Iranian President Ahmadinejad visited his dear friend, Hugo Chavez, this week as his regime undertook another series of provocations. The Islamist and radical Marxist embraced, joined together by their ideologies’ common hostility to America. As Iran announces that it is enriching uranium at an underground facility designed for nuclear weapons production, it knows that Islamists aren’t its only allies.
Iran has been acting exceptionally aggressive lately, probably with the objective of causing oil prices to spike to counter the impact of international sanctions. President Obama approved sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank, resulting in a 20% drop in the value of the rial against the dollar. It appears that the European Union, which buys 17% of Iran’s oil exports, will agree to an oil embargo on January 23 when its foreign ministers gather in Brussels. Japan is also preparing for an embargo. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, enemies of Iran, are being asked to help by increasing their exports.
Iran started 2012 off loudly. It threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz if an oil embargo is enacted, carrying out a 10-day war game to prove its ability to make good on its threats. Iran announced that it produced and successfully tested its first domestically-produced nuclear fuel rod and then tested a new medium-range surface-to-air missile.
It carried out another round of challenges to the West this week. Ahmadinejad visited Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador to demonstrate Iran’s reach into Latin America through radical Marxist allies. Iran is looking to mine uranium from Venezuela and is reportedly constructing a medium-range missile base there. On Sunday, the U.S. expelled the Venezuelan consul general in Miami after undercover journalists recorded her entertaining a potential cyber terrorism plot against the U.S. The Iranian ambassador in Mexico was taped doing the same.
“Despite those arrogant people who do not wish us to be together, we will unite forever,” Ahmadinejad said as he stood next to Chavez. The two men repeatedly cracked jokes during their time together. Ahmadinejad said if they are building a nuclear bomb, then “the fuel of that bomb is love.”
Chavez pointed to a hill and said it “will open up and a big atomic bomb will come out.” He joked that Iran is helping a plant in Venezuela make an “atomic bicycle” and mockingly said Ahmadinejad is in “the axis of evil of Latin America.” Chavez defended Iran’s nuclear program and referred to their mutual enemies as “devils,” as he has in the past.
Ahmadinejad’s trip to Latin America coincides with several other actions meant to spit in the face of the West. Iran charged an American from Arizona named Amir Mirzaie Hekmati as a spy, which carries the penalty of death. He has 20 days to appeal the charge. Iran announced that its annual exercises simulating a battle over the Strait of Hormuz will happen in February. They are tellingly called “The Great Prophet.”
Most alarmingly, Iran declared that uranium enrichment has begun at its underground Fordo facility near the holy city of Qom. The site was secretly built in a mountain before Iran admitted its existence in 2009. It is under the supervision of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and is designed to hold only 3,000 centrifuges. This is enough for making a nuclear bomb but far from what is needed to generate electricity, as Iran claims its nuclear program’s purpose is. When the site was declared, President Obama rightly said its features are “inconsistent with a peaceful program.”
Furthermore, Iran’s Natanz facility can accommodate the 50,000 centrifuges necessary for nuclear power, so the Fordo site isn’t necessary. Ivanka Barzashka of the Federation of American Scientists says that it would take the Fordo site about 90 years to produce one stock of fuel for civilian nuclear power. It is very obvious that it was built for nuclear weapons creation. Nuclear expert Andreas Persbo says the site could make enough bomb-grade uranium for a weapon in about a year, but it could be half of that. Iran says it is enriching the uranium at Fordo to 20 percent. David Albright says it could take as little as six months to produce the necessary highly-enriched uranium from that point.
One other report must be considered. Reza Kahlili, a former member of the Revolutionary Guards who spied for the CIA, received information last May that Ayatollah Khamenei had ordered the production of two nuclear warheads, ready for use with a payload, by March 2012. An additional eight warheads were to be produced and delivered to the Revolutionary Guards by that deadline, as well. If true, that means Iran could be only two months away from being armed with nuclear missiles. Iran’s preparation for an underground nuclear test, as revealed in the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report, is a further indication that the regime views its equipping with a nuclear bomb as a near-term prospect.
The enrichment at the Fordo site and the likely oil embargo are huge developments. The first means that the creation of an Iranian nuclear bomb could very well happen within one year. The second could threaten the survival of the regime. The clock is ticking.
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