A nuclear Iran is no certainty, says Meir Javedanfar. No matter how bombastic the rhetoric from Tehran has been.
The official mantra of the recent nuclear conference in Tehran was ‘Nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for none.’
But this wasn’t the real message that the Iranian government wanted to convey. Had the Iranian government been more honest and open about its real goals for the conference, it would have chosen the mantra ‘We crushed the opposition, our nuclear programme is going full steam ahead, no matter what the West says.’
The fact that Iran convened its own conference so soon after last week’s nuclear summit in Washington also shows that when it comes to international consensus over the Iranian nuclear programme, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei still sees the international community as weak and divided. This was evident in the repeated statements by Iran’s media that 60 countries took part in Iran’s nuclear conference, compared with the 47 who attended the US-sponsored summit.
Khamenei’s view is right, up to a point. Although it does seem that China and Russia are going to back further sanctions against Iran, we’re still not sure how solid their support will be, nor do we know how far they are willing to punish Iran in the next round of sanctions. This worries Western leaders—and especially Israel—greatly. Jerusalem wants crippling sanctions to be imposed as soon as possible, but this is unlikely to be realized soon. Although another round of sanctions are under discussion, it’s extremely unlikely that they would be strong enough to stop Iran’s nuclear programme in its tracks.
So is a nuclear Iran a foregone conclusion?
Despite all the bombastic claims regarding ‘giant strides’ being made by Iran over its nuclear programme, in reality, Tehran is facing severe problems that are hampering its goals to make a nuclear bomb.
First, there’s Iran’s centrifuge production capabilities.
According to a recent study by the Institute for Science and International Security from May to November 2009, the number of centrifuges enriching Uranium at Iran’s main Natanz enrichment centre actually fell from 5000 to 3900. This is due to the outdated design of existing centrifuges, as well as sanctions that are hampering Iran’s capability to import the necessary parts, such as special magnets, which are required to produce centrifuges.
Furthermore, doubts remain regarding the quality of Iran’s newly-introduced ‘third generation centrifuges.’ According to Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, these new centrifuges ‘will have a gas-separation power of nearly ten, which is six times more than the first generation of centrifuges.’
Photo Credit: Daniella Zalcman