"One thing is absolutely clear, Iran is clearly feeling the pressure of its international and diplomatic isolation of the increasing economic pressure on it," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday unveiled on state television what was described as Iran's first domestically produced, 20-per cent enriched nuclear fuel for Tehran's research reactor (TRR).
"With regard to this news about activity at that reactor, we frankly don’t see a lot new here. This is not big news. In fact, it seems to have been hyped. The Iranians have, for many months, been putting out calendars of accomplishments, and based on their own calendars, they are many, many months behind. This strikes us as calibrated mostly for a domestic audience," Nuland said.
The Iranian reaction is part of a piece of that pressure which it is facing now, she said.
"I would also note there was a very sizeable and forcible crackdown on peaceful protest inside Tehran yesterday, large-scale cutoffs of the internet over the last couple of days, and they continue to keep major opposition figures under house arrest," she said.
"So again, they are clearly being challenged – the regime is – not only from outside Iran but from inside Iran in a way that is causing them to take steps," the spokesperson said.
"I can't speculate any further as to Iran's motives behind its various actions, but our view on this is it's not terribly new and it's not terribly impressive," Nuland said.
"The focus of the conversation is on how we tighten and intensify the sanctions so that Iran comes back to the table. Well, I'm not going to get into advocating for the Iranians what would make for an impressive programme," Nuland said, adding Iran still needs to demonstrate that this is a purely peaceful program, as they claim.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the US was keeping a close watch on Tehran and consulting with allies.
"What we see is provocative acts, defiant acts, statements that are designed to distract attention from the demonstrated impact that the sanctions are having, the demonstrated impact that the isolation of Iran is having," he told reporters.
"We are very confident that the sanctions have put enormous pressure on the Iranian economy and on the Iranian regime. It is not unusual for Iran to try to distract attention from those uncomfortable facts and from its overall isolation by some burst of rhetoric or making some announcement," Carney said.
The US, Carney said, is implementing sanctions on Iran in a way that had the desired effect just to pressure and isolate it further, and did not have unintended consequences for any of its allies, or more broadly, for the global oil market.
Replying to questions with regard to Iran's nuclear programme, he said these activities remain under IAEA safeguards.
"US has never objected to Iran's peaceful and civilian nuclear activities. In fact, back in 2009, the United States and others proposed to work with Iran to ensure a continued fuel supply for this specific reactor, which has been used to produce medical isotopes to treat cancer.
"After initially indicating acceptance of that offer, Iran reversed course. Our interest is in Iran abiding by its international obligations, renouncing its interest in nuclear weapons and returning to the international community," he said.