- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

It is doubtful that Monday’s decision by Washington — under heavy pressure from the European Union (EU) — to acquiesce to a softened International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution criticizing Iran’s nuclear program will persuade Iran to halt its efforts to produce atomic weapons. Instead, the agreement brokered by Secretary of State Colin Powell and representatives of France, Germany and Britain postpones the day of reckoning and sets the stage for a new round of diplomatic battles with Europe come February, when the IAEA files its next compliance status report on Iran.

At first blush, the language of the IAEA resolution sounds fairly tough, stating that the agency “strongly deplores” Iran’s 18 years of secretly developing nuclear weapons and lying about it. But a careful look at what actually took place in Vienna is deeply unsettling.

For one thing, going into the talks, Washington insisted that Iran’s behavior be condemned and that the matter be referred to the U.N. Security Council. Iran balked, declaring that it would not cooperate with the IAEA if this took place. And Tehran’s intransigence was rewarded. According to the New York Times, Mr. Powell was unable to persuade more than three of the IAEA’s 35 board members (Canada, Japan and Australia) to support a formal censure that would have brought the matter to the Security Council.

For most of this month, the administration appeared to be determined to go to the mat with the Europeans and the IAEA bureaucracy — which was opposed to any imposition of sanctions against Iran, whatever the evidence of cheating. On Nov. 10, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei issued a 30-page report documenting Tehran’s deceptions dating back to the mid-1980s, but the report concluded that “no evidence” of an Iranian nuclear weapons program had been found. Just two days later, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton sharply criticized the refusal of Mr. ElBaradei and the IAEA to publicly tell the truth about what Tehran is actually up to: developing nuclear weapons.

“I must say that the report’s assertion is simply impossible to believe,” Mr. Bolton said. “In what can only be an attempt to build a capacity to develop nuclear materials for nuclear weapons, Iran has enriched uranium with both centrifuges and lasers, and produced and reprocessed plutonium …The United States believes that the massive and covert Iranian capabilities make sense only as part of a nuclear weapons program.” If Iran is “continuing to conceal its nuclear program and has again lied to the IAEA, the international community must be prepared to declare Iran in noncompliance with its IAEA safeguards obligations,” Mr. Bolton concluded. We agree.

No one — not even the Europeans or the IAEA bureaucracy — says that the Iranians are today in compliance with their obligations to the IAEA. The challenge before the international community right now is how to come up with a diplomatic formula that will achieve results, in this case, a verifiable way to end Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons, in the next few months. But if diplomacy is permitted to drag on indefinitely while Iran continues to cheat and refuses to disarm, then it becomes a formula for failure. That would leave the international community with two alternatives: allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons (an intolerable alternative) or disarm it by force.

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