By Larry Derfner, Mideast Watch
Iran is claiming success on the test run of its first nuclear power plant, although the testing seems likely to hasten efforts by the United States and Israel to prevent Iran from going nuclear. In reaction to the test, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice repeated the administration's pledge to block Iran's nuclear ambitions via diplomacy, while Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whose country was far more comfortable with the Bush administration's confrontational approach, repeated his nation's vow not to take "any option off the table" to stop the nuclear threat. None of this background noise served to dampen Tehran's enthusiasm, the Qatar-based satellite TV station Al Jazeera reports:
The long-delayed reactor, in the southern port city of Bushehr, could come on line within [four to seven] months, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said on Wednesday.
"Today was one of the most important days for the Iranian nation," Aghazadeh said.
The Iranians, who insist that their nuclear ambitions are to create energy only, not bombs, add that their Natanz plant remains a long way from enriching enough uranium to provide the fuel necessary to make the Bushehr reactor fully operational.
"It's just a step towards the final implementation, which is still very long away. It doesn't mean that they are only a few buttons away," said Alireza Ronaghi, al Jazeera's correspondent in Iran.
"They have told us that they need at least 50,000 centrifuges at Natanz, and they only have 6,000," he said.
Obama's Withdrawal Plans Cause ' No Worries' for Iraqi Leader
In advance of President Barack Obama's announcement of a timeline for troop withdrawals from Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, said that he had "no worries." Khaleej Times, quoting Agence France Presse, reports:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday that his country was not worried by a US withdrawal, as President Barack Obama was set to announce a timeline for pulling out the troops.
'We have faith in our armed forces and our security services, to protect the country and consolidate security and stability,' Maliki said during talks with visiting Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed al-Sabah, according to a statement. 'We have no worries for Iraq if American troops pullout,' Maliki added.
Obama was due to reveal his timeline for withdrawing US troops from Iraq on Friday, and according to officials he is leaning towards 19-month pullout rather than the 16-month target he backed when campaigning.
3 R's for Obama in Dealing With Iran and Syria
With the Obama administration seeking diplomatic inroads with Iran and Syria—a stark departure from the approach of the Bush administration—Rami Khouri, one of the Arab world's leading liberal journalists, outlines in Lebanon's Daily Star a set of guidelines for success:
What can the Obama administration learn from the mistakes and failures of the Bush years? How can Iran and Syria also engage in more constructive diplomacy? I would suggest that three R's should define the manner in which the US, Iran and Syria re-engage with each other in the coming months and years, reversing the contentious legacy and failed policies of recent years: Respect, Reciprocity and Rights.
Respect is the most difficult of the three to implement because it is an intangible quality related to style as much as to substance. It means dealing with each other as equally legitimate negotiating partners rather than as dangerous deviants or genetic ogres. It also requires an end to Washington's insulting tendency to speak of Iran and Syria as criminals that have to prove their desire for rehabilitation in order to be allowed into the club of normal or civilized nations. The more the US in recent years has tried to pressure and threaten Damascus and Tehran, the more defiant these two ancient Middle Eastern power centers have become, without significantly changing their policies or rhetoric.