Officials of the theocratic regime of Iran now speak openly about an issue that has been long denied by the government in Tehran as they say they can enrich uranium at its closest-ever levels to weapons-grade material. Indeed, the Islamic Republic is prepared to manufacture an atomic weapon at will. Thursday’s remarks by an official could be sheer bluster to force more concessions at the bargaining table from the United States without planning to seek a bomb. Arguably, Iran could reach a point like North Korea did nearly 20 years ago when, in its reckoning, its decision on possessing the ultimate weapon outweighs any further international sanctions. The US and the European Union are gearing up for a snap summit that appears to be a last-ditch effort in Vienna to revive Iran’s tattered nuclear deal in the midst of pressure. And that includes one Iranian video online suggesting the country’s missiles could turn “New York into a heap of rubble from hell.”
The language suggests a distinct verbal escalation from Tehran. “In a few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60 per cent and we can easily produce 90 per cent enriched uranium. Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb but there has been no decision by Iran to build one,” said Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In the reckoning of President Mohammad Khatami, Kharrazi’s announcement on a nuclear weapon would provide a moral lesson for Israel and President Joe Biden. And finally, Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s civilian nuclear agency, made his own reported comment about a potential military aspect to Iran’s programme Eslami’s agency later said that he had been “misunderstood and misjudged”. Perhaps Iran’s regime never wanted him to be so specific. The threat also carries more weight than others as he has directly worked for Iranian defence agencies linked to Iran’s military nuclear programme ~ including one that had secretly built uranium-enriched centrifuges with the help of Pakistan’s nuclear proliferator, AQ Khan.
Libya, then under the dictator Muammar Gaddafi, gave up its own nascent military programme that relied on the same Pakistan-designed centrifuges that the government in Tehran had bought from Khan. But by 2003, Iran had abandoned its military nuclear programme, according to US intelligence agencies, America’s European allies, and IAEA inspectors. The United States had just invaded Iraq, citing claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. The plot has thickened ever since the Western powers had concluded a deal against nuclear proliferation, one that was binned in 2015 by Donald Trump. For now though, it appears that Iran will abide by the atomic threat. Public opinion appears to be shifting as well.