Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Iran round-up

The big-ish news, from Knight Ridder:

Iran claimed on Tuesday to have enriched uranium to a level suitable for civilian power plants, defying a U.N. Security Council demand that it halt work on the process, which also can be used to produce fuel for nuclear weapons.

"Iran has joined the club of nuclear nations," declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a nationally televised speech.

The announcement was certain to heat up the international crisis over Iran's nuclear program.
Indeed it will, as the Guardian observes.

Taking this further, Juan Cole breaks out his secret decoder ring:
What is really going on here is a ratcheting war of rhetoric. The Iranian hard liners are down to a popularity rating in Iran of about 15%. They are using their challenge to the Bush administration over their perfectly legal civilian nuclear energy research program as a way of enhancing their nationalist credentials in Iran.

Likewise, Bush is trying to shore up his base, which is desperately unhappy with the Iraq situation, by rattling sabres at Iran. Bush's poll numbers are so low, often in the mid-30s, that he must have lost part of his base to produce this result. Iran is a great deus ex machina for Bush. Rally around the flag yet again.

If this international game of chicken goes wrong, then the whole Middle East and much of Western Europe could go up in flames. The real threat here is not unconventional war, which Iran cannot fight for the foreseeable future. It is the spread of Iraq-style instability to more countries in the region.
Again, a good point, but the Americans don't seem the least bit cautious or objective about the situation. Via Bloomberg News:
Iran, which is defying United Nations Security Council demands to cease its nuclear program, may be capable of making a nuclear bomb within 16 days if it goes ahead with plans to install thousands of centrifuges at its Natanz plant, a U.S. State Department official said.
How about a round of applause for this! What a wonderful piece of scaremongering propaganda. It should go in a vault somewhere.

So remind me, again, why is the steamroller moving so quickly?

As Jim Lobe points out, the major driving force is, of course, the dreaded Israel lobby and its superhawk sympathizers:
One month after the publication by two of the most influential international relations scholars in the United States of a highly controversial essay on the so-called "Israel Lobby", their thesis that the lobby exercises "unmatched power" in Washington is being tested by rapidly rising tensions with Iran.

...What makes the growing confrontation with Iran so remarkable is that the Israel Lobby appears to be the only major organised force here that is actively pushing it toward crisis.
Ok, that seems reasonably comprehensive. From my vantage point, what's above is the most significant stuff to appear recently on the Iran issue.

That's assuming you've already added "Karona" and "CONPLAN 8022" to your vocabulary. If you haven't, well, get reading...