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Iran and the IAEA

JINSA Report #: 

September 7, 2007

"You are being cooperative," said the IAEA.

"No, we're not," replied Iran.

"Yes, you ARE being cooperative," insisted the IAEA. "ElBaradei told The New York Times that you are intentionally slowing progress on your centrifuges to be conciliatory. He had a 'gut feeling' that you were doing it for political reasons."

"No, no, no! We are definitely NOT being cooperative," shouted Iran, stamping its metaphorical foot. "We've got 3,000 centrifuges up and running."

The argument between the IAEA and Iran would be comical if it wasn't for the fact that if 3,000 centrifuges spin continuously for a year, they can produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. If Iran has them running now, start the countdown.

One of them is wrong; which one is unclear. But the situation begs the question why, at the moment even France is becoming adamant about not accepting a nuclear Iran, would Ahmadinejad vehemently contradict IAEA Director General Mohamad ElBaradei, who is trying to protect his program?

The answer may lie in the internal politics of Iran - much as Saddam's insistence that he was ready to "burn half of Israel" with chemical weapons had to do with something other than the truth. He used the threat of external enemies to maintain control of his fractious realm and had a not-uncommon need to appear more powerful than he was to frighten off internal and external enemies. Ahmadinejad also despotically rules an unhappy people, has delusions about his place in the universe and may, like Saddam, underestimate American patience. Saddam never left the Middle East and killed advisors who brought him bad news, so his worldview was skewed. Ahmadinejad is also not worldly in the way one would hope the leader of a historically rich country of 67 million would be.

There are reports that Ahmadinejad has overplayed his hand in Tehran. His longtime rival, former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, is the newly elected speaker of the Experts Assembly, the body that elects and can remove Supreme Leaders of Iran. Rafsanjani has been an advocate of speaking more softly and making certain accommodations with the West that increase Iran's economic and political maneuverability. Opposite to the approach of Ahmadinejad, though they vary little in goals.

Gasoline rationing has begun and the Iranian economy is in dreadful straights even without increased Western economic sanctions. Inflation and unemployment are high, and the religious police just closed 20 barbershops in Tehran for giving "inappropriate" haircuts. People are being arrested daily for what they say, do and write.

Ahmadinejad may be trying to rally the people around the idea that that he can bring Iran to glory with nuclear power/weapons. He may be lying to goad the West into threatening him for his own ends. Or, he may be presiding over a cascade of 3,000 centrifuges.

How will we know and what will we do about it?

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