As the U.N. Security Council finally prepares to vote on the long-awaited Iran sanctions resolution, Tehran has escalated its efforts to undermine sanctions efforts.  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned today that if a fourth round of sanctions is imposed, Iran will drop its nuclear fuel swap deal with Brazil and Turkey and rule out future talks on the nuclear issue.  Ahmadinejad whined: “I have said that the US government and its allies are mistaken if they think they can brandish the stick of resolution and then sit down to talk with us, such a thing will not happen.”

Western diplomats hope that the Iran sanctions resolution finally will be approved this week, after more than five months of negotiations.  Brazil, Lebanon and Turkey are expected to oppose sanctions but probably will not be able to garner enough support to block them.  Brazil and Turkey teamed up last month to help Iran undermine the push for sanctions by reaching a cosmetic deal with Tehran that involved swapping some of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile for fuel rods for the Tehran research reactor, but failed to address the core issues related to Iran’s nuclear defiance.

The Obama administration’s push for U.N. sanctions has included classified intelligence briefings for foreign leaders that indicate Iran has revived efforts to design nuclear weapons that U.S. intelligence agencies previously had concluded it had suspended.  An article in today’s New York Times quoted a senior U.S. official who said the briefings “made the point that the Iranians are doing both dual-use research and some things that you can explain only by an interest in nuclear weapons.”

The briefings, based in part on new information gleaned from a scientist who defected from Iran’s nuclear program, are a tacit admission that the much-criticized 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear efforts reached the wrong conclusion.  Many congressional leaders, including Congressman Pete Hoekstra, have called for an independent review of the flawed 2007 NIE. The Obama Administration was slated to unveil the conclusions of a new NIE on Iran’s nuclear efforts this spring, but mysteriously delayed its release.

Meanwhile, Tehran also seeks to exacerbate the international tensions surrounding last week’s clash between the violent “peace activists” and Israeli soldiers maintaining an arms embargo against Hamas-controlled Gaza.  Ali Shirazi, the personal representative of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, pledged that Iran would send Revolutionary Guards to escort future Gaza aid convoys.  This threat, if carried out, surely would provoke another spasm of violence that would benefit Tehran by distracting international attention from its nuclear weapons program.

President Ahmadinejad today ominously chimed in that Israel’s interception of the convoy had started a “countdown to its destruction.”  Since Iran already has ballistic missiles that can target Israel and it gets closer every day to building a nuclear warhead for those missiles, Ahmadinejad’s belligerence is increasingly difficult to ignore.

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