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With a Clenched Fist

Iran rebukes Obama's nuclear overture.

1:00 AM, Apr 27, 2010 • By MASEH ZARIF
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Another example of this type of response surfaced in the regime’s announcement that it would host an international nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran on April 17-18 titled “Nuclear Energy For All, Nuclear Weapon For None.” The conference, boasting invitees from 60 countries, coincided with that week’s nuclear security summit in Washington. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman claimed that “Iran, as one of the standard-bearers of nuclear disarmament, is very serious about this issue. We hope that other countries will join us and act responsibly in nuclear disarmament.” Iran’s top atomic energy official, Ali Akbar Salehi, hailed the conference as a model for the NPT review conference in May.

The Iranian regime also attempted to show that the development of its nuclear program is inevitable. Ahmadinejad announced on April 9 that Iran had built a centrifuge machine capable of enriching uranium at six times the speed of its first-generation machines and added that, “Iran’s nuclear path is irreversible.” Salehi said five days later that Iran had amassed five kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium. These types of enrichment-related activities continue “contrary to the relevant resolutions of the [IAEA] Board of Governors and the [United Nations] Security Council,” according to the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report.

Tehran’s ongoing behavior illustrates a failure on the part of the regime to cooperate with the international community in addressing the nuclear issue as cited by the IAEA. U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes recently noted that the administration has “not set regime change as a goal” for the United Nations Security Council sanctions being sought. The sanctions tool should instead, as described by President Obama, “allow Iran to make a different kind of calculation,” and in the words of senior NSC official Michael McFaul, “change Iranian behavior.” The united, hyperbolic and sequenced responses to the NPR and the broader pattern of the regime’s obstinacy raise serious questions about the assumptions underlying a strategy dedicated to affecting the Iranian regime’s behavior.

Maseh Zarif is research manager and the Iran team lead for the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Frederick W. Kagan as its author.

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