Yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a vague threat against U.N. members that try to enforce the June 9 U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized inspections on Iranian ships and aircraft suspected of carrying prohibited materials for Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs: “You should know whoever takes a decision against the Iranian nation, such as the so-called inspection of the Iranian ships or so-and-so toward its aircraft, will immediately receive Iran’s reaction,” he warned in a speech broadcast live on radio.
Ahmadinejad’s warning is part of a heavy-handed Iranian campaign to dissuade the European Union, which is currently considering its own set of sanctions, from ratcheting up pressure on Iran. The director of Iran’s central bank warned on Saturday that Iran would stop trading with countries that enforced the U.N. sanctions. Ahmadinejad has denied that Iran would be affected by sanctions, and he has ridiculed the fourth round of sanctions imposed by the Security Council as a “used handkerchief.” But his government appears to be increasingly nervous about the mounting economic damage Iran has sustained due to sanctions.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Iran, Brazil, and Turkey met in Istanbul yesterday in an effort to revive a stillborn diplomatic campaign that would allow Tehran to swap low-enriched uranium for fuel for its Tehran research reactor, which will soon run out of its uranium fuel. The three nations had announced a tentative deal on the fuel swap in May in a transparent effort to derail sanctions at the Security Council, but the deal was rejected by other members of the Security Council who correctly judged that the proposed fuel swap did little to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Ahmadinejad also announced that Iran would put a man in space by 2019. He belligerently claimed that the imposition of sanctions had provoked him to accelerate the space program:
“In response to threats and Security Council resolutions against Iran, the plan was pushed forward.” Iran launched its first satellite into space in 2009 and in February launched a rocket into the upper atmosphere that carried a rat, a turtle, and worms. Iran’s space program is a convenient fig leaf that masks its ballistic missile development program.
To drive home the point that sanctions cannot stop Iran’s technological advances, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization on announced on Saturday that it has started a nuclear research program to build a nuclear fusion reactor, a goal that has long eluded Western scientists. The head of the program said 50 Iranian scientists would be involved and optimistically predicted that after two years of initial research, a fusion reactor could be built in another 10 years.