I have long argued going back to the old Maxspeak that US attitudes towards the Iranian nuclear program were hysterical, given the fatwa against nuclear weapons by its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. That they did not have a nuclear weapons program was long supported by the highly respected director of the IAEA, Mohammed ElBaradei. Now, his last act before stepping aside on Dec. 1 has been to censure Iran for secrecy in its program and pulling back from the agreement with the US I praised quite recently, with Russia, China, and India joining in on the censure. Have I been wrong all along on this?
Maybe, but maybe not. Juan Cole at http://www.juancole.com argues that Iran is still not actively pursuing nuclear weapons, but that there is a power struggle going on within it, with Khamenei on one side and the more militant Revolutionary Guard on the other, with the latter winning. He says they want the "Japan option," a "rapid breakout capability," but not actual weapons, and they are defeating Khamenei on this. It is their rise that explains the pullback of Iran from the agreement with Obama, which was negotiated by a personal representative of Khamenei, who has now been repudiated. None of this is good news, but it is also not the end of the world exactly either.
The annoucement yesterday by Iranian leaders of their intention to build ten more processing plants is not a good sign here at all.
The Iranian nuclear programme is most likely driven by the imminent scarcity of oil in Iran than by what is just political posturing by both Iran and the USA. The elites of both countries find it very nice to have an issue over which to wage propaganda campaigns.
What is far more worrying is that Iran is investing lots of money on a nuclear energy programme which indicates that they expect to become net oil importers relatively soon, as their "official" reserves seem wildly inflated (again for propaganda posturing), and what it means for oil importers.
As to Iran, its economy is not doing too well now where internal oil product prices are heavily subsidized and yet most state revenue still comes from oil exports. When both become unsustainable, very bad news.
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