- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

With an Oct. 31 deadline looming for Iran to come clean about its nuclear weapons program, the regime in Tehran continues to stonewall in providing information to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). On Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denounced international pressure against the country’s nuclear program. Also, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, widely depicted as a moderate in the Western press, waxed defiant on the subject, declaring: “We will not allow anyone to deprive us of our legitimate right to use nuclear technology, particularly enrichment for providing fuel for [civilian] nuclear plants.”

This argument is a difficult one to take seriously. Given the reality that Iran is awash in oil and gas, it is virtually impossible to argue with a straight face that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Over the past few months, there have been mounting reports of heightened military cooperation between Iran and a fellow member of the ”axis of evil” pointed to by President Bush: North Korea. In June, the Japanese newspaper Sankei reported that Iranian nuclear experts made repeated visits to North Korea in the spring, possibly to learn from the Stalinist regime how to be more successful in stonewalling IAEA inspectors. In August, the Los Angeles Times reported that North Korean scientists were recently seen entering Iranian nuclear facilities, and were helping Tehran test a nuclear warhead.

IAEA officials have also found traces of weapons-grade uranium at Iran’s Natanz nuclear faciliity. IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei said in August that Iran had been shopping for nuclear components on the black market and appeared to suggest that Iran was running a secret weapons program. On Sept. 12, the IAEA gave Iran until Oct. 31 to demonstrate that it was not developing nuclear weapons under cover of its so-called civilian nuclear program.

Clearly, Iran’s post-Sept. 12 behavior has done little to alleviate the concerns of the international community. On Friday, Mr. ElBaradei said bluntly that he is still waiting for Tehran to provide satisfactory information about its nuclear program. He said the information provided to date remained inadequate. On Saturday, the IAEA ratcheted up the pressure a bit more, stating that “Time is indeed running out” for Iran, and that it shouldn’t take “more than a week or two” for the regime to provide “full and complete information on their nuclear program.”

We suspect that, as the noose tightens around its neck, the regime will do what Undersecretary of State John Bolton predicted on Thursday: show just enough cooperation to get past the Oct. 31 deadline without providing much in the way of useful information “to conceal as much as they can, to delay, to fight for time, and to avoid having the issue referred to the Security Council.”

The mullahs’ growing isolation was further accentuated by the announcement on Friday that Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian dissident who had been jailed by the Iranian regime, became the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel commitee praised her advocacy of equal rights for the Baha’i community, which has been harshly persecuted by the Iranian government. Mrs. Ebadi’s well-deserved award, which was welcomed by President Bush, is just the latest sign that political troubles of every sort are mounting for the tyrannical regime in Tehran.

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