- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
Following last week’s harsh rebuke from the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, including the U.S., Russia, and China, Iran responded by publicly announcing plans on Sunday to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities. The Iranian leadership did not attempt to hide the fact that this decision was retaliation for the IAEA’s resolution. Vice President Salehi explained the decision by sayin Iran “had no intention of building many facilities like the Natanz site, but apparently the West doesn’t want to understand Iran’s peaceful message.”
There’s only one problem with all this bluster: there doesn’t seem to be any practical way for Iran to actually build the new enrichment plants. “There’s no way,” David Albright, the head of the Institute for Science and International Security, was quoted as telling Haaretz. “They have sanctions to overcome, they have technical problems. They have to buy things overseas…and increasingly it’s all illegal.”
It’s hard to fathom why Iran would make a threat that nonproliferation experts and foreign heads of state know they are unable to follow through on, unless they really are trying to pressure the United States to impose a new round of economic sanctions on their country. Could the leadership of the Islamic Republic, which constructed its legitimacy around opposition to the United States, actually feel more secure if the West abandons its previous attempts at engagement and adopts a more confrontational stance?
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