13 February 2010

US reaction to Iranian nuclear claims

US scoffs at Iran’s nuclear claims shrieks the headline in The Weekend Australian, 13-14 February 2010 (see article here).

When it comes to commentary on the Iranian nuclear program, it is amazing how the spin changes to suit the context.

Since about 1993, when Israel started to run out of the sorts of threats that would enable it to engage Washington’s attention in a convincing manner, we have been hearing about how Iran is an ‘existential threat’ to Israel. There are two elements to this preposterous claim:

 -  An Iranian nuclear weapons capability is just around the corner, perhaps only months away

-  Iran is run by mad mullahs, irrational and unpredictable people who could do anything, and who therefore could not be entrusted with nuclear weapons.

In light of this ‘existential threat’ we have had a constant drumbeat of Israel (and the hawks in the George W. Bush Administration) thinking aloud about a pre-emptive attack on Iran.

Now that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared to a Tehran crowd that Iran was now a "nuclear state", and claimed the country had produced its first stock of 20 per cent enriched uranium, we get a different reaction – derision. As The Australian tells it:

The White House has accused Iran's government of "playing politics" with false claims that it has enriched uranium close to the level needed to build nuclear weapons.  

Washington dismissed claims by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the country had produced its first stock of 20 per cent enriched uranium and was able to achieve more than 80 per cent purity.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs rejected claims of an advance in Iran's nuclear program. "They're based on politics, not physics," he said yesterday.

So now we are assured by the White House that there is no advance in Iran’s nuclear program, and are invited to believe that they have not produced 20 per cent enriched uranium and/or that they are not capable of enriching to 80 per cent (still short of the grade required for effective weaponisation).

Well, that is a relief.  One could hardly contemplate a pre-emptive attack on a country whose nuclear program is scoffworthy.

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