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Has Iran Leapt Into the Unknown? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iran has announced its intention to build 10 uranium enrichment plants, and to study the possibility of achieving 20 percent uranium enrichment on its own territory. This means that Tehran will move closer to producing enough highly enriched uranium necessary for a nuclear bomb, and so in effect Iran has chosen escalation, and to follow the policy of brinkmanship.

There are several ways to interpret the Iranian escalation, especially as Tehran was very confused and [attempted] to play down its threatening announcement, saying that it had said what it said as a reaction to the decision taken by the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] which condemned Iran for its lack of cooperation. At this point it is true to say that the Iranian regime has tied its legitimacy to the nuclear project, and the Supreme Leader of Iran previously made reference to this. Therefore it is difficult [for the Iranian regime] to simply abandon this project, especially taking into account the domestic situation in Iran, which has become even more complex after Tehran announced its intentions to build the 10 [uranium enrichment] plants. The opposition [in Iran] is waiting for the big question: what will the Iranians gain from an agreement [with the IAEA], and will this lead to an Iranian open-door policy to the West? If there is no open-door policy [to the West] this means a political and economic crisis [in Iran], but if there is an open-door policy, the reformists will say: If this is the case, why are we being accused of treason when the regime is running after the West? All of this means that the regime in Tehran is caught in a predicament according to the famous proverb “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

There is another interpretation [of the situation] that says that Iran is pushing things to the edge of the abyss in order to obtain greater concessions from the West, and this is in order to promote itself internally. However this is very risky, and the proof of this is that nuclear experts told our newspaper that Iran’s threats are “empty” and of no value, and this of course indicates that Iran is not sincere in everything that it has told the western negotiators.

Another interpretation is that Iran is escalating matters betting that the West, and particularly the US, is unable to undertake a military showdown [with Tehran] due to the economic conditions, and Washington’s position in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result of this, the US will not allow Israel to conduct military operations [against Iran], and therefore this gives Iran the opportunity to buy time.

All of the above are reasonable interpretations [of the situation], but the question is: does this mean that Iran is in a position of strength?

I think not! There are two clear features in Iran and they are chaos and confusion; and the Iranian regime has taken a leap into the unknown. It is true that Obama has shown more flexibility towards Tehran, but it is [also] in his power today to use this against Iran, and he will have international support [in this]. This would lead to international resolutions that result in harsh sanctions being placed on Iran, and matters may even develop into military confrontation or action by Israel [against Iran]. Israel is waiting for the green light to attack Iran, as Tel Aviv wishes to move on from the complications that it is facing in the region, and this is not to mention its concerns over Tehran’s intentions. Iran is a very big fish to catch for whoever wants it in these troubled waters.

Therefore the Iranian escalation is a leap into the unknown, rather than an operation with calculated consequences.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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