Iran's Boast: We Have 3,000 Active Uranium-Enriching Centrifuges
Iran's Boast: We Have 3,000 Active Uranium-Enriching Centrifuges

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bragged that his country's nuclear program is "irreversible," in a nationally-televised speech on Wednesday.

"Today, we've reached 3,000 centrifuges," he said - two months after announcing that his country had "more than 3,000 centrifuges working... with more being installed every week."  Maariv's NRG website reports that the latest reference is to "full-time" activation of the centrifuges

Israel's mini-cabinet convened Wednesday morning to discuss the upcoming report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and how to counter it.  The IAEA report is expected to conclude that diplomatic activity is still the strategy of choice to fight Iran's nuclear plans.  If the IAEA so concludes, the UN Security Council is expected to wait over four months before imposing further sanctions on Iran.

The eight members of the Israeli ministerial forum are attempting to formulate a campaign to convince the UN not to accept IAEA chief Mohammed El-Baradei's approach. 

Minister of Strategic Threats Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu/Israel Our Home) has said that Al-Baradei's approach "arouses many question marks regarding his intentions and whether he truly desires to deal with Iran's race for nuclear armament."  Foreign Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramovitch was more blunt: "Instead of overseeing to ensure that Iran does not receive nuclear powers, he allows the Iranians to stall for time.  Deep inside him, Al-Baradei identifies personally with the Iranians."

Lieberman says Israel has a variety of non-military options, "such as using the internet, which is widely used in Iran, to appeal directly to the Iranian public to convince their leaders to stop before it is too late."

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told Foreign Ministers from the European Union this week that tougher sanctions are necessary: "The way to stop Iran is via stronger and more significant sanctions, seeing as we have not been able to stop them via diplomatic contacts."

Uranium Enrichment

Iran's centrifuges are used to enrich uranium, which can then, after further processing, provide material for nuclear bombs.  The IAEA confirmed in August that Iran had 12 cascades of 164 centrifuges, for a total of 1,968, running simultaneously to enrich uranium, in addition to hundreds more under construction or being tested.  They are located at an underground nuclear facility at Natanz in central Iran.

Experts differ as to how close Iran actually is to full nuclear capabilities.  Some Western experts say that 3,000 centrifuges operating at optimum conditions for a year could produce enough uranium for an atom bomb. 

Western Sanctions

The U.S. has been pressuring other Western nations to impose a new round of sanctions against Iran.  Ahmadinejad recently warned European countries not to do so.  Just this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted that she would support tougher sanctions on Iran.  Just days before she is to visit the U.S., Merkel told an audience in Berlin that she felt a moral duty to protect Israel and would stand firm in the face of Iran's nuclear ambitions and its threats to erase Israel.