- Iran's economic development depends on nuclear energy. Iran has the second largest natural gas and third largest oil reseves in the world.
- The United States seeks to form an OPEC-like cartel to control the supply of enriched uranium. Some 31 countries produce nuclear energy, but only 10 have uranium-enrichment facilities. Even if Iran develops such facilities, it would still depend on the outside world for raw uranium. Iran's own reserves are sufficient for the needs of a single nuclear plant for just seven years!
Further, just hours before the five permanent members of the United Nations' Security Council and Germany reached agreement on new sanctions against the Islamic Republic, the Khomeinist leadership came out with its strongest show of defiance yet when former Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati warned that under no circumstances would the Islamic Republic agree to suspend its uranium-enrichment program.
Khamenei has also shown clear support for Ahmadinejad's hard-line stance on this issue which dashes all hopes that the "supreme guide" might disown the firebrand and adopt a less confrontational posture at some point.
By now, it must be clear to everyone that the fear of seeing nuclear bombs in the hands of the Khomeinist regime is not just a U.S. invention. In the past two weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Premier Tony Blair and all three leading candidates in the French presidential campaign have made it clear that they would not allow the mullahs to get the bomb. Even Russia under Vladimir Putin and China under Hu Jintao, while trying to keep channels open, have refused to split the Security Council in order to please Ahmadinejad.
So just how acute is the problem with Iran? What is the likely outcome?
If rhetoric is to be believed, the collision is inevitable. Ahmadinejad has said that it would be “suicidal for a country to attack Iran,” adding that “we must not bend to threats.” The rhetoric from Washington has been equally tough, even as the diplomacy plays out in the United Nations.
That we’re moving toward a crisis isn’t just based on rhetoric. Actions have accompanied the tough language. The Iranians have developed long-range missiles and have a serious nuclear program, which the Israeli's are predicting will give Iran nuclear capability by 2008. The United States is gearing up its response capabilities. This has involved the deployment of additional naval strike forces and a higher-profile public-relations effort aimed at tying Iran to the difficulties inside Iraq.
Ultimately, this struggle will be played out as a test of wills of the competing sides: Iran’s determination to acquire nuclear weapons against Washington’s determination that they not get them.
With each passing month, as the Iranian program progresses, the U.S. comes closer to the military option.