Ahmadinejad proclaims Iran a “nuclear state”– again

Maybe it’s just the contrarian in me, but the more often Ahmadinejad proclaims– as if it’s something new– that Iran is a “nuclear state,” and the more often the media report it as some sort of startling revelation, the more skeptical I become about the Islamic Republic’s progress toward nuclear weapons.

Has anyone ever bothered to track these boasts from Iranian officials over the years about their nuclear achievements to see if they have any scientific coherence?

In fact The Washington Post reported this week:

Iran is experiencing surprising setbacks in its efforts to enrich uranium, according to new assessments that suggest that equipment failures and other difficulties could undermine that nation’s plans for dramatically scaling up its nuclear program.

Former U.S. officials and independent nuclear experts say continued technical problems could also delay — though probably not halt — Iran’s march toward achieving nuclear-weapons capability, giving the United States and its allies more time to press for a diplomatic solution. In recent months, Israeli officials have been less vocal in their demands that Western nations curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

…U.N. reports over the last year have shown a drop in production at Iran’s main uranium enrichment plant, near the city of Natanz. Now a new assessment, based on three years of internal data from U.N. nuclear inspections, suggests that Iran’s mechanical woes are deeper than previously known. At least through the end of 2009, the Natanz plant appears to have performed so poorly that sabotage cannot be ruled out as an explanation, according to a draft study by David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). A copy of the report was provided to The Washington Post.

Which isn’t to say that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are imaginary by any means. But perhaps, just perhaps, President Obama shouldn’t be in a rush to take Daniel Pipes’s friendly (?) advice.

Ahmadinejad made his latest “nuclear state” declaration at the official celebration of 22 Bahman (the anniversary of the Islamic Repulic) on Thursday. As you can see, the crowds bussed into Tehran from around the country were enthralled and rapturous at the news:

Excitement was also a a fever pitch among the masses that turned out for the government celebration in the city of Tabriz (population 1.4 million):

I suspect the efforts to boost the turnout in Tehran rather depleted the government celebrations in other cities.

And despite enormous efforts to thwart opposition protests, the Green movement managed to make its presence felt. Surely if people had been free to organize and demonstrate, the anti-government protests would have dwarfed the official celebrations. If the only way the regime can achieve a “victory” over the opposition is through sheer repressive force, it still has plenty to worry about. In new and different ways, the struggle will continue.

(Hat tip: Judeosphere and Potkin)