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The most recent move in Iran's nuclear checkers game came yesterday. Iran said it would not comply with a demand by the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop work on a once-secret nuclear fuel enrichment plant, and escalated the confrontation by declaring it would construct 10 more such plants.
Jon Leyne, a Tehran correspondent for the BBC, says Iran's proposed nuclear expansion program would enable Iran to produce 300 metric tons of enriched uranium a year, a huge increase from the 1 metric ton it produced last year.
While many are skeptical whether Iran can actually carry out this huge expansion, the real point is the political message this sends, says Leyne, both to the West and also domestically, to the many critics of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"I think basically this is a very challenging move by the Iranians," said Leyne. "It's clear Mr. Ahmadinejad, I think partly because of the political problems he's been in since the disputed presidential election in the summer, is finally coming down on the side of using the nuclear issue to try and consolidate his power in Iran; to using it against his domestic opponents above all, but also then a by-produce of that is a confrontation with the outside world."
Iran is already under a lot of pressure from economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the United States, but Leyne believes military action will become an option.
"I think indelibly, people will start talking about military action. I've talked to some insiders in Washington who now firmly believe that some sort of attack from the Israelis is becoming more and more likely."
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