Events in Iran seem to be turning toward a lose-lose outcome, with Iran apparently recommitting itself to a nuclear-weapons program and foreign powers, including perhaps both China and Russia, ready to impose more serious sanctions in response.
TEHRAN — Iran’s government will build 10 new sites to enrich uranium, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday, a dramatic expansion of the country’s nuclear program and one that is bound to fuel fears that it is attempting to produce a nuclear weapon.
Ahmadinejad told the official Islamic Republic News Agency that construction of at least five nuclear facilities is to begin within two months.
The surprise announcement came two days after a censure of Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency over the Islamic republic’s refusal to stop enriching uranium, a key demand of Western powers. The 35-member board of the agency also criticized Iran’s construction of a second enrichment plant in Qom, southwest of Tehran.
It’s hard to see how this ends well for anybody. Increased sanctions can only compound Iran’s serious economic problems, but the Iranian people, divided in many ways, have nonetheless rallied around the nuclear program as an symbol of patriotism and national sovereignty. The Obama administration’s effort to lure Iran away from that approach can now be said to have failed, but as the Bush administration found, alternative approaches offer even less chance of success.
Absent a dramatic reversal of course, Israel may now feel all but invited to act militarily, a step that most experts say will have little long-term impact on the Iranian nuclear program. The consequences of such a step are absolutely unpredictable and, given the volatility of the Middle East, to a degree uncontrollable. It would be a nuclear reaction without effective control rods, so to speak.