...Sounds like we've got shoo-in candidates for next year's awards in physics and medicine, thanks to the scientific community in Iran. That country's nut-job president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will reportedly unveil "giant achievements" in the coming days, according to the state-run Fars press agency. Fars reports that Iran will make a "dramatic announcement on its nuclear rights on 11 February, part of a series of statements heralding reported technological and medical breakthroughs, including an herbal AIDS cure.
Naturally, the nuclear announcement is drawing the most attention. There's been considerable speculation about what Iran may reveal. The most likely scenario is some sort of announcement hailing the expansion of Tehran's nuclear centrifuge arrays, used to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear power plants--or nuclear weapons. Iran is reportedly planning to increase the number of centrifuges in operation from less than 200 to more than 3,000--a dramatic expansion, but still well below the number required to produce enough HEU for bomb production over the next year. U.S. intelligence agencies still believe that Tehran is 3-4 years away from its first bomb, an estimate that is somewhat consistent with assessments from other experts.
Beyond announcing a centrifuge expansion, Iran may also use the nuclear statement to highlight increased nuclear cooperation with North Korea, or discuss its plans to develop a space launch vehicle (SLV) that could eventually yield an ICBM, capable of hitting targets in the CONUS. As with other Iranian announcements, this one will probably be more hype than substance. But, with its state-run media and the western press acting as little more than stenographers, Tehran can claim almost anything, with little challenge from those in the press.
Iran's claims--however far-fetched--are part of a broad propaganda campaign, designed to create the image of a modern, powerful state, with developing cutting-edge technology that allows it to challenge The Great Satan and Israel. Never mind that Ahmadinejad's so-called "super weapons" are nothing of the sort. As the Nazis demonstrated decades ago, lies repeated often enough are eventually accepted as the truth. The Nobel jurors for the physics prize may not be overly impressed, but Iran's claims will resonate with its target audience in the Middle East and beyond--the same folks who support suicide bombers, global jihad and believe that the U.S. secretly engineered the 9-11 attacks to launch a war against Muslims.
The AIDS "cure" sounds even more luidcrous, but once again, there's a method behind the apparent foolishness. Tehran is aware that President Bush's African AIDS Initiative has won support for the U.S. in a part of the world where Iran also seeks influence. Iran will almost certainly offer its "herbal cure" for free, with none of the scientific or accountability strings attached to western medical programs. And, to sweeten the deal, watch for Ahmadinejad to offer certain "incentives" (read: bribes) for African officials who sign on with the Iranian offer, in return for downsizing (or even rejecting) U.S.-led AIDS programs. Never mind that Tehran's "cure" is almost certainly ineffective. The goal here is regional influence, not healing the sick. If I were the Iranian researcher behind this "cure," I wouldn't make my reservations for Stockhold, at least not yet.
Domestically, Ahmadiejad's AIDS announcement offers a quick solution for one of his country's growing social and public health problems. As outlined in this 2005 report from FrontPage magazine, Iran has a growing number of people affected by the AIDS virus. While overall infection rates remain low (in comparison to the pandemic in southern Africa), Iran's AIDS problem was deemed serious enough to spur public education and needle exchange programs under Ahmadeinjad's predecessor. The pending announcment about a herbal "cure" suggests that the Iran will take a step backward in its efforts to deal with AIDS, trumpeting a quack remedy that will only mask the problem.
BTW, it will be interesting to watch the reaction to the Iranian announcement from AIDS activists in this country. Will they be willing to call it for what it is--a likely fraud--or demand that the FDA grant "fast track" approval for trials/use in the USA.