United Nations, August 22, 20061:27 p.m., Tehran/5:57 a.m., New York: The sun is rising on Manhattan, home of the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations. On their website, the Mission made the case for Iran’s “peaceful nuclear program” prior to the passage of the UN’s anti-nuke resolution:

Iran ‘s peaceful nuclear program poses no threat to international peace and security, and therefore dealing with this issue by the Security Council is unwarranted and void of any legal basis. It also flouts the stated position of the overwhelming majority of the international community.

. . . The proposed resolution against the peaceful nuclear program of the Islamic Republic of Iran is explicitly aimed at depriving Iran of its inalienable rights enshrined in the NPT. It runs counter to the views of the majority of UN member states, which the Security Council is obliged to represent.

. . . If the path of confrontation is chosen instead of the path of negotiations and if any measure is taken to limit the inalienable rights of the Iranian nation, then there will remain no option for the Islamic Republic of Iran but to reconsider its nuclear policies. It must be underlined that Iran does not seek tension and confrontation, but if others create obstacles and a tense environment, all will be faced with difficulties.

The essential position has not changed since July — or even before July. Not much suspense in that.

Still, the world awaits a definitive answer. In Israel, tensions are running high:

JERUSALEM, Aug 22 (Reuters) – Israel should prepare for the possibility of a missile attack from Iran, a cabinet minister said on Tuesday.

“We are liable to face an Iranian missile attack. The Iranians have said very clearly that if they come under attack, their primary target would be Israel,” Rafi Eitan, a member of the decision-making inner cabinet, told Israel Radio.

Iran could fire missiles at the Jewish state “therefore we must prepare for what could come, and prepare the entire country for a missile strike attack, to prepare all the civilian systems so they are ready for this,” Eitan said.

The radio said Eitan, a former spymaster, meant that Israel should prepare its bomb shelters to protect against a possible Iranian attack.

It quoted Eitan as alluding to the current international standoff with Iran over its uranium enrichment, saying if the situation deteriorates, Israel would be the first to come under attack.

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” He has said Israel “should not assume” its ceasefire with Iranian-backed Hizbollah guerrillas last week means an end to the crisis.

Full article here. While it is tempting here in the U.S. to view that possibility as a Moe-strikes-Curly, Curly-strikes-Larry kind of moment, we have to remember here that much of the rest of the world sees the Israel-Hezbollah conflict as one between the U.S. and Iran, carried out through proxies.

1:56 p.m., Tehran: Iran seems really serious about wanting to keep that Romanian oil rig:

A Romanian oil rig off the coast of Iran came under fire from an Iranian military warship and was later occupied by Iranian troops, a company spokesman said.

The Iranians first fired into the air and then fired at the Orizont rig, said GSP spokesman Radu Petrescu. Half an hour later, troops from the ship boarded and occupied the rig and the company lost contact with the 26 crew members shortly afterward.

Petrescu said he had no information about any injuries or deaths. The Orizont rig has been moored near the Kish island since 2004, he told the Associated Press.

The news is taking its toll on the markets. Bloomberg observes:

Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) — European stocks fell after Iran’s military seized control of a Romanian oil and gas rig in the Persian Gulf. Axa SA and Roche Holding AG led declines.

“This is just another reminder that geopolitical risks are something markets are going to have to get used to,” said Robert Talbut, who helps oversee $46 billion as chief investment officer at Royal London Asset. “The markets are pretty sensitive to developments in the Middle East.”

The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index lost 0.1 percent to 323.26 at 12:13 p.m. in London, after earlier rising as much as 0.5 percent. The Stoxx 50 slid 0.1 percent. The Euro Stoxx 50, a measure for the 12 nations sharing the euro, fell 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic News Agency reports:

An informed source with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said Tuesday that Iran’s response to the proposed package of Group 5+1 will be presented in matter of hours.

The source told IRNA that ambassadors of Germany, France, Britain, Russia, China and Switzerland will receive Iran’s response.

The sources further said Ali Larijani, secretary of the council, will deliver the answer.

Unless Ali Larijani knows how to detonate a tactical nuclear device (well, after all, he is the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council), then perhaps the response will be a verbal one after all.

3:37 p.m., Tehran: Russia and China have already begun to respond to a response that hasn’t been delivered.

  • A delegation from Iran’s nuclear energy organization is expected to visit Russia Tuesday as part of the nuclear cooperation between the two countries.The Iranians are expected to visit the Kalininskaya nuclear power plant to learn about its reactor operation and the training of personnel, Radio Free Europe reports.Russian experts have been working to help Iran complete construction and operate the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran.Iran is due to give its reply on Tuesday to a package on incentives by world powers that aims to end a nuclear stand-off with the West, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed on Monday that Iran would continue its path on nuclear energy. (From MosNews)
  • China on Tuesday announced opposition to any sanctions against Iran because they “cannot fully solve the problems”, a senior official said Tuesday. “The Chinese government’s position on the Iranian nuclear issue is very clear,” said Sun Bigan, China’s special envoy to the Middle East. “We have all along stood for a peaceful settlement of the issue through negotiations, rather than resorting to force or threatening sanctions. “Resorting to force and sanctions cannot fully solve the problems,” Sun told reporters. He said sanctions could create tensions “detrimental not only to the region but also to ourselves.” (From Islamic Republic News Agency)

See Part 4 of this post here.