It took Iran a day to find its public-relations footing after having its covert uranium enrichment site near Qom exposed. Today, Tehran announced that they would have the IAEA inspect the facility, that uranium enrichment had not yet taken place, and that they are surprised that the world is not tossing flowers towards them for their nuclear transparency:
Iran said on Saturday it would allow UN inspectors into its newly disclosed uranium enrichment plant, as US President Barack Obama led a global outcry against Tehran for building the facility.
“As the president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) said, we have no problem for inspection within the framework of the agency (International Atomic Energy Agency) regulations,” Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s atomic energy chief, said on state television. …
Ahmadinejad denied Tehran was building the plant in secret, as charged by Western leaders, and told reporters in New York on Friday the facility was “completely legal.”
“We actually informed the agency (IAEA) 18 months ahead of time. Is this the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do? I thought we are supposed to be encouraged for taking this action.”
Iran also continued to insist that their program is meant for peaceful nuclear energy, which made this statement just a wee bit incongruous:
“God willing this new plant will become operational soon and make the enemy blind,” Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s chief of staff, was quoted by Fars news agency as saying on Saturday.
That’s a strange wish for an electrical generation plant, no? Besides, the blindness in this particular case got lifted quite a while ago, when the West discovered its existence.
Perhaps this could serve as a Road to Damascus moment for some of the nations that have been reluctant to squeeze Iran. France responded almost angrily yesterday, as Sarkozy threatened “rapid sanctions” in December if Iran did not comply with numerous UN Security Council resolutions. Earlier in the week, the Russians began talking about adding sanctions for the first time in a long while.
The only critical nation that hasn’t publicly scolded Iran is China, even after Obama shared the intel of the facility with Beijing. China has blocked tougher sanctions on Iran at the UNSC for years, and most suspect that they violate the weaker sanctions China allowed. Their silence on this issue hints that they may not be on board with a tough regime against Tehran.
There was also a note of discoordination in the diplomatic responses of the West. Obama talked about October 1st as a threshold date for Iran to respond to the UNSC, while France noted that sanctions could be applied in December. Obama claimed that the “international community is more united than ever before,” but are they united on the deadline? If it’s December, then the Iranians have two more months to weaken the response from China and Russia — and in this case, time is definitely the friend of the mullahs.