On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cheerfully announced in a televised speech that Iran has now joined the club of countries with "industrial-level" nuclear enrichment -- confirming that Iran has begun enriching uranium with 3,000 centrifuges.
Exactly a year ago, Monday, Iran revealed they had 164 centrifuges. Until Monday they were believed to have increased that number only to 328. Experts explain that when the number of operational centrifuges reaches about 50,000, they can build nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad went on to brag that world powers cannot stop Iran's nuclear drive, and that his country's atomic program is on its way "to the summit" -- where, presumably, one would find something more than a peaceful nuclear electricity plant.
I might add, when, a year ago, I and others expressed alarm at the 164 centrifuges Iran had then developed, I was told by a number of experts that due to the remarkably complex and sensitive nature of the technology of integrating centrifuges, it was much harder, technically, to move from a couple hundred to several thousand. Apparently, now a year later, that formidable technical challenge has been surmounted.
Keep in mind, the CIA's assessment -- last year -- that Iran was five to 10 years away from being able to develop nuclear weapons presumably based that guess, at least in part, on the experts' expectation that moving from hundreds to thousands of centrifuges was more formidable than it turned out to be.
Adding piquancy to Ahmadinejad's disturbing announcement, the [Iranian] Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani further threatened: "If they [world powers] continue to pressure Iran over its peaceful nuclear activities we have no other choice but to follow parliament's order and review our membership of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty."
Following the release of this news Monday, the hot big news stories on cable that afternoon were: Don Imus's apology for saying rude things about a college women's basketball team, a shooting at an office building in Troy, N.Y., President Bush's umpteenth announcement that he really does want to pass a "comprehensive" immigration bill this year, and the late spring snow storm in the Midwest and Northeast last weekend. I guess Iran advancing surprisingly quickly toward a nuclear capacity didn't make the newsiness cut.
Further, and curiously, on Monday, the world price of oil went down $2.77, described on the business news due to "reduced tensions" between Iran and the West after the release of the British hostages. In other words, millions of worldwide investor decisions judged the news of Iran's nuclear development to not be increasing tensions.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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