Iranian officials are not known for their verbal self-restraint, but this was blunt even by their standards. Fereydoun Abbasi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, admitted this week that his country regularly lied and deceived the world community regarding its nuclear program.

“Sometimes we show weaknesses we don’t have,” Abbasi said in an interview with the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat. “Sometimes we show strengths we don’t have.”

It is no surprise to anyone that Tehran has been using lies and deception to cover up its march toward a nuclear bomb. What is surprising is Abbasi’s willingness to be quite so candid. No one else as high-ranking among the Shi’ite fanatics running the show in the Islamic Republic has come out and admitted so unambiguously to be intentionally misleading inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Adding to the chutzpah was the timing: Abbasi let loose his revelation while heading a delegation to the IAEA’s 56th General Conference taking place in Vienna. It was as if Abbasi waited for an opportunity to maximize the embarrassment he could cause the IAEA officials for being duped.

This week, Iranian leaders seem to have a proclivity for frank revelations.

On Sunday, Maj.-Gen. Muhammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, declared that Iranian forces were propping up Syrian President Basher Assad’s murderous regime. Members of the Qods Force, the Revolutionary Guards’ international branch, are helping Assad fight the rebels. “We are proud to defend Syria, which constitutes a resistance to the Zionist entity,” Jafari told reporters in Tehran.

On the same day a semi-official Iranian religious institution – the Khordat Foundation – declared it was increasing the reward to $3.3 million from $2.8m. for anyone who would act on a fatwa first issued in 1989 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and murder British author Salman Rushdie.

The spate of candid declarations made by Iranian officials seems to be tied to the frenzied protests sweeping across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Tehran apparently is emboldened by the most recent outbreak of fanaticism. With millions of Muslims giving free rein to their fanaticism, why should the Islamic Republic be reticent?

Whatever the reason for Iranian leaders’ recent outspokenness, it has become increasingly clear that Iran continues to snub the international community. Successive US presidents have vowed to stop Tehran’s nuclear program. And there has been unprecedented international cooperation in imposing powerful sanctions; bolstering the military capacity of those among Iran’s neighbors who would be adversely affected by an Islamic Republic with the bomb; dispatching US forces to the Persian Gulf region; and even offering a face-saving diplomatic solution.

But Iran persists.

Its leaders might believe that a nuclear weapons capability will intimidate Iran’s enemies enough to force them to end the sanctions. If this is the case, the more the economic situation inside Iran deteriorates, the greater the pressure will be to push ahead with the atomic program.

Therefore, the West, led by the US, should explain to Iran’s leaders clearly and unambiguously the severe consequences of their actions. While US President Barack Obama might be adverse to making public statements about red lines, such red lines should be made clear in clandestine contacts with men such as Qasem Suleimani, commander of the Qods Force, or Jafari.

Iranian leaders have not shied away from extraordinary honesty of late. The same sort of bluntness and candidness should be employed by the West. By expressing its unshakable commitment to stopping the Iranian nuclear program, the West, led by the US, stands the best chance of achieving a peaceful resolution to the Iran nuclear crisis. That should be everyone’s goal.

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