The latest rebuke from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month has done nothing to alter Iran’s continuing pursuit of an illicit nuclear weapons program. If anything, it appears to have intensified the regime’s defiant response to the concerns of the United States and its European allies. Tehran announced last week that it will resume building centrifuges — a sure sign of its determination to go forward with its atomic-weapons program. During a visit to Mexico on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi declared that Iran has a legitimate right to produce these nuclear components. The issue is but the latest example of Tehran’s acting in bad faith.
Last fall, Iran reached an agreement with Britain, France and Germany to suspend its uranium processing and enrichment activities. But in January, the regime brazenly announced it was building centrifuges — wrongly asserting that the agreement didn’t apply to them. Then, on April 9, Iran promised to suspend production of centrifuge parts. But, as the IAEA reported last month, Tehran decided to apply the suspension only to three state-run facilities (while centrifuge work continued at three private companies). Instead of rectifying the situation by stopping the illicit activity, Iran effectively is telling the IAEA that it will do whatever it pleases.
Mr. Kharrazi’s statements are illustrative of Tehran’s long-standing approach to international concern about its nuclear-weapons program: Cheat for as long as possible. When caught in the act, promise to reform. When caught breaking this promise, act defiantly and tell the international community to get lost.
This sort of behavior has been going on in one form or another for decades. In November, the IAEA issued a 30-page report showing how the Islamist regime in Tehran has been deceiving the world about its nuclear efforts since the mid-1980s.
The effort by the so-called “EU 3” — Britain, France and Germany — to put together a compromise in which Iran ends its effort to develop nuclear weapons is essentially dead. While the United States has taken a somewhat tougher stance, it has shown no stomach for setting a deadline for Iran to comply with its commitments under the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The toughest action that Washington seems prepared to take right now is to try to muster support for a U.N. Security Council resolution denouncing Tehran’s noncompliance. That would not occur before September — when the next meeting of the IAEA’s governing board will take place.
In House testimony last month, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton emphasized the fact that Iran’s nuclear program is at the center of a dangerous military-industrial complex. Tehran is forging ahead with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and developing the means to deliver deadly payloads to targets in Western Europe, Israel and Turkey. The question now is whether Washington and its allies have a strategy — beyond moral suasion and the threat of U.N. condemnation — that will stop Iran from making this arsenal more dangerous in the months ahead.