Iran talks openly about testing a nuclear bomb

A bizarre article on a Revolutionary Guard website breaks a taboo by anticipating the impact of an Iranian bomb
Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards march during a military parade in Tehran

Any mention of an Iranian nuclear weapon is taboo in the Islamic Republic, which insists that its nuclear programme is entirely for peaceful, civil purposes. So it is remarkable, to say the least, that an article has appeared on the Gerdab website, run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, anticipating the day after Iran’s first test of a nuclear warhead. Here is a translation of the text:

The day after Iran’s first nuclear test is a normal day.

The day after Islamic Republic of Iran’s first nuclear test will be an ordinary day for us Iranians but in the eyes of some of us there will be a new sparkle.

It’s a good day. It’s seven in the morning. The sun is not fully up yet but everywhere is bright. In the northern hemisphere many countries are beginning the day…

The day before, probably in central deserts of Iran, where once Americans and some other Western countries wanted to bury their nuclear waste, an underground nuclear explosion has taken place. The strength of the explosion was not so great as to cause severe damage to the region nor so weak that Iranian scientists face any problems in running their tests.

Today is a normal day like any other. Like 90% of the year, there is news about Iran, and these are the headlines which can be seen on foreign news sites:

Reuters: Iran detonated its nuclear bomb

CNN: Iran detonated nuclear bomb

Al-Jazeera: The second Islamic nuclear bomb was tested

Al-Arabia: The Shia nuclear bomb was tested

Yahoo! News: Nuclear explosion in Iran

Jerusalem Post: Mullahs obtained nuclear weapon

Washington Post: Nuclear explosion in Iran, Shock and despair in Tel Aviv

Meanwhile, the domestic media will offer many congratulations to the Hidden Imam and the Supreme Leader:

Keyhan: Iran’s first nuclear bomb was tested

Jomhoori-e-eslami: Iran successfully carried out a nuclear test

Iran: By order of the president, Iran’s 100% homemade nuclear bomb was tested

Ettela’at: Iran’s much anticipated nuclear bomb exploded

This strange, hypothetical, article, which first appeared on April 24, hammers home again and again the message that an Iranian nuclear test will not lead to disaster. On the contrary, life will go as before except that Iranians will feel better about themselves.

The news commotion will not knock life in Iran off balance. Civil servants will punch in at work on time as always, while some will be late as always. …The day after the Islamic Republic of Iran’s first nuclear test will be an ordinary day for us Iranians but in the eyes of some of us there will be a new sparkle. A sparkle of national pride and strength.

This has the look of a kite being flown, but for whom? It could be intended to get Iranians used to the idea of a nuclear test, and less fearful of international reaction. It could be a gesture of defiance to the world by hardline elements – according to independent experts, Gerdab is run by the Revolutionary Guards’ cyber defence command, which is presumably still smarting from the Stuxnet attack. Opposition websites describe it as an enforcement tool for the regime, identifying and threatening independent bloggers inside Iran.

The article comes during a period when Tehran’s official stance is particularly defiant and assertive, announcing today that it will triple its production of 20% enriched uranium and shift it to the underground Fordow site, near Qom.

Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli expert on the Tehran regime currently lecturing in Colombia, described the Gerdab article as “unbelievable”.

I have never seen anything like this report. It’s breaking a major taboo. For now we have to treat it as a one off. However if this report is followed by others similar to it, then it would signify a major change in the way Iran refers to its nuclear program. It would mean that Iran has decided to use the idea of a nuclear bomb as a deterrence against further sanctions and the possibility of a military attack by the West. It could also be a tool for the regime to boost its waning popularity at home.

Such a change could prove to be very damaging in the short and long term, as it would be a significant boost for western efforts to isolate Iran and to consolidate the international consensus against the Islamic Republic and its nuclear program. Such isolation and deteriorating economic situation could be more damaging to the regime’s top priority, which is its survival, than a military attack by the West.