Last week, Iran announced that it has graduated into the industrial production phase in their nuclear program, claiming to have enriched uranium in a 3,000-centrifuge cascade. "I proudly announce that as of today Iran is among the countries which produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale," boasted Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But while the Iranian claims are questionable, it is what Ahmadinejad said soon after that should garner the lion’s share of attention from the observant. What followed is nothing short of Iran’s first official nuclear threat.
Ahmadinejad forewarned the United States and Europe about its opposition to Iran’s nuclear weapons program by announcing, “Iran has so far moved in a completely peaceful path and wants to continue following this path, they should avoid doing something which forces this nation to review its behavior.” And with that, Iran seeks to shift responsibility for the coming Iranian nuclear weapons production. A nuclear armed Iran will thus be the fault of the United States and Europe. This psychology is important to both acknowledge and understand.
If by “completely peaceful path” Ahmadinejad means that Iran has “so far” not produced a nuclear weapon, he’d be quite right. But Western populations should note that Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear program went swiftly and officially under military control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ command the moment the extent of its once-clandestine program was revealed by Iranian dissidents 2003.
The psychology of Ahmadinejad’s threat is revelatory and supported by past behavior in that regard. First, the voting public in Western democracies should understand that the statement targets them much more their current leaderships.
What Iran is trying to do – with some success – is to portray itself as the victim of unfair and oppressive behavior and not the aggressor. As this applies to their nuclear gambit, if it weren’t for the aggressive elected leadership in the United States, Britain, France and elsewhere, Iran would not one day have to ‘switch over’ to producing nuclear weapons. Iran is setting the stage for as many voters as possible to perceive the emergence of its nuclear weapons as the fault of Western aggression, an unfortunate diversion from their original peaceful aims of nothing more than kilowatt-hours.
This is the psychological imagery the regime also employed during the recent British hostage situation. The British sailors and Royal Marines were not only shown ‘confessing’ on tape and over the air, but also smiling, thanking Ahmadinejad for his hospitality and toting home goodie bags filled with Persian gifts. After their release, the regime made sure to counter later claims of mistreatment with more imagery and footage of the same individuals comfortably playing chess and other pastimes. Hospitable and benevolent Iran. That’s the message. Never mind that the sailors were abducted from Iraqi waters. They left with smiles and goodie bags.
To close the psychological loop, consider by contrast the images aired and published of the Iranian freed from Iraq soon after the Brits were sent home. Jalal Sharafi, described as the Second Secretary at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, is visible at a Wednesday Tehran press conference – days after his release – at the microphones dressed in blue hospital scrubs, lest anyone forget he is hospitalized for his mistreatment. For good measure, a doctor in his white medical robe is placed behind him and always within camera range of Sharafi. Iran, the victim of US aggression. That is the message.
And the electorates of the West are the primary intended recipients. The leaderships of those countries are already committed to a track of economic sanctions – weak as they may be – on an Iran whose economy can endure little outside pressure without profoundly dangerous consequences for the regime’s stability. But those electorates are seen as receptive, particularly in America where President Bush’s popularity is so low as to usher in a sweeping change in Congressional leadership.
And if that leadership is maverick enough to ignore the sitting president and conduct parallel foreign policy with Iranian ally Syria, surely there is opportunity in the cards for the mullahcracy. That, of course, is the plan, as the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and others have announced their desire to trek to Tehran soon. And welcome they would be.
One member of Pelosi’s Congressional junket, Representative Tom Lantos, is quoted in Bashar Assad’s regime-controlled Syrian Arab News Agency as saying of the Assad policy meetings, “The visit expressed in a marvelous way interests of the US, that led to embarrassment of the current US administration which has closed doors for dialogue with Syria.” Lantos continued that Assad “strongly encourages the continuation of the Syrian-American dialogue.”
Well of course he would. The visiting members of Congress are effectively doing Assad’s bidding against President Bush and he is quite pleased that their actions have “led to embarrassment of the current US administration.” Assad could never have accomplished this alone. Iran too wants a visit and Lantos said he was "ready to get on a plane tomorrow morning" for Tehran to oblige.
Astonishingly, Lantos says he is anxious to discuss a ‘new’ United States House of Representatives initiative to establish a world “nuclear fuel bank” that would supply Iran with it’s nuclear fuel necessary to run its envisioned nuclear electric plant. Unfortunately, this idea has already been broached by both the Europeans and the Russians in the past 3½ years of ‘negotiations.’ Not surprisingly, the Iranians rejected this novel idea already and sent the Russians and Europeans packing. You see, the issue is not about kilo-watt hours. It remains about Iran’s domestic mastery and control of the nuclear fuel cycle, affording them the ability to ultimately produce nuclear weapons.
When it comes to the upstart Congressional Foreign Policy Czars, we should apparently never mind that they are being used by the regimes. Never mind too that the responsibility for foreign diplomacy lies – Constitutionally – solely with the Executive Branch.
Do mind, however, that Iran is still training those who attack and kill our troops in Iraq. Do mind that Iran is still supplying arms and funds to Hamas who, Israel has learned, has been planning major attacks against her. Do mind that over 100 al-Qaeda terrorists, including leadership, remain operating freely – under ‘house arrest’ – in Iran. And, of course, do mind that Iran has already rejected Congressman Lantos’ planned international ‘nuclear fuel bank’ solution.
Iran has said time and again that uranium enrichment is non-negotiable. At some point, this oft repeated position will have to be acknowledged.
And while Iran is busy not negotiating its nuclear program, it welcomes talks with Europe and, surely, American congressmen. It would be prudent for such American elected officials to bear in mind that Iran is clearly also busy making their first nuclear threat, as Ahmadinejad warns that the West “should avoid doing something which forces this nation to review its behavior.”
Perhaps it would indeed be wise to “review its behavior” as the world’s premier state sponsor of international terrorism. But given the West’s lack of appetite to substantively derail the Iranian nuclear weapons program, Iran likely sees little cause for concern. This week’s first official Iranian nuclear threat looks more likely to be eventually followed by nuclear blackmail or worse. Least likely of all is a solution magically negotiated through the prescient wisdom of American congressman.
But come on over. Iran has always sought a diplomatic solution to the West’s unnecessary nuclear concerns, and who better to broach the subject than the new American Foreign Ministry? Warm presidential hospitality and Persian goodie bags await.
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