Iran approved plans Sunday to build 10 industrial scale uranium enrichment facilities, a dramatic expansion of the program in defiance of U.N. demands that it halt enrichment.
The fear is that enriched uranium could be used to build nuclear weapons, which could, in turn, be used against Israel.
The decision comes only days after the International Atomic Energy Agency censured Iran over its nuclear program and demanded it halt the construction of a newly revealed enrichment facility near the city of Qom.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband rightly labeled Iran’s response to the vote “a provocation.”
The IAEA vote was especially significant since China and Russia, which normally drag their feet on measures to curb Iran’s nuclear program, sided with the United States and Europe this time.
A lot the Iranian government cares.
Not only did it announce a dangerous expansion of its uranium enrichment efforts, at a time when China and France had offered to enrich uranium for Iran for peaceful purposes, but Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, on Sunday, threatened to reduce his country’s cooperation with the IAEA. Whether Larijani speaks for Iran’s clerics — the true rulers of that country — is not clear.
What is clear is that Iran is prepared to play hardball to move its nuclear program forward. At long last, Pennsylvania has a 95 mph fastball to pitch in this game.
Last week, The Chronicle reported that divesting public funds of companies investing in Iran and Sudan would impact $692 million in holdings from three public pension funds and the state Treasury.
That alone wouldn’t faze Iran, but taken together with divestment campaigns around the country it could have a sizable impact.
House Bill 1821, which proposes the divestment, is scheduled to come up for its final vote on Monday. We urge all House members to support it. A companion bill is pending in the Senate.
Divestment is not a pain-free process. It will cost the state about $5 million to divest its Public School Employee Retirement Fund, State Employee Retirement Fund, the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement Fund and the Treasury, from companies that deal with Iran.
Each company in the funds must be examined for improper business activity. They must be informed of the pending divestment and given a chance to end their business with Iran themselves.
Even after all that happens, all companies with which the state continues to invest must be monitored regularly for as long as the law is on the books, just in case new business activity with Iran surfaces.
So divestment comes with a price tag. Is it worth it?
We say yes, and the state leaders we have interviewed thus far say so as well. Doing the right thing isn’t always free or easy. It must be done all the same.