In a move clearly aimed at furthering Tehran’s international isolation, the Canadian government closed its embassy in Tehran Sept. 7 and expelled Iranian diplomats.
Both Washington and Tel Aviv maintain that Iran’s program is intended for nuclear arms development and say they are determined to stop it by any means, including by force if they deem it necessary. The disagreement is over whether to launch an air assault at this time. Tehran asserts that its program is for producing needed electrical power and medical isotopes for the treatment of cancer.
The imperialist sanctions have had an impact on Iran’s economy and working people. Eighty percent of Iran’s national budget relies on oil exports, which have been especially targeted by Washington’s and the European Union’s measures.
But Iran’s rulers have thus far refused to comply with the imperialists’ demands.
“Iran has never been after nuclear weapons and it will never abandon its right for peaceful use of nuclear energy,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, told delegates at the opening of the 16th Summit of the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement Aug. 30 in Tehran, reiterating Tehran’s long-standing stance.
Since the beginning of the year, the Iranian government has been engaged in two sets of talks on its nuclear program, one with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, the other with the so-called P5+1 group. The latter comprises the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.—plus Germany.
But no concrete agreement has been reached. The imperialist powers use these talks to pressure the Iranian government.
Opponents of Iran’s nuclear program seized on an Aug. 30 IAEA report as further proof that Tehran has maintained a course toward producing nuclear weapons. The document says that Iran has doubled to more than 2,000 the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges at its Fordow plant and produced 45 kilos of higher-grade enriched uranium since May, an increase of some 20 percent of its stock.
They downplayed the fact that less than 700 of Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges are in operation at Fordow and much of the new enriched uranium has been converted to metal form for use in a nuclear research reactor. Once converted, this uranium is difficult to further enrich to weapon-grade material.
Israeli rulers dividedIn this context a flurry of statements and anonymous quotes to the Israeli news media has hinted that Tel Aviv is considering launching a unilateral airstrike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. A similar debate occurred last fall but subsided after Washington and the European Union adopted a series of new sanctions against Iran.
The prime advocates of this course, according to the press, are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Both argue that the time is coming when a military operation against Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility, which is deeply buried under a mountain, would no longer be feasible without direct involvement of Washington.
The eruption of this discussion prompted the U.S. administration to send to Israel a steady stream of high-ranking U.S. officials and military officers during the summer, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in order to persuade Tel Aviv to refrain from any attack on Iran at this time.
“Instead of effectively pressuring Iran, [President Barack] Obama and his people are pressuring us not to attack,” Netanyahu was reported by Israel’s newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth Aug. 31 as angrily saying to U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro.
But Netanyahu’s and Barak’s pressing for a tougher course against Iran has also created an open division inside Israel’s ruling class. Since the beginning of the summer, Israel’s army chief of staff, the commander-in-chief of the air force, the heads of the two main intelligence agencies (the Mossad and Shin Bet), President Shimon Peres and members of Netanyahu’s own cabinet, among others, have publicly opposed a unilateral Israeli strike against Iran.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who initially claimed to have a tougher line on Iran, is now pushing a course of “crippling sanctions” that is very similar to the one his Democratic opponent Obama has been implementing.
Meanwhile, Washington is stepping up military preparations and pressure with a Sept. 16-27 mine-sweeping exercise involving more than 25 nations in the Arab-Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Gulf of Aden. All these waters surround the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic sea passage for oil carriers that Tehran has threatened to close in retaliation for imperialist sanctions.
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