As we noted in Daybreak, the race to replace Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got infinitely less interesting when two of the major candidates were disqualified for dubious reasons. One of them was former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who despite giving Supreme Leader Ali Khameini his job, expressed dismay about the regime violence against protestors following the rigged 2009 elections. The new presidential frontrunner is Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, who looks a little bit like a benevolent high school history teacher. If only your history teacher said things like this:
“The fact that the Iranian nation is defending their rights makes [the US] hopeless. Today they are witnessing Iran’s eye-catching progress, thanks to [Iranian] resistance.”
Meanwhile, the State Department grimly announced that in addition to the presence of Hezbollah fighters in Syria, highly-trained Iranian soldiers are also fighting to keep the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad afloat in the war-torn country.
“This is an important thing to note: the direct implication of foreigners fighting on Syrian soil now for the regime,” the official said.
Were that not enough bad news, even as the U.S. works to further amp up sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, the IAEA’s new quarterly report is expected to show growth in centrifuges that boost Iran’s ability to enrich uranium for atomic weapons.
That would include an advanced model known as IR-2m which, once operational, would enable Iran to speed up sharply its accumulation of refined uranium, which can have both civilian and military purposes.
The number of IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings that have been put in place at Iran’s main enrichment site near the town of Natanz is expected to have risen significantly since February, when it stood at 180, they said.
At the end of the tunnel is more tunnel. The Jerusalem Post reports that Iran is not seeking just a few nuclear weapons, but a stockpile of them, which will grow steadily each year.
[International Relations Minister Yuval] Steinitz, who also holds the strategic and intelligence affairs portfolios, told a security conference in Zichron Ya’acov that Iran’s nuclear industry was “many times larger than that of either North Korea or Pakistan.”
He described the Iranian nuclear industry as a “ramified” one – designed “not to produce a few bombs, but to produce fissionable material for dozens and hundreds of nuclear bombs.” The issue, he said, is not only of Iran becoming a nuclear state, but rather becoming a “nuclear superpower.”
According to Steinitz, the Natanz nuclear facility currently has about 12,000 centrifuges, with plans to reach 54,000 and the ability to enrich enough uranium to produce between 20 to 30 atomic bombs a year.