Iran Bellicose Ahead of Nuclear Talks
A top officer with Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said Monday that no country would dare attack Iran.
No country would dare attack Iran, a top officer in the country's elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) said on Monday, adding that Iranian forces planned to engage in more military drills in order to preserve their combat vigilance.
The comments by Mohammad Pakpour, the head of the IRGC's ground forces, came as Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost of the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet said earlier in the day that the U.S. Navy deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf.
The deployment of the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise along with the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group marks only the fourth time in the past decade that the Navy has had two aircraft carriers operating at the same time in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.
The two carriers will support the American military operations in Afghanistan and anti-piracy efforts off Somalia's coast and in the Gulf of Aden, she said.
The warships also patrol the Gulf's strategic oil routes that Iran has threatened to shut down in retaliation for economic sanctions slapped on the Islamic Republic because of its nuclear program.
The deployment and Iran's bellicose reaction came just days ahead of renewed nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – slated to begin in Istanbul on April 14.
Speaking to Iranian media on Monday, Pakpour referred to threats of possible military actions against Iran's nuclear program, saying: "No country dares to attack Iran."
The top Iranian official asserted that, following several recent extensive drills, Iranian forces were in full combat readiness, adding that the IRGC planned to stage numerous drills in the new [Iranian] year."
However, despite the rhetoric used by some in Iran's military, Iran's nuclear chief, speaking on Sunday, hinted that the Islamic Republic may offer a compromise ahead of nuclear talks with the West.
Over the weekend, Iran indicated it may be willing to reduce the amount of uranium it is enriching to 20%.
"Based on our needs and once the required fuel is obtained, we will decrease the production and we may even totally shift it to the 3.5%," state-run Press TV quoted Iranian nuclear chief Fereydoun Abbasi as saying in a televised interview.
Abbasi told Press TV that Iran does not plan to produce 20% enriched uranium for long.
Uranium enriched at 20% is typically used for hospital isotopes and research reactors, but is also a short-cut toward the 90% enrichment required to build nuclear weapons.
IAEA experts previously reported Iran's production of 20% enriched uranium is far greater than needed for peaceful purposes. They also note Iran's medical research sector is not sufficiently advanced to justify such production.
Analysts say Abbasi's comments may only be a starting point for negotiations as it is less accommodating than statements previously made by a key advisor to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Mohammad Javad Larijani said last month that the West should accept Iran's "peaceful nuclear program," sell Iran 20 percent enriched uranium, and provide the customary assistance nuclear nations provide to those building nuclear power plants.
In return for cooperation from the West Iran would offer "full transparency," Larijani said.
He did not say Iran would halt uranium enrichment – a key demand by Jerusalem and Washington to avoid military strikes – but observers say the stipulation that the West provide 20% enriched uranium indicates Iran is open to doing so.
Iran insists its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. However, in early March, the head of the IAEA said there were indications that Iran was engaged in the development of nuclear weapons.
"Iran is not telling us everything. That is my impression. We are asking Iran to engage with us proactively, and Iran has a case to answer," said IAEA director Yukiya Amano.
His remarks followed two recent IAEA reports that indicated Iran had sought - and likely continues to seek - nuclear technologies of a military nature.