- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2006

The U.N. Security Council took an important step forward on Wednesday by urging Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment efforts. This is a measured policy victory for the Bush administration, with particular credit going to U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.

As undersecretary of state overseeing nonproliferation issues, Mr. Bolton worked tirelessly to focus international attention on the Iranian nuclear program. Now, as U.N. ambassador, he has helped pave the way for the first public acknowledgement by the Security Council that Iran has failed to convince the International Atomic Energy Agency that its nuclear program is “peaceful” in nature. But it also shows how far the council has to go before taking serious action against Iran’s nuclear-weapons plans. The council statement — a nonbinding declaration that took three weeks to negotiate — asks IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei to report back in 30 days on Iran’s compliance.

“We are prepared to go back on the 31st day,” said Mr. Bolton, in view of “the Iranian record to date of consistently flouting the International Atomic Energy Agency, attempting to obstruct what they have done and continuing to pursue nuclear weapons.” Now, it is time to “look to the future to see if Iran varies the conduct from that it has been following for the past 18 years,” he said.

Unfortunately, despite this notable success, there were also some discordant notes. For one thing, Russia and China were successful in ensuring that the Security Council’s statement gave the IAEA a continuation of shared authority over the Iran issue. Earlier drafts gave all authority to the Security Council; Moscow and Beijing feared that doing so would give the United States the opportunity to push sanctions through if Iran fails to comply with Security Council demands that it suspend uranium enrichment.

In an effort to bolster the IAEA’s ability to demand Iranian cooperation, the Security Council “strongly supports the role of the IAEA Board of Governors and commends and encourages the Director General of the IAEA and its secretariat for their ongoing professional and impartial efforts to resolve outstanding issues in Iran” and “expresses the conviction” that “full, verified Iranian compliance with the requirements set out by the IAEA Board of Governors.”

However, before the ink was dry on the U.N. statement, the IAEA was minimizing the Iranian threat and saying that sanctions would be a bad idea. Also, a “senior European diplomat” told Time magazine that Europe is considering neither military force or economic sanctions. President Bush and other administration officials, meanwhile, have said the possibility of military action cannot be taken off the table.

Unsurprisingly, given the weak signals from Europe and the IAEA, Iran rejected the Security Council statement as part of a plot to discredit the regime. We have every expectation that Mr. Bolton will need to be back on Day 31 to press the Security Council to do much, much more.

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