Bad News For A Holiday Weekendby Doug Mataconis
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has reached its long-sought goal of running 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium for its nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Sunday in a report on state media.
The U.N. Security Council had threatened a third round of sanctions against the country if it did not freeze the uranium enrichment program — which Iran maintains is for peaceful energy purposes, but the U.S. says is to hide a weapons program.
“The West thought the Iranian nation would give in after just a resolution, but now we have taken another step in the nuclear progress and launched more than 3,000 centrifuge machines, installing a new cascade every week,” the state television Web site quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
Still, Ahmadinejad’s comments seemed at odds with independent assessments of the status of his country’s enrichment program.
As recently as Thursday, a report drawn up by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, put the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at closer to 2,000 at its vast underground hall at Natanz.
And, as if that weren’t enough, the Sunday Times of London is reporting that the United States has drawn up a massive three day war plan against the Iranian regime:
THE Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert.
Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military,” he said.
Debat was speaking at a meeting organised by The National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal. He told The Sunday Times that the US military had concluded: “Whether you go for pinprick strikes or all-out military action, the reaction from the Iranians will be the same.” It was, he added, a “very legitimate strategic calculus”.
One Washington source said the “temperature was rising” inside the administration. Bush was “sending a message to a number of audiences”, he said ? to the Iranians and to members of the United Nations security council who are trying to weaken a tough third resolution on sanctions against Iran for flouting a UN ban on uranium enrichment.
And then there’s the Iraq angle to this story:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, irritated the Bush administration last week by vowing to fill a “power vacuum” in Iraq. But Washington believes Iran is already fighting a proxy war with the Americans in Iraq.
The Institute for the Study of War last week released a report by Kimberly Kagan that explicitly uses the term “proxy war” and claims that with the Sunni insurgency and Al-Qaeda in Iraq “increasingly under control”, Iranian intervention is the “next major problem the coalition must tackle”.
Bush noted that the number of attacks on US bases and troops by Iranian-supplied munitions had increased in recent months ? “despite pledges by Iran to help stabilise the security situation in Iraq”.
There are a few caveats here. First of all, the Times report may not be true at all. It could be based on bad reporting, or even part of a disinformation campaign directed at the Iranians as part of the diplomatic pressure that’s being placed on them. Second, just because there are plans in place doesn’t mean war is imminent, which is what this diary entry at Kos seems to suggest.
Nonetheless, it appears that Iran will be in the headlines in the coming months, for better or worse. If military action does come, one can only hope that it’s preceded by much better planning than we had before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.