Over the past two weeks, Iran has marked National Nuclear Day (April 9) and Armed Forces Day (April 18). These memorial days were used to emphasize Iran’s nuclear and military technological achievements. On these days, the religious-political leadership as well as the top military ranks stressed Iran’s fortitude in the face of the tightening sanctions. In reality, while these sanctions are exacting a heavy price from Iran, they are not enough to force Iran to give up on continuing its nuclear program and technological independence.
National Nuclear Day began this year very shortly after another round of failed nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 (five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany). Iran reiterated its legitimate right to enrich uranium, as it is a party to the NPT. This issue was also the focal point of the nuclear talks that Iran held with the 5+1 in Kazakhstan (twice, in February and in April) and in Turkey (March), as was its demand to lift or significantly reduce the sanctions imposed against it. Demands were made for Iran to shut down one of its enrichment facilities (Fordo), a demand that the West apparently dropped during the negotiations, and to move uranium enrichment to 20% outside Iran (which Iran managed to produce for the research reactor in Tehran) so that it could be subject to monitoring and not be used for re-enrichment to reach the level that is required for nuclear weapons.
If after the first round of talks in Kazakhstan Iran seemed optimistic (apparently intentional and planned), following the second round of talks, Iran once again placed the blame for the failure of the talks on the West, and particularly the United States, while emphasizing that Washington was not at all interested in resolving the nuclear issue and planned on using it to contain Iran’s regional influence. This approach earned propaganda support through the establishment’s various media outlets. The Chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee warned that the Majlis might, in light of the West’s behavior that is stripping Iran of its “natural rights” to nuclear technology, discuss the option of withdrawing from the NPT, a threat repeated from time to time by Iranian spokesmen.
Following the failure of the talks, various Iranian spokesmen, including Fereydoon Abbasi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that Iran has essentially crossed the technological threshold required to create nuclear weapons, but the Iranian decision to do so has not yet been made. Abbasi emphasized installation of new generation of centrifuges, continued uranium enrichment to 3.5% and 20% required to operate reactors in Iran and continued R&D of even more advanced generations of centrifuges. These might allow Iran to enrich uranium to the level required for a nuclear weapon within a short period of time. In addition, Abbasi stressed the continued preparations for the operation of IR-40 megawatt heavy water reactor that will facilitate Iranian progress down a path that would allow it to advance its military nuclear plans with regard to plutonium.
In conclusion, the last round of talks (April 6-7) and Iran’s inciting behavior during and after the talks, in which its demonstrated that the current talks to resolve the ‘nuclear dossier’ between Iran and the West has run its course and that essentially, and that all that is left is essentially a dialogue of the deaf. Iran is continuing to exploit the West’s desire for a diplomatic solution to consistently advance its nuclear programs, which will ultimately result in the production of a bomb, and to create it if and when it chooses based on its own political-strategic considerations. The West must decide whether it wants to persist on this path or whether it should seek other ways to resolve relations with Iran, which over the past several decades has been striving to establish itself as an alternative to American hegemony in the Middle East.