These announcements are a joke; they cannot be taken seriously. Not only has Iran thus far barely managed to enrich uranium to 5 percent, it can hardly keep its one enrichment plant in Natanzwhich took many years to buildup and running full time. The idea that Iran could build 10 more plants in a year while also figuring out how to enrich uranium to 20 percent is laughable. Ahmadinejad’s announcement is nothing more than a feeble attempt at nuclear brinksmanship, as the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner acknowledged when he called it “blackmail.” Iran’s hope is to return to the negotiations begun in Vienna last October over its nuclear stockpile on more favorable terms.
More than anything else, these announcements were intended for domestic consumption.
With what promises to be a tumultuous and violent national celebration on the horizon, Ahmadinejad is desperate to rally the country behind him using the one issue on which all Iranians, regardless of their politics or piety, agree. Ahmedinejad hopes to elicit a belligerent response from the West, allowing him to arouse the people’s national pride. Which, by the way, may explain Iran’s surprising move last week, when it launched a mouse, two turtles, and some worms into orbit as a prelude to a promised manned space mission.
Juan Cole undercuts the rhetoric even further.