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Iran Ups the Nuclear Ante

Samara Greenberg

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared yesterday that Iran is now a “nuclear state.” The announcement came in a speech to hundreds of thousands of cheering Iranians at a rally to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. “I want to announce with a loud voice here that the first package of 20 percent fuel was produced and provided to the scientists,” Ahmadinejad said. Uranium must be enriched to 90 percent in order to be used for a nuclear bomb.

In response, the White House said it does not believe Iran can enrich uranium to the level it claims. “Quite frankly, what Ahmadinejad says – he says many things and many of them turn out to be untrue,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opined during Thursday’s press briefing. Nevertheless, the Obama administration is pressing the UN Security Council to impose new penalties on Iran for refusing to prove its nuclear intentions are peaceful.

Ahmadinejad’s announcement came just one day after the U.S. Treasury imposed new sanctions on Iran for its decision to enrich uranium to a higher level. The new targeted sanctions affiliates four more Iranian companies and one individual with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), bringing them under the umbrella of Iran sanctions already in place in existing law. The U.S. designated the IRGC as a terrorist entity in 2007.

But will sanctions deter Iran? As Daniel Pollack and Joshua London note in the winter 2009 issue of inFOCUS, every U.S. administration since President Jimmy Carter has sanctioned Iran, with inconclusive results. Moreover, economic sanctions might “only encourage Iran to hurry up and complete the [enrichment] process.” In the end, therefore, the only deterrent may be force. However, as Pollack and London conclude, “the Obama administration appears averse to even threatening a military attack on Iran as a means to destroy its nuclear program.”