by Boaz Bismuth
As part of its "Great Prophet 7" exercise on Tuesday Iran launched dozens of surface-to-surface missiles with ranges of up to 1,300 kilometers (807 miles) in efforts to prove just how far its weapons can go and that it possesses response capabilities. Iran is trying to prove its might not only with conventional missiles but with its potential nuclear capability as well. The objective of the missiles Iran showcased — for the benefit of the West and Israel in particular — is to bring Tehran to its goal of long-range nuclear capability.
On Sunday, a European embargo on Iranian oil exports went into effect. Tehran is trying to put on a "business-as-usual" façade, but the fact is that despite its denials, it has decreased its oil production, which constitutes a blow to the economy. Iran's oil minister Rostam Ghasemi claims that Iran has found alternative buyers for its oil, but, following in Europe's footsteps, India, South Korea and Japan have decided to trim their Iranian oil imports by 20 percent. Western diplomats have reported in recent months that the Iranian economy was ailing, and that it would only get worse from here.
But the ailing economy does not influence the centrifuges in Natanz and Fordo. The nuclear facilities do not stop, even during nuclear talks with the West. These talks have so far done nothing more than add stamps to participants' passports: Geneva, Vienna, Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow have been the destinations over the last three years. Plenty of trips and meetings, but "no results" as was reported in the French weekly L'Express.
"[Russian President] Vladimir Putin has no interest in resolving the Iranian issue," one French diplomat involved in the talks was quoted as saying. Perhaps that is why after the latest round of talks between Iran and Western powers in Moscow, the world decided to stop lying to us about the talks' potential. "The talks have been productive" we were told after Istanbul (in March) and Baghdad (in May), but after Moscow they were finally called a "failure."
David Ignatius, a senior columnist for The Washington Post, believes that the technical nuclear talks held in Istanbul on Wednesday will fall apart. The gap between the two sides is too wide to be bridged. Iran has no intention of giving up uranium enrichment, or relocating its already enriched uranium to another country or decommissioning the nuclear facility in Fordo — the West's main demands.
This week, Iranian parliament members urged their government to take a stronger stance against the West, to punish the U.S. and its allies and to withdraw from the nuclear proliferation treaty, thus severing its cooperation with the IAEA. All of which, according to Ignatius, could expedite a possible U.S. military response.
On Tuesday it was reported that U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf were reinforced.The increased U.S. presence was one of the reason for Iran's missile show. What Iran didn't put on display, and no less dangerous, are the centrifuges that continue to spin. Because while we've been busy with our own internal affairs, this is what has been going on in Iran.
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