By: Y. Mansharof
On April 10, 2007, after several postponements, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered his long-promised message "that will gladden all Muslims" at Iran's Nuclear Day festivities.  During the day's main rally, held at the nuclear facility at Natanz, Ahmadinejad said that Iran was now manufacturing nuclear fuel on an industrial scale. 
At this stage, senior Iranian nuclear program officials are not saying exactly how many centrifuges are operating at Natanz, apparently out of fear of a possible military attack by the West.  At the same time, both senior officials and the Iranian media are stressing the importance of this accomplishment, and that it marks the point of no return in Iran's nuclearization process.
With this announcement, the Iranian regime is apparently trying to achieve two aims. The first is to announce its nuclear progress despite U.N. sanctions and international pressure, and thus to deter a possible attack on its nuclear facilities. The second is to reduce domestic criticism following the increase in Western pressures and sanctions. 
The following are excerpts from Ahmadinejad's April 10 speech and from statements by other senior Iranian officials, as well as from the Iranian press, on the issue.
Ahmadinejad: Iran Now Producing Nuclear Fuel on an Industrial Scale
"I declare today, in all pride, that from this day, Iran is among the countries producing nuclear fuel on an [industrial] scale... Today, Iran's enemies are embarrassed by Iran's progress in various areas... According to a pre-set program, the Iranian government is determined to produce at least 20,000 megawatts of nuclear electricity according to a specific timetable... We warmly shake the hands of all governments interested in holding talks with us and in cooperating with us in this area.
"I [address] the governments that have so far refused to come to terms with today's reality and with the Iranian people's right [to develop nuclear technology], and demand that they stop acting aggressively, illogically, hostilely, and in violation [of the law] towards Iran. [They had better] know that every member of the Iranian people stands fast behind its leaders, out of knowledge, faith, and absolute unity, and [that the Iranian people] will defend its right to the end... The [Western countries] should know that the path of the progress of the Iranian people is irreversible... They must pay attention, and do nothing to cause this brave and great people to reconsider the way it deals with them. [Western countries] have tried this [hostile] approach several times, and have seen that this [Iranian] people is capable of [reconsidering its approach towards them]..." 
Larijani: We Are Rapidly Advancing Towards 54,000 Centrifuges
In an interview with the Iranian daily Kayhan, which is identified with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani, who is in charge of Iran's nuclear dossier, confirmed that UF6 gas had been injected into centrifuges installed in the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. He said, "[The Western countries] must in any event accept a nuclear Iran... We are moving vigorously along the path of obtaining... 54,000 centrifuges... The sanctions against us [UNSC Resolution 1747] have had no effect, and will have no effect, on our movement towards this goal [in the future]..." 
Larijani also noted that the purpose of the nuclear program could change. He said, "We are not interested in such a thing taking place, but when we encounter the ill temper and exaggerations of [the West,] we are pressured by the Majlis, and could make different decisions." 
With regard to the number of centrifuges at Natanz, Larijani said, "The number of centrifuges doesn't matter. But we have a work output of 3,000 centrifuges. This level and above is considered industrial..." 
Aghazadeh: We Are Aiming to Operate 50,000 Centrifuges
Iranian Atomic Energy Organization director Gholam Reza Aghazadeh also refused to indicate the precise number of centrifuges operating in Natanz. He said, "Iran's program is not to install and operate only 3,000 centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities, but 50,000... We planned and invested for [the installation of] 50,000 centrifuges. The infrastructure that has been established - including equipment for air filtering, electricity, a new air supply, and everything required for this industry - was for 50,000 centrifuges... I intentionally did not indicate any number [in my speech at the Natanz celebrations]... because I wanted no misunderstandings in the foreign media, [and I did not want] them to think that Iran's [nuclear program] included [only] 3,000 centrifuges...
"[The situation is] quite the opposite. As we enter the industrial stage, the installation of the centrifuges will be carried out on an ongoing basis, until all 50,000 [centrifuges] are installed... Our declaration that we have entered the stage [of producing nuclear fuel] on an industrial [scale means] that there is no turning back." 
At the Natanz celebrations, Aghazadeh stressed that "despite the commitments we have received from [various] countries, no expert or [external] company has stood by us... but despite these challenges, obstacles, and problems, Iran was determined to realize, by means of its creative young people, its nuclear program - which includes peaceful purposes, with the first priority being to produce a nuclear fuel cycle as supreme science in nuclear technology... and in the past year our young scientists have managed to produce 270 tons of UF6.
"Not long ago, [producing] this important substance was far from the imagination of our country's nuclear researchers and scientists. But finally, we managed to attain [enrichment of] uranium, at [a level of] 3.5% to 5%... Now, as we enter mass production of centrifuges and begin to produce [nuclear fuel] on an industrial [scale], we are taking one more step towards the flowering of Iran..." 
Aghazadeh also pointed out, "Now that Iran has entered into production of nuclear fuel on an industrial [scale], there will be no limit on the production of nuclear fuel in Iran... This is the accomplishment of some 3,000 expert scientists and the best of the forces that worked in the past year night and day at the Natanz facility." 
Kayhan Editor: Only One More Step to Nuclear Fuel Production
In an April 10 lecture on the current state of Iran's nuclear dossier to students and lecturers at Babol University for the Medical Sciences in Mazandaran, Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Kayhan daily which is close to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said, "A country that has attained the knowledge and technology of uranium enrichment is only one step away from producing nuclear weapons. This [additional] step is not a scientific or a technical step, but a matter of political decision. But Iran announced several times that it would never produce nuclear weapons..." Shariatmadari added that Iran had decided to install at least 60,000 centrifuges. 
Kayhan: "The West Must Expect a Shock from Iran at Any Moment"
In an April 10, 2007 editorial headlined "Strategy of Ambiguity," Kayhan noted that since Iran had reached the point of no return in its nuclear program, it could shape its nuclear program in accordance with its political aspirations. The paper said that Iran was now acting far from the eyes of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and that this will enable it to surprise the West - which should at any moment expect an earthshaking announcement from Iran. The following are the main points of the editorial:
"Yesterday, Iran crossed the nuclear point of no return. Now it is for all practical purposes a nuclear state, and in light of this reality, its name should carry a different weight [than in the past] in any kind of regional or super-regional security balance... From now on, Iran is freed from technical limitations, and can choose the goals of its nuclear program.
"We will see in which [direction] Iran's political aspiration will incline. If Iran is subjected to threats, and others want to act [against it] illegally, the direction its desire will take is clear. If it is treated without rules and laws - which is what is actually happening - Iran will have a different aspiration [than it has today]... What is important is that Iran now has the backing it needs in order to choose any direction it wants.
"The event yesterday at Natanz sent a crystal-clear message to the West: the path you are following is mistaken... Iran is following two paths: one, the path of rapid progress in its technical work, and two, the gradual reduction of the IAEA's access to its nuclear facilities...
"Under the current threatening and unjust conditions, Iran has decided to employ a strategy of ambiguity. Since Iran's nuclear dossier was illegally returned to the U.N. Security Council, the eyes of the IAEA - the intelligence agency of the West - are finding it more difficult every day [to monitor Iran's activities]. When [the IAEA] reported on [Iran's nuclear dossier] to the Security Council last winter, Iran announced that it would no longer be implementing the Additional Protocol. A few months later, when sanctions resolution 1737 was issued, Iran began to install 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz... When sanctions resolution 1747 was passed, Iran further reduced IAEA access [to its nuclear facilities] by stopping the implementation of the agreements connected to the 'Safeguards Agreement.'
"Now, when less than 15 days of the two-month extension given to Iran under 1747 remain, Iran celebrates its entrance into the club of the [countries] producing nuclear fuel on an industrial [scale]. The path is completely clear... From now on, Westerners must expect a shock from Iran at any moment. It is true that our hands are tied in the Security Council, and that we have no great ability to restrain their [i.e. the West's] aggression. But the Westerners must not forget that Iran's hands are completely free in its nuclear facilities, and that any sanctions resolution in New York... accelerates our technological progress at Natanz. The new surprise has begun...
"According to [Iran's] obligations under the agreement [with the IAEA], it is required to inform the IAEA only 180 days before bringing nuclear material into its facilities. That is, Iran... can patiently plan and build the facilities it wants, and inform the IAEA [only] when the work is finished. True, under the 'Safeguards Agreement,' (known as Section 3.1), any country that recognizes [the agreement] must inform the IAEA about its nuclear facilities as soon as it begins construction (not [180 days] before the facility begins operation). But Iran - which implemented this agreement since May 2003 - announced following sanctions resolution 1747 that it would stop [abiding by Section 3.1]... This is precisely the strategy of ambiguity." 
In another editorial, published April 11, 2007 and headlined "Duel with an Unloaded Gun," Kayhan said, "Now America has expended all the bullets in its clip. Now, it is Iran that will decide, in the face of the shocked world, on the 'news' and the 'event' with which it will strike the superpowers at their weak points and their Achilles heel. Iran still has great wisdom in its clip - and each bullet of wisdom prepares the ground for new opportunities, and makes Iran's hands more skilled... America is now dealing with the deadly hail of Iran's wisdom..." 
Resalat: Iran Has Become an Influential Force on a Global Scale
An article published April 11, 2007 by the conservative daily Resalat stressed that Iran's entrance into the club of countries producing nuclear fuel on an industrial scale had been attained by relying solely on domestic capabilities. It also stated that the West was helpless in the face of this achievement, and that whether it continued to object to Iran's nuclearization or recognized its right to do so, Iran had won. The following are the main points of the article:
"On the day of the nuclear celebrations, Iran took another [significant] step on the path to the country's progress and flowering. With the beginning of the production of nuclear fuel on an industrial [scale], Iran has joined the limited group of countries that [possess this capability]. When it declared that it was producing nuclear fuel on an industrial [scale], Iran reached the point of no return of nuclear technology, and today we are recognized as an influential power in the regional and world balance.
"The phenomenal progress of Iran's scientists in producing nuclear fuel and in injecting [UF6] gas into 3,000 centrifuges is significant... because no foreign country or organization helped Iran in the slightest, and because Iran's nuclear technology is completely domestic...
"Now, in light of their progress, which brings pride to the sons of the Iranian people, the powers of arrogance [i.e. the West, headed by the U.S.] stand before two paths: Either they continue on the path of their hostility towards Iran - and if they do, they will make the Iranian people determined to conquer the highest peaks of science - or they officially recognize the legal right of the Iranian people, and stop being stubborn. In either case, victory will be with the great Iranian people... Our experience with the difficulties raised by Russia in operating the Bushehr nuclear reactor, and its failure to send nuclear fuel to this reactor, have proven that others cannot be trusted..." 
Tehran Times Editor: Recognize Iran's Nuclear Rights - Or "The World Will Again Witness the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons"
In an article in the Iranian daily Tehran Times, which is identified with Iran's Foreign Ministry, Pervez Ismaili, who is also the editor-in-chief of the conservative Iranian news agency Mehr, stated that the West must recognize Iran's nuclear rights, because Iran had reached the point of no return in its nuclear program. The following are the main points of the article, in the original English:
"...What happened in Iran on Monday provides a great opportunity for the international community. In the current situation, particularly since the 1990s, all nuclear tensions are focused on the idea that there is only a short distance between attaining the expertise required for gaining access to the complete nuclear fuel cycle to produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes and using that ability to produce nuclear weapons…
"However, the West's severe reaction to Iran's transparent nuclear measures will certainly encourage developing countries to limit transparency or even to establish secret underground installations and eventually withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in order to maintain their national interests… If the international community fails to resolve the current crisis as soon as possible by accepting Iran's model, the world will again witness the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the near future, regardless of the outcome of the confrontation with Iran…" 
* Y. Mansharof is a research fellow at MEMRI.