Nuclear Arsenal Would Harm Iran's Interests: Envoy

An Iranian nuclear arsenal would be dwarfed in size by the stockpiles held by the United States and other countries, rendering its hypothetical establishment a "strategic mistake" for the Middle Eastern nation, Tehran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday (see GSN, May 26).

If Iran built its own nuclear weapons, "the United States (would say): 'Wait a minute, you only have two to three weapons, I have thousands, I'm very powerful,'" Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said during an event in Vienna, Austria. "We don't want to make this strategic mistake. Without nuclear weapons we are as strong and powerful as the nuclear weapons states."

Soltanieh also dismissed the effects of economic penalties and computer strikes against the nation, Reuters reported.

"Please be assured that none of the sanctions have affected our nuclear activities ... 100 percent sure," he said. The U.N. Security Council, the European Union and a number of countries have adopted various penalties aimed at curbing Iranian nuclear activities that could support weapons development; Tehran has insisted its atomic ambitions are strictly peaceful.

Addressing the Stuxnet worm that infected systems at atomic facilities and other sites in the Middle Eastern nation, Soltanieh said, "No destruction, no problem" (see GSN, April 18).

Former State Department nonproliferation official Mark Fitzpatrick said "the totality of the evidence indicates beyond reasonable doubt" that Iran was pursuing a capacity to construct nuclear bombs. The nation would need half a year or more to produce enough material for one weapon at its Natanz complex, as well as additional time to fashion a missile to accommodate the bomb, he said.

A single nuclear weapon, though, would be inadequate to affect the conduct of other countries, according to Reuters.

"It would seem foolhardy for a nation to go for broke, with the international reaction that would entail, before it could manufacture at least a handful of weapons," the expert said. "Assembling such an arsenal would multiply both the amount of weapons grade uranium that would be needed and the amount of time it would take Iran to reach the threshold capability" (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, May 27).

The International Atomic Energy Agency in a report last week voiced concern over possible Iranian research into numerous systems that could together enable the construction of advanced nuclear weapons, the New York Times reported.

Implosion technology is believed to be necessary to produce nuclear weapons that are sufficiently small and powerful for deployment on a missile, according to the newspaper.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog based its concerns on its own findings and those of "many member nations," according to the report. Atomic specialists said a significant portion of the material was believed to be supplied by the United States, Israel and countries in Western Europe.

Some of the systems Iran has allegedly studied have civilian applications and none point explicitly to weapons development, but Tehran's pursuit of the various technologies hint at an ambitious effort to refine schematics for a bomb, said two diplomats with knowledge of the information on which the IAEA report was based.

“It’s the whole variety of information,” one of the diplomats said. “You have to look at the whole thing” (William Broad, New York Times, May 30).

Meanwhile, Iranian Chamber of Commerce head Mohammad Nahavandian rebuffed allegations that a firm in the Persian Gulf state had purchased a vessel from an Israeli company, Agence France-Presse reported.

Washington last week penalized the Israeli firm Ofer Brothers for purportedly selling a petroleum transport vessel to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines last year for $8.6 million. The Israeli firm has also rejected the contention, according to AFP.

"Based on the laws of the country, any kind of trade or economic transaction with the Zionist regime and its affiliated firms is against the law," Iranian media quoted Nahavandian as saying.

"The news regarding the activities of Zionist firms in regard to Iran is a new game which has surfaced in reaction to other nations welcoming establishing economic ties with Iran," he said. "Thus they (West powers) are naming some Zionist firms as engaged in doing business with Iran" (Agence France-Presse/Yahoo!News, May 29).

Russia said it could not back the justification for additional international penalties against Iran, the Fars News Agency reported on Saturday.

"This method completely exhausted itself," RIA Novosti quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. "We are not ready to accept the logic" (Fars News Agency, May 28).

A top Israeli official called for international cooperation to address the Iranian nuclear standoff, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

"We strongly hope that the entire civilized world will come to realize what threat this regime is posing and take joint action to avert the nuclear threat posed by Iran, even if it would be necessary to conduct a pre-emptive strike," Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon told Interfax. "An Iran possessing nuclear weapons would be a threat to the entire civilized world" (Associated Press/Yahoo!News, May 30).

Elsewhere, Iran on Tuesday said it intends to link the Bushehr nuclear power plant to the country's power network in a month, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"The power plant is approaching steam production stage and we hope that, in the following month, the steam production capacity of the plant to reach to a point so that it could be fed into turbine to generate electricity," Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying.

"To be tested, the power plant will join the (national) grid several times at the start," Salehi said. "In the due time, the power plant will be inaugurated officially in the presence of some of the foreign media" (Xinhua News Agency, May 31).

May 31, 2011

An Iranian nuclear arsenal would be dwarfed in size by the stockpiles held by the United States and other countries, rendering its hypothetical establishment a "strategic mistake" for the Middle Eastern nation, Tehran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday (see GSN, May 26).