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Iran’s Nuclear Capacity: The Forgotten Issue of the 2012 Election

by Ben Seidman | University of Michigan

F Posted in: Election 2012, News and Politics P Posted on: September 10, 2012
Iran nuclear readiness Image courtesy of flickr, _Skender_

As jobs and the economy have taken center stage in the current presidential election cycle, a foreign policy issue with the potential to impact the race in November is heating up. A report recently released by the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iran would soon have nuclear capability, information that will impact the country’s relations with its neighbors in the Middle East, as well as with the United States and other world powers.

Iran has installed 75 percent of the centrifuges needed to fully enrich uranium and build nuclear weapons, according to the IAEA. The report outlines in great detail how Iran has managed to increase its production of centrifuges by twofold over the summer in a lair deep underneath a mountain near the city of Qum.

The report comes in the wake of a proclamation by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that Iran had installed 1,000 centrifuges. This has confirmed suspicions of a massive Iranian nuclear overhaul in past months and raised questions about Iran’s true intentions.

The debate over how to deal with the newly disclosed data and the affect it may have on the response both in the Middle East and the U.S. again comes to the forefront. The Israelis, spearheaded by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have expressed outright their inclination towards military action in this precarious situation, given that the Iranians are so close to having nuclear weapons at their disposal only 500 miles away from Israeli borders.

Fordow is the name that Iran has given to its nuclear facility, the site of a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps base, buried in the depths of the earth.

“They have been very strategic about it,” one senior American official told the New York Times hours before the report was made public. “They are creating a tremendous production capability, but they are not yet using it. That gives them leverage, but they think it also stops short of creating the pretext for an attack.”

Regardless, statistics will demonstrate that the amount of centrifuges has climbed from a mere 1,064 to 2,140 in the last quarter, doubling their capability and means of production. However, Iran has stuck by its stance that they are enriching the uranium at only 20 percent, made for medical and cancer purposes.

The report also confirmed that Iran has cleansed another area where they have been suspected of performing nuclear experiments, undertaking “significant groundscaping and landscaping.”

“That’s as close as the agency is going to get in saying that the Iranians are cleaning up suspicious activity,” one diplomat told The New York Times.

President Obama has been firmly against taking military action against Iran, frustrating Israeli government officials. In 2008, Obama said he would follow in the cautious footsteps of former President John F. Kennedy, saying, “Strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries.”

Meanwhile, Obama’s opponent Mitt Romney has expressed a more forceful approach towards Iran, prompting Vice President Joe Biden to claim that Romney would in fact wage war on Iran given the opportunity as president.

However, Romney has yet to outright offer a drastically different policy on Iran than Obama’s present strategy. Nevertheless, in a July interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Romney did state, “A military option is one which would be available to the president of the United States.”

Romney has tried to paint Obama’s policies on Iran as a failure of his presidency. In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney said, “On another front, every American is less secure today because he has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat. In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We are still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning.”

Romney also said Obama “has thrown allies like Israel under the bus.”

Samuel Birnbaum, a senior at the University of Michigan who worked in Washington D.C. at the Center for Strategic in International Studies this past summer, shared his thoughts on the current situation in Iran.

“I don’t think there’s any question that Iran is aspiring to a bomb,” Birnbaum said. “They have enriched uranium well beyond levels needed for medical research. Iran’s been able to manipulate their situation in a unique way: they signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (which gives them a moral status), but continue to conduct research and enrich uranium.”

Birnbaum added that at one point or another Iran will gain the material needed to produce a bomb; it’s just a matter of when, he said. While Birnbaum is afraid for our future, he is most concerned with instability in the Middle East, the threat it poses to Israel, and the potential outcome of Iranian action.

Despite its potential for a crisis in the region, talk of Iran on the campaign trail has been minimal, leaving many wondering how this crucial issue will play out in the coming months.

“I believe that a nuclear armed Iran poses a real, legitimate threat to middle eastern stability and Israeli security,” Blake Simon, a senior at the University of Michigan, said. “Furthermore, there has been a shameful ignorance concerning the events taking place in Syria. There is ample evidence that suggests Iran is directly funding and supplying government campaigns designed to murder thousands of innocent men women and children. These are real, pressing international issues that must be addressed during the campaign. It is important for the American people to know each candidates plan of action.”

The situation in Iran is pressing for the nation’s younger generations, who will look to the presidential candidates for their take on the situation as November inches closer.

Ben Seidman Ben Seidman Ben was born and raised on the streets of New York City. Writing is his passion. Keeping people informed about what is going on in the world is his job. Go Blue!

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