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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Iran Inches Toward Nuclear Red Line

Council on Foreign Relations

April 11, 2007
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

Marking Iran’s latest national holiday, “Nuclear Day,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had “good nuclear news” for his compatriots. One year to the day after announcing to the world that its scientists could now enrich uranium, Ahmadinijad bragged that Iran’s enrichment efforts had achieved an “industrial level” (RFE/RL). It remains unclear if Iran will meet the president’s stated goal of operating three thousand centrifuges by May (some officials are calling for fifty-thousand centrifuges). But Iranian officials say the facts on the ground—that Tehran is “past the experimental stage”—are irreversible. Just to underscore their point, Iran released new currency bearing a nuclear emblem.

The president’s declaration flies in the face of recent attempts by the UN Security Council to punish Iran (NYT) with limited economic sanctions for refusing to suspend its nuclear program. It also comes on the heels of a twelve-day confrontation involving the brazen capture of fifteen British sailors and marines who were patrolling disputed waters. Some analysts say the timing of the events is meant to dispel rumors that Iran has been weakened (i.e. internal political divisions, worsening economy, the arrests of five Revolutionary Guards operatives in Iraq) and “thumb its nose” (JPost) at the West. Others say the nuclear announcement was nothing more than a public relations stunt. Given the fact that in February (NYT), Iran had about one thousand centrifuges up and running, some nuclear experts doubt Tehran’s latest claim that it is operating three thousand centrifuges, which is no small feat. “I think Iran lowered the bar of what is industrial scale, even by its own definition, and then declared victory,” nuclear expert David Albright tells CFR.org's Bernard Gwertzman.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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