- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency, under fire from Washington for failing to vigorously challenge Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, are taking a tougher line toward Tehran. As President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepare to discuss joining the European Union’s efforts to use some incentives to persuade Iran to change its behavior, they must certainly keep in mind the mounting evidence that Tehran has never come clean about its nuclear program and shows no inclination to cooperate with international inspectors. In the wake of new revelations that in 1987, at the height of Iran’s war with Iraq, the regime was approached by aides to A.Q. Khan, the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist at the center of a nuclear smuggling network, a senior diplomat close to the IAEA suggested Monday that there is ample reason to be suspicious of the Iranian government’s behavior.

“The ball is very much in Iran’s court to come clean through absolute transparency measures and cooperation with the agency,” Mr. ElBaradei said yesterday. Responding to Iran’s complaint that the IAEA had no business visiting one site where nuclear work was suspected but not proven, Mr. ElBaradei noted that Iran is a “special case,” because its nuclear program has been clandestine for nearly two decades. Making perhaps his most blunt criticism yet, Mr. ElBaradei stated: “In view of the past undeclared nature of significant aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, a confidence deficit has been created, and it is therefore essential that Iran works closely with the agency in a proactive manner.”

But Iran is doing everything it can to frustrate the IAEA. On Tuesday, IAEA Deputy Director-General Pierre Goldschmidt delivered a report to the agency’s board of governors in Vienna documenting how Iran continues to stonewall and prevent inspectors from traveling to suspected weapons sites. For example, Iran refused to answer IAEA questions about dual-use material and equipment that could be used in uranium enrichment at Lavizan, a suspected weapons site in Tehran, and a military facility at Parchin, where the United States charges that Iran is simulating atomic-weapons tests.

At Parchin, IAEA inspectors who went there in January were only permitted to visit a small percentage of the locations where weapons activity is believed to be taking place. According to Mr. Goldschmidt, of the four areas at the facility the IAEA identified as being of potential interest, Iran only permitted inspectors to visit one. On Sunday, Iran denied an IAEA request to conduct a follow-up visit.

Even if Iran were to miraculously respond to Washington and European promises of unspecified rewards for shutting down its nuclear-weapons program, another question needs to be answered: What would the allies do if Tehran, after jettisoning nuclear weapons, continued to promote terrorism by supporting Hezbollah and other terrorists? There are myriad real-world obstacles, all of them relating to Iranian behavior, to any rapprochement between this Iranian government and the West.

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