William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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GREETINGS FROM THE MULLAHS – AT 8:42 A.M. ET:  Just as North Korea greeted the State of the Union message with a new nuclear test, Iran refuses to be left out.  It, too, has a warm greeting for the president:

(Reuters) - Iran said on Wednesday it had started installing a new generation of machines for enriching uranium, an announcement likely to annoy the West and complicate efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute over its nuclear program.

It came on the day the U.N. nuclear watchdog began talks in Tehran to try to advance a long-stalled investigation into suspected military dimensions of the program.

Iran had already told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it planned to introduce new IR2-m centrifuges to its main enrichment plant near the central town of Natanz - a step that could significantly speed up its accumulation of material that the West fears could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.

"From last month the installation of the new generation of these machines started," Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).

"We have produced the machines as planned and we are carrying out the installation gradually ... to complete the tests."

Enriched uranium can fuel nuclear power plants, Iran's stated aim, or, if refined to a high degree, provide material for bombs, which the West suspects is Tehran's real purpose, something Iran strenuously denies.

If deployed successfully, new-generation centrifuges could refine uranium several times faster than the model Iran now has.

COMMENT:  This is apparently what the Israeli prime minister was referring to several days ago when he warned that Iran's "red line" was approaching faster than had previously been thought.

We also have informed commentary that North Korea may well be carrying out tests on behalf of Iran, allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons without detectable tests on its own soil.  And North Korea can simply be shipping nuclear technology to Iran. 

The president will visit the Mideast next month.  We await his actual Iran policy for his second term.

February 13,  2013