- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

Here’s how the deal works, or rather how it doesn’t: Iran continues playing games with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which continues passing resolutions demanding Iran end its nuclear program — resolutions Iran continues ignoring. In the latest round of play, the mullahs have announced they won’t honor an earlier promise to suspend their nuclear programs. Is anybody really surprised?

Well, the editors of Britain’s Guardian might be, though they would be the last to admit it. It wasn’t too long ago (last Oct. 22) that the Guardian devoted multiple columns to celebrating the announcement in Tehran the previous day of the peaceful conclusion of disagreement over Iran’s nuclear program.

Not one, not two, but three European foreign ministers — Britain’s Jack Straw, Germany’s Joschka Fischer and my own personal favorite, the sniffy Dominique de Villepin of France — had made a pilgrimage to the Land of the Ayatollahs. Now they were returning waving the usual scrap of paper. For they had a solemn promise that Iran would “suspend [its] uranium-enrichment and reprocessing activities.”

O frabjous day. Calloo. Callay. You would have thought the Versailles peace treaty was being proclaimed; indeed, the ayatollahs’ agreement would soon prove about as sound.

But at the time, there was general elation in European capitals at this latest “Peace in Our Time.” As an Extra Added Bonus, to quote the cereal boxes, here was also a chance to sneer at that cowboy in the White House. To quote the Guardian’s Ian Black on the happy news: “The agreement marks a significant victory for the European Union’s policy of ‘conditional engagement’ and the use of carrots and sticks, in contrast to threats from the United States against the Islamic Republic, part of George Bush’s ‘axis of evil.’ ”

This would show the Americans. See what European finesse can accomplish compared to Washington’s all-sticks, no-carrots tactics.

Oh, all mimsy were the borogroves, and the mome raths outgrabe. Or as another Guardian writer said more prosaically:

“Iran’s agreement to allow unlimited inspections of its nuclear facilities and to suspend its uranium enrichment program marks a tremendous success for European diplomacy… To date [America’s] polarizing, aggressive pressure tactics have mostly made a difficult problem worse. Europe demonstrated yesterday that there is a different, more effective way. And it is not the American way.”

Yes, Calloo. Callay. Ni-i-i-ce axis of evil — so reasonable, so trustworthy, so easily tamed if you have any sort of talent at all for diplomacy, old chap. All the voices of Old Europe sounded ecstatic. And superior as ever.

Strange. Nobody in Europe is celebrating today. Instead there are worried looks and tough-sounding resolutions from the U.N.’s sleepy atomic energy agency. And, of course, as the ayatollahs well know, the U.N.’s resolutions only sound tough. How long before Iran joins North Korea as a full-fledged member of the Lunatic League of Nuclear Powers?

Iran’s ayatollahs have often mused about nuking Israel. The Israelis might be able to retaliate in kind, but what are millions of casualties compared to wiping out the whole Jewish state with a single strike?

How deal with a regime bent on getting the Bomb and maybe using it? Carefully. And without illusions. Much as one would talk to the Mad Hatter at Alice’s tea party.

Washington really isn’t in much of a position to diplomatically pressure Tehran. With no official relations and only the barest of indirect contacts, Iran and the United States are at a standoff that has continued more than a quarter-century.

The chances are all too good — and all too scary — Iran will develop nuclear weaponry and proceed to share it with some terrorist outfit. Let’s hope somebody in Washington is drawing up plans for a response to this danger more effective than U.N. resolutions. The alternative to confronting Tehran is to awaken one morning to a radioactive Middle East. Or maybe a nuclear blast much closer to home.

It’s unlikely the U.N. and the Europeans will have much success negotiating with Tehran, but they need to keep the pressure on, like a good cop. Meanwhile, Washington can play bad cop, and try to get its message across less subtly.

For example, is it only a coincidence that the United States has just agreed to sell the Israelis 500 bunker-buster bombs — the kind that could be used to destroy underground nuclear facilities like Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz? That the sale was made public indicates not just a diplomatic message is being sent.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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