With tensions already rising over Iran's nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday unveiled two "major" nuclear breakthroughs: Tehran has built faster uranium enrichment centrifuges, and loaded Iranian-made fuel plates into a medical research reactor. U.S. State Department officials insisted that Iran had "hyped" the news to prove it wasn't intimidated by international sanctions, and that the developments were actually "not terribly impressive." But that doesn't mean there's no cause for concern. Here, four reasons to worry:
1. Iran is pridefully defiant
It's true that "the nuclear revelations didn't live up to the hype," says Elise Labott at CNN. But Ahmadinejad's bluster is still troubling, even if it says "more about the defiance of the regime in the face of escalating sanctions" than it does about Iran's actual nuclear progress. With the regime's legitimacy within its own borders tied to the pride Iranians take in the nuclear program, Tehran might never back down.
2. Diplomacy isn't working
There aren't "any diplomatic, financial, or other means for bringing an end to what President Obama accurately calls Iran's 'nuclear weapons program,'" says Thomas Joscelyn at The Weekly Standard. Obama's "outreach to the mullahs failed." Iran has "already suffered substantial costs in terms of international 'prestige' and 'influence' — economic and otherwise — and has unquestionably decided that the benefits of acquiring nuclear weapons are worth it." Military force may be our last remaining option.
3. Iran is pushing oil prices up
Iran's nuclear boasting isn't the only sign of rising tensions. Israel is accusing Iran of planting bombs targeting its diplomats in several countries. Iran has threatened to cut off oil supplies to six European countries and block Persian Gulf exports through the Strait of Hormuz. Put it all together, and Iran's feuding with the West has pushed the price of a barrel of Brent crude to its highest point since last summer, says Eric Lam at the Financial Post, at $119.99 a barrel. Thanks, Iran, for the "further harm [to] the global economy."
4. This all helps fear-mongers push for war
If anything, Iran's focus on producing fuel rods for a medical reactor backs up its claims that it wants nuclear knowledge for peaceful purposes, says Iran's Press TV. It's sad that media outlets are portraying this news as "a provocative step toward building nuclear bombs." We saw this before with Iraq, says Glenn Greenwald at Salon. "Fear-mongering" propagandists "exaggerate or fabricate bad acts by the designated Enemy du Jour," without bothering to check the facts, and we move closer and closer to an avoidable and unnecessary war.