December 22, 2011
Following Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s comments on Monday that Iran will have a nuclear weapon within a year and the U.S. will not rule out a military attack, Iran on Thursday announced it will hold a military exercise beyond the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. The exercise may place Iranian navy vessels within proximity of U.S. warships in the area.
“The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” Panetta said. “That’s a red line for us. And it’s a red line, obviously, for the Israelis.”
The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said Tuesday that the United States is capable of successfully attacking Iran. “My biggest worry is they [Iran] will miscalculate our resolve,” Dempsey said. “Any miscalculation could mean that we are drawn into conflict, and that would be a tragedy for the region and the world.”
According to the Associated Press, the announced Iranian exercise is Iran’s latest show of strength in the face of mounting international criticism over its controversial nuclear program.
Iran also announced on Thursday its envoy to the Vienna-based United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency will meet with the agency’s top nuclear inspector in the first week of January to arrange a visit to Iran as soon as possible. “As far as we are concerned his team can come as soon as they are ready,” said Ali Asghar Soltanieh.
In November, the IAEA Board of Governors critizied Iran following an IAEA report Iran had undertaken research and experiments geared to developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Panetta said on Monday the Iranians may be secretly enriching uranium for a nuclear weapon. His comments were clarified on Tuesday by Pentagon press secretary George Little who said Panetta’s comments should not be taken as a prediction that Iran would have a nuclear weapon within a year.
Little said that if the Iranians go from low grade uranium enrichment to higher grade uranium required for nuclear weapons, the IAEA would detect it. “We would retain sufficient time under any such scenario to take appropriate action,” he added.
The United States argues that Iran has violated the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty based on circumstantial evidence. Iran states it has a legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the NPT, and further says that it “has constantly complied with its obligations under the NPT and the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
In June, Ali Asghar Soltanieh made a remark at the closing of the second International Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation in the Iranian capital of Tehran. He said “that the Zionist regime (Israel) has nuclear weapons and that its denial of this fact was a major obstacle to a nuke-free world.”
“Since Israel is a not a member to any international [nuclear] treaties, serious action should be taken to achieve a WMD-free Middle East. Israel must join the NPT,” he explained.