security Council. And so Iran's president was entitled to smile to himself and deduce from their decision that Europe was now ranged with Russia and China against any harsh action by the United States – let alone any military action – against Iran.