Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Sunday, Feb. 10 echoed supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s rejection of direct talks with the US four days ago which he said were on the grounds that they “would solve nothing” because, "You are holding a gun against Iran.”
Ahmadinejad added is own rider to this dismissal: “God willing, soon Iran’s satellite will be located in orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers, next to others from four or five advanced powers and it will relay a message of peace and fidelity to the world,” he said.
The boast that Iran would soon be the world’s sixth space power came two weeks after Tehran claimed to have put a monkey in orbit around earth, although it did not report bringing back to earth either the space capsule or the monkey.
Indeed, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, pouring a healthy dose of skepticism on the very existence of the project, commented: “The Iranians said they sent a monkey, but the monkey they showed later seemed to have different facial features.”
Tehran is again caught wandering at ease through its favorite terrain between fact, hyperbole and fiction about its achievements, whether in space or its nuclear program.
In recent weeks, reelected Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed he wants a broad government coalition for the critical objective of preventing Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The question is how does he propose to achieve this when tough US and European sanctions have not just failed to stop Iran in its tracks but accelerated its nuclear progress. Iran is now estimated to be within four months of a nuclear bomb capacity from the moment a decision is taken to build one.
Those months are critical: On February 25 the five UN Security Council’s permanent members plus Germany sit down with Iran in Kazakhstan for a fresh round of negotiations. Former rounds in this format led nowhere and no breakthrough is expected this time either beyond, at best, a date for a continuation.
On March 20, President Barack Obama arrives in Israel for the first foreign trip of his second term. The purpose of his visit is plain, except to Netanyahu’s domestic rivals: Facing a 50 percent cutback in military spending, the Obama administration cannot credibly threaten to go to war against a recalcitrant Iran. But the US president may still wave the Israeli military option in Tehran’s face.
Not that the ayatollahs are likely to be impressed. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have both dismissed talks with Washington "with a gun" at their head, meaning that they are not scared of the Israeli gun the Americans are putting to their heads.
In fact, the Islamic rulers of Tehran are reported by debkafile’s intelligence and Iranian sources to be fully confident that they are home and dry as a nuclear power after a secret US Pentagon research study was leaked that “casts doubt on whether the multibillion-dollar missile defense system planned for Europe” (originally by the Bush administration) “can ever protect the US from Iranian missiles as intended.”
Clearly the missile shield against Iran, which aroused ire in Moscow, looks like falling under the defense budget axe.
The missile shield in Europe was also designed to defend Israel and Turkey against Iranian ballistic missile attack. Leaving it unfinished because of “flaws” exposes both those countries to such attack.
President Obama will no doubt tell Netanyahu that the system for intercepting medium-range Iranian missiles is to be scrapped. However, he will have to take into account that if the Iranians do finally manage to put a capsule in orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers, they will be able to fire a ballistic missile at any point on earth as well, including the United States. Even if they did fail to put a primate in space, they will keep on trying and advancing until they get there.