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Vol. 74/No. 34      September 6, 2010

U.S. gov’t increases
threats against Iran
(front page)
The Barack Obama administration is pushing more forcefully for Tehran to cease enrichment of uranium, a process that would bring the Iranian government technically closer to having the potential to develop nuclear weapons. The pressure is designed to deepen existing fissures within Iran’s ruling class, forcing the government to forsake its enrichment program in exchange for lifting sanctions and providing other incentives.

Top U.S. officials have said recently that they are fully prepared to launch a military strike, while they believe there is still time to continue efforts to get Iranian compliance.

For much of 2009 the Obama administration sought to engage Tehran—which says its nuclear program is only for producing energy—in negotiations over obtaining enriched uranium from outside the country. Those talks broke down although the White House says it remains open to resuming them.

Speaking on “Meet the Press” August 1, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said allowing Iran to have the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. A military attack could have “unintended consequences that are difficult to predict in what is an incredibly unstable part of the world,” he emphasized.

The space between the option of Iran getting a nuclear weapon and U.S. military action “is pretty narrow,” he said. “Military actions have been on the table and remain on the table.”

When asked by moderator David Gregory if the Pentagon has a plan to carry out this military operation, Mullen replied, “We do.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the same point in an interview with FOX News June 20. “I don’t think we’re prepared to even talk about containing a nuclear Iran,” he said. “We do not accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons.”

The Obama administration has said it will take about a year before Tehran develops a nuclear weapon.

“American officials said the United States believed international inspectors would detect an Iranian move toward breakout within weeks,” stated the August 20 New York Times, “leaving a considerable amount of time for the United States and Israel to consider military strikes.”

Saying military steps must be taken sooner than later, Investor’s Business Daily in an August 18 editorial wrote, “A nuclear Iran is another ‘new kind of menace’ for the 21st century… . Evil must be recognized and neutralized early, before it becomes empowered.”

While the military option is increasingly being discussed in ruling-class circles, the U.S. government is also ratcheting up economic pressure on Tehran. The Treasury Department released new regulations August 13 implementing its sanctions. They bar foreign banks or companies from doing business in dollars if they conduct transactions with any Iranian financial institution or individuals suspected of being involved in Iran’s nuclear energy program.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belittled the latest round of sanctions. He said the Iranian government will turn these sanctions into an opportunity for economic boom and self-sufficiency, reported Iran’s PressTV. “I tell you that the Iranian nation can isolate a hundred like you,” he stated.

The Iranian government launched a new Qiam 1 surface-to-surface missile and unveiled a new long-range drone aircraft within days of each other, following the U.S. government’s latest announced sanction.

There are signs that debate is growing among Iranian capitalists in face of the imperialist military and economic pressures.

An article in the Tehran daily Mehr News reported that “an economic figure representing the private sector says affairs must not be handed over to those extremists who seek to isolate Iran, insisting that opportunities not be lost for dialogue.” It said Mohammad Nahavandian, chairman of the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Mines, objected to government officials downplaying the sanctions, which he said will push prices up and increase unemployment. “Nahavandian noted that welcoming sanctions and inciting the enemies to mount pressure on the country are ‘not logical,’” said Mehr.

After more than three decades of delay, the Bushehr nuclear power plant on Iran’s southern coast is set to begin operations. Iranian and Russian technicians have begun loading low-enriched uranium fuel rods into the plant. It should start generating electricity by late November.

Plans for the power plant began under the shah. A German firm started building it in 1974, but backed out after the 1979 Iranian revolution. Moscow signed a deal to finish the project in 1992, and had been working on it since 1995.

Moscow said its technicians will jointly operate the plant for two to three years before ceding complete control to the Iranians. The Russian government will provide the uranium to be used in the Bushehr plant’s reactor, and spent fuel rods will be returned to Russia.
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