A defiant yet indulgent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated a new phase in the Arak heavy-water reactor project dismissing global concerns of its controversial program but asserting that “Iran is not a threat to anybody.” Reiterating Iran’s position that “No one can deprive a nation of its rights based on its capabilities,” Ahmadinejad said that “not even the Zionist regime,” meaning Israel, is at risk with this project as it had no military use. Because the project is non-military in nature, it would be outside the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Iran has protected the complex with dozens of anti-aircraft guns and installed four-meter high barbed wire fence around it displaying fears of a preemptive strike by an extra-UN coalition force led by the US. Western nations have been very frustrated with Iran’s perceived attitude and intransigence and more with Russia and China for blocking every UN move to apply more pressure on Iran. This move to open a new phase in enrichment is yet another rebuff to the West and comes within a few days ahead of a UN deadline asking Iran to halt uranium enrichment.
While the heavy water plant itself is not of military significance, the plutonium by product that it generates can be used for making atomic warheads heightening fears of Iran developing a nuclear bomb. While
there is no direct evidence to suggest that it is developing one, there is
circumstantial evidence that it is. Besides, Iran has continued to be less than transparent in its nuclear ambitions; for example, it hid information that it bought clandestine nuclear weapons technology from disgrace Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, it said that the new heavy water project was under construction when it was already operational. The West fears that unlike North Korea which is economically bankrupt, a nuclear armed Iran, with 4th highest oil exports and one of the largest natural gas deposits and with a belligerent attitude can whip up religious fervor with impunity, disrupt trade, and debunk economic activity. Worse, if it gets away with it, this could become a formula that others can emulate and challenge the authority of the West, especially the US.