Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s announcement Wednesday that his country is dramatically closer to producing nuclear fuel is just a high-stakes publicity stunt, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Judith Miller told Newsmax.TV.
Actually, the device is nothing more than a “homemade” fuel rod, Miller said.
“I think he had what we’re regarding as a photo opportunity, which is president Ahmadinejad inserted a homemade nuclear fuel rod into the Tehran Research Reactor, which is supposedly dedicated to making medical isotopes to treat cancer patients,” Miller said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.
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“The fact of the matter is that was done almost a month ago, so the event today being broadcast is being regarded as kind of a publicity stunt and a way of calling attention to Iran’s continuing achievements in the nuclear front,” said Miller, who left The New York Times Washington bureau in 2005 and now is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
“It’s a form of defiance of the West that is meant to send the signal that Iran will not stop its nuclear progress. And, of course, it’s also a photo opportunity that is aimed at providing evidence of Iran’s ‘peaceful’ intentions,” added Miller, who is also a Newsmax contributor.
In a live TV broadcast, Ahmadinejad was shown overseeing what was described as the first Iranian-made fuel rod being inserted into the northern Tehran reactor.
“Most people are not taking this development very seriously,” Miller explained. “They point out that the Tehran Research Reactor is under IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] or international safeguards, and inspectors are crawling all over that facility.”
Meanwhile, the semi-official Fars news agency reported that a "new generation" of Iranian centrifuges, used to enrich uranium toward nuclear fuel, have gone into operation at the country's main enrichment facility at Natanz in central Iran, which Miller views as considerably more worrisome.
“That installation too is under IAEA safeguards, but there’s always the concern that Iran could break out of its IAEA commitments and go for a bomb,” she said. “So we’re not quite sure how much of a new development this really is. Iran says it has 3,000 of these new generation of centrifuges installed.”
There is considerable concern about a possible escalation of the rhetoric, Miller said.
“I think everyone is very concerned about the outbreak of a new war,” she said. “Clearly all eyes are on Israel. There is some concern at this point — enormous and growing concern — that the Israelis might do something to try and do more than they’re already doing to degrade or defer Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”
Miller added that the sanctions against Iran are “really beginning to hurt” the rogue nation’s economy.
“The Iranian currency is now half of its former value,” she said. “The sanctions that already are being enacted are really hurting the consumer and hurting the economy.”
She predicted that the European Union’s decision not to import Iranian oil after July will “really be a further burden” to the Iranians and that the country is worried about a growing determination by the West to slow Iran’s nuclear aspirations.
Iran also indicated that it is on the verge of imposing a midwinter fuel squeeze on Europe in retaliation for the looming boycott of Iranian oil but denied reports earlier Wednesday that six European nations already had been cut off.
Iran has accused Israel of being behind clandestine attacks that have claimed the lives of at least five members of Iran's scientific community in the past two years, including a "sticky" bomb blast that killed a director at the Natanz labs last month.
“That’s the kind of game that Iran is now engaged in playing,” Miller said. “We have many different kinds of confrontations going on in the region. There is clearly a covert war going on. It is presumed that it’s Israel and perhaps others — perhaps the United States — are introducing cyber viruses like Stuxnet [cyber weapon] to slow down the spinning of the centrifuges. Five Iranian scientists have been killed. The United States has denied involvement in that, but Israel has maintained a diplomatic silence.”
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