In a CBS 60 Minutes interview on January 29, United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta predicted if the Islamic Republic of Iran decided, “It would probably take them about a year to be able to produce (an atomic) bomb,” an idea that has been at the center of international debate and increasing animosity between the U.S., Israel, the European Union and Iran
“The United States—and the president have made this clear—does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us. And it’s a red line obviously for the Israelis, so we share a common goal here. If we have to do it, we will do it,” Mr. Panetta told 60 Minutes.
“If they proceed, and we get intelligence that they’re preceding with developing a nuclear weapon, then we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop it,” he said.
When asked if that included military steps, Mr. Panetta said, “There are no options that are off the table.”
Mr. Panetta’s words aired the same day the Iranian government received a delegation from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect related facilities and hold talks with officials.
PressTV.ir reported Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said the three-day visit should “thwart plots by enemies who are leveling unfounded allegations” against Iran and prove the country’s nuclear program is transparent.
Furthermore in the midst of menacing Western threats against the Islamic Republic, the Iranians expressed optimism about resuming nuclear proliferation talks with the P5+1 group of nations—U.S., Russia, Britain, China and France—which make up the five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. The anticipated venue for the negotiations is Turkey, according to Iranian media reports and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who announced earlier this month that Iran and the Security Council had agreed, in principle, to return to the table following a yearlong halt fraught with threats and counterthreats.
“I think the P5+1 meeting will be successful because the other party is also interested in finding a solution,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s Foreign Minister during a Jan. 28 official visit to the African Union Summit in Ethiopia.
Relations between Iran and the West have steadily deteriorated since talks broke down in January 2011.
But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently conveyed a willingness to restore negotiations with the P5+1 to reiterate Iran’s right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful objectives. The proposed new talks come amid mounting belligerence from Western nations and Israel, who assert Iran’s technology is really for militaristic aims and accuse Iran of obstructing talks.
“They claim that Iran doesn’t want negotiations but it isn’t so,” said President Ahmadinejad in Jan. 26 remarks from Iran’s southeastern province of Kerman. “Every time they seek pretexts and as we approach talks they issue resolutions so that perhaps negotiations don’t take place.”
America and Europe’s precarious position
Additionally, analysts say Israel is exacerbating matters with threats of a unilateral war on Tehran, yet simultaneously nudging the U.S. and Europe to increase punitive actions like crippling economic sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank and petroleum industry. In response, the 27 member European Union recently voted to block Iranian oil imports and freeze Iranian Central Bank assets as their contribution toward tightening pressure on Tehran. President Ahmadinejad said the move targets the Iranian people, but ultimately will hurt European countries already suffering extreme economic duress.
The EU oil embargo announcement has already sent oil prices up which could drive up gas prices in Europe and America—bad news for U.S. President Barrack Obama in a re-election year.
With the United States ending a decade-long conflict in Iraq, an expensive, unstable course of action in Afghanistan and amplified enmity towards Syria, questions loom about the strength of its desire for a war in Iran. There haven’t been diplomatic relations since 1979 and the advent of the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and observers contend much of U.S. anti-Iran rhetoric is based on outside demands.
A. Akbar Muhammad, the international representative of the Nation of Islam and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, said the Obama administration is being pressured to target Iran by Israel and Zionist lobbyists in America. Mr. Muhammad described the Israeli and American factor as a “pit bull on a leash” where Israel is pulling the U.S. in its direction, though America thinks she has the pit bull under control.
“There are other nations that have nuclear capabilities but none have been turned upside down like Iran and it is obvious that Israel is pushing the position that Iran has to be stopped,” said Mr. Muhammad.
“Pakistan and India have nuclear capabilities, but they have not been scrutinized like Iran. Israel has nuclear capabilities in the heart of the Middle East, but nobody scrutinized Israel or talked about their nuclear capabilities,” he argued.
Reports say 20 percent of Iranian oil exports go to European capitals and in a counter to the EU blockade, the Iranian parliament voted Jan. 29 to pre-empt EU sanctions scheduled to take effect in July, with an Iranian oil ban to Europe effective immediately. In recent months, Tehran has also threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a key canal for the movement of the world’s oil shipments getting to markets. If implemented U.S. pundits have determined, it would be an act of war.
Tehran also called for political intervention from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries against a guarantee by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to fill any petroleum void in Europe resulting from the embargo.
EU officials maintain the sanctions are primarily aimed at getting Iran back to the negotiating table; however, critics say sanctions are a step toward setting up a theater for regime change by fomenting internal dissatisfaction against the Iranian government.
“The real purpose of this campaign is to use a combination of instruments including economic sanctions, very severe economic sanctions … as well as covert operations carried out by U.S. intelligence in concert with the Israeli MOSSAD to create havoc inside Iran,” explained Brian Becker of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, an anti-war group.
“The point being to destabilize Iran and the goal being to ultimately carry out a regime change … so that the current independent government can be replaced,” he added.
Global implications and motives
In a recent interview, Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General under President Lyndon B. Johnson told The Final Call, “Iran is the last and major direct concern of Israel.” It is the last vestige of America’s war on Islam that it touted as a war on terror, said Mr. Clark. He called it the end of an “old struggle” against predominately Muslim nations.
“This is an important issue on two fronts, it’s that they do not want a nuclear armed Islamic power,” added Mr. Muhammad. He argued the West fears power shifts as in Pakistan where sentiments are becoming very anti-American and anti-Israel.
There is concern about nations having nuclear capability and a possible alliance with Iran strengthens the Muslim world, independent of Western-backed like Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
That Iran’s foreign minister addressed the African Union is perhaps a sign of Iran developing alternative economic markets to take the place of the EU, said Mr. Muhammad. Moreover, the decisions of India—and rumored China—to begin purchasing Iranian oil with gold are indicators of an expanded global strategy by Iran to further offset the effect of Western sanctions.
India is the first buyer of Iranian oil to sign on for payments in gold instead of the U.S. dollar, according to debkafile.com. India and China account for one million barrels per day, or 40 percent of Iran’s total exports of 2.5 million barrels per day.
By trading in gold, New Delhi and Beijing would allow Tehran to circumvent the EU freeze on its central bank’s assets and the oil embargo.
“Being that it is an ‘Islamic Republic’ of Iran, they are concerned about the influence that Iran exercises in the Muslim world. That influence and having nuclear capabilities is something that the West fears,” said Mr. Muhammad.