Iran Presses Ahead with Nuclear Enrichment Despite Warning from the US and Others

By Manzer Munir

Tehran, Iran- France, Russia and the United States on Tuesday voiced their displeasure with Iran’s escalation of its uranium enrichment and saw this as a great a concern for its neighbors and other countries around the globe. The three countries, nuclear club members themselves, sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressing worry about Iran’s actions and demonstrating renewed pressure on the regime of President Ahmadinejad.

This alarm by the US and other countries comes after February 7 when Iran announced it intended to start producing 20 percent enriched uranium for a medical research reactor, defying ultimatums by members of the UN security council that it faces strict UN sanctions unless it halts its nuclear weapons ambitions. The concern is that Iran is enriching uranium not for a medical research reactor but rather for making atomic weapons since enriched uranium in high purity form can be used in the fissile core of a nuclear bomb. “If Iran goes forward with this escalation, it would raise concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions,” said the joint letter, which was obtained by AFP. “Iran’s enrichment of its LEU (low-enriched uranium) stockpile to higher levels is not only unnecessary, but would serve to further undermine the confidence of the international community in Iran’s actions,” it said.

The US and other powers are trying to convince Iran to accept an IAEA backed deal where Iran is supplied with nuclear fuel for the research reactor in exchange for its low enriched uranium. This is a deal that is not acceptable to the regime in Iran. Iran’s announcement that it would enrich on its own and its “subsequent formal notification to the IAEA are wholly unjustified,” the three countries wrote in the letter to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano. The moves “represent a further step toward a capability to produce highly enriched uranium.” The countries “recognize the need in Iran for medical radioisotopes,” the letter continued. “If Iran does not wish to accept the IAEA offer, we note that these are available on the world market and could be obtained as a responsible, timely and cost effective alternative to the IAEA’s proposal.

The pressure on Iran to not acquire nuclear weapons in the troubled neighborhood of the Middle East is justified. The area has long been very unstable and Iran and Israel have already for several years been fighting a proxy war with each other through Hezbollah in Lebanon and allegedly through arming Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza. But one must also realize that as long as Israel maintains nuclear weapons and there remains no peace in the Middle East, its enemies in the region, namely Syria, Iran, and until recently Iraq would stop at nothing to acquire nuclear weapons technology also. Therefore, the core of this issue as with many other problems involving regional security and even global terrorism have their roots in the situation in the Middle East between Israel, Palestine and its neighbors.

Al-Qaeda itself gives Israel and the United States backing of it as a reason to attack America and its interests. So as long as there is not a resolution to the problem of the Palestinian state, there will be friction and a charged atmosphere in the region. Believe me, it has not calmed down much in the last 62 years. One can continue to expect countries like Iran, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others to continue to desire nuclear weapons in order to feel less threatened by Israel’s arsenal and military supremacy. The real solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and other regional security threats to Israel and American interests in the region is the need to get back to the table and return to the difficult task of making peace between the Israelis and its neighbors. Only a lasting and durable peace between the Israelis and the Arabs will encourage nuclear disarmament and make the neighborhood safe from a looming nuclear mushroom cloud.

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