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Iran's Nukes

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World Tensions Grow as Iran Sends Warships to America's East Coast

September 28th 2011

Iran - Iranian clerics and sailors

Iran has upped the ante in its perennial conflict with the West. On September 28, Iran’s Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi says the Islamic Republic has begun large-scale production of domestically-developed cruise missiles capable of destroying “giant warships” – according to Iran - and has a range of 124 miles (200 kilometres). Vahidi said an unspecified number of "Ghader," or "Capable" as the missile is called in Farsi, were delivered to the Revolutionary Guard's navy, which is assigned to protect Iran's sea borders in the Caspian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. This development, and the prospect of Iranian warships entering sea lanes near the United States, has raised concern. In addition, Iran also has short and medium range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Mideast targets such as Israel and U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf.

On September 27, Iran announced that it will deploy warships into the Atlantic Ocean. The vessels will sail from Iran’s ports in the Persian Gulf and head towards the U.S. eastern seaboard in an apparent tit-for-tat over the presence of U.S. warships deployed near the Islamic Republic’s shores. "The Navy of the Iranian Army will have a powerful presence near the United States borders," state-controlled Iranian media reported. "[As] the world arrogant power is present near our marine borders, we, with the help of our sailors who follow the concept of the supreme jurisprudence, shall also establish a powerful presence near the marine borders of the United States," said Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari.

The Pentagon appeared to diminish the importance of the martime development. In a statement,  DoD spokesman Capt. John Kirby said "We've been pushing freedom of the seas for years and the Iranian navy can go wherever it wants." However, Gerard Araud - French ambassador to the UN warned Iran on September 27  that it risks a military strike if it continues to develop its nuclear program. Ambassador Araud said in New York that "If we don't succeed today to reach a negotiation with the Iranians, there is a strong risk of military action," AFP reported. The strike "would be a very complicated operation. It would have disastrous consequences in the region… all the Arab countries are extremely worried about what is happening."

In June, Iran test-fired a number of new surface-to-surface missiles that are reportedly able to reach Israel and U.S. bases in the Mideast. During war games held this year, Iran launched at least 15 missiles, including 9 upgraded Zelzal missiles, as well as new medium- to long-range versions of the Shahab-1, Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 and S-Type Shahabs. Some of these have a range of 1,200 miles and reach U.S. bases in Afghanistan. Iran continues to insist that this ballistic technology is strictly for defense purposes. Said Iranian Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizade, "We possess the technology to build missiles with longer ranges but we do not need missiles with a range of more than 2,000 kilometers and we do not intend to produce them... Iran's missiles have a range of up to 2,000 kilometers and have been designed for U.S. and the Zionist regime's bases in the region."

Iran also continues to insist that its uranium enrichment program is also strictly peaceful. Talks with the UN, the European Union, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have thus far been unsuccessful in stemming the Iran’s progress in using specialized centrifuges that may be producing weapons-grade uranium.  On September 24, Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi called on the EU to resume nuclear talks with Iran. "There have been new developments with regards to Iran's nuclear issue and also other issues,' Salehi said in a meeting with EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton during the United Nations General Assembly in New York.  Diplomat Salehi was referring to his encounter with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in July 2011 about allowing IAEA inspections of Iranian nuclear sites, and Russian efforts to reinvigorate the talks.

The gravity of possible Iranian weaponizing of atomic materials was brought to the fore earlier this month when former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said he believes Israel would unleash a pre-emptive attack on Iran to prevent it from achieving nuclear weapons capacity. Cheney told Newsmax TV that "Iran represents an existential threat and [the Israelis] will do whatever they have to do to guarantee their survival and their security.”  Besides, the IAEA released a report this month stating that Iran is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons, adding that Iran has upgraded its nuclear facilities in order to defend them from possible cyber attacks.

The rhetoric emerging from Iranian leaders such as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, couple with Iran’s coy answers about its nuclear capabilities, has long been a subject of speculation and alarm. At a recent IAEA general conference, the Islamic Republic again refused to stop uranium enrichment, while it still bars independent inspectors to get a look at its nuclear facilities. Iran has expressed frustration that its nuclear power initiative is but slowly developing. Iranian Atomic Energy chief Fereidoun Abbasi, for example, claims that U.S.-backed Israeli assassins are killing Iran's top scientists and thus delaying his program.

On September 22, Iranian President Ahmadinejad spoke in New York to the UN General Assembly where, while he spouted outlandish theories about the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. he also launched bellicose rhetoric about the United States and NATO.

Ahmadinejad alleged that the United States continues to be not only an imperialist state, but also a Zionist oppressor responsible for many of the world's wars. After referring rhetorically to an un-named world power which "abducted forcefully tens of millions of people from their homes in Africa ...during the dark period of slavery," he queried "Can the flower of democracy blossom from NATO's missiles, bombs and guns?"  He also asked the General Assembly, "Do these arrogant powers really have the competence and ability to run or govern the world? Is it acceptable that they call themselves the sole defender of freedom, democracy, and human rights, while they militarily attack and occupy other countries?"

Since the domino-like fall of regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, Iran continues to reach out to Arab nations in an attempt to ally itself with the new governments. For example, Iranian Foreign Minister  Salehi spoke via phone with Libya's National Transitional Council Chairman Mustafa Abdul-Jalil in August to congratulate the rebels on their "victory over dictatorship." Salehi invited Chairman Abdul-Jalil to Iran in order to "deepen bilateral ties." 

Even while Iran has been supporting Libya’s rebels since at least March, and called Gadhafi’s ouster an "Islamic Awakening," Iran continues to denounce NATO involvement. "These [Western] countries enter usually with seductive slogans of supporting the people but they follow their own interests in ruling the countries and continuing colonialism in a new form," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in March.  Iran has also publicly supported protestors in Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain, while urging Syrian President Bashir al-Assad to negotiate with protestors.

Cutting Edge Senior Contributor Martin Barillas also edits Speroforum.com


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