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March 29, 2004
Iran Blinks -- Again

Iran has backed down again in its confrontation with the IAEA -- and the West -- over its nuclear program:

Iran has stopped building centrifuges to win the world's trust over its nuclear program, the head of its Atomic Energy Organization said Monday. Gholamreza Aghazadeh said the suspension of the construction of centrifuges had been ordered by the country's Supreme National Security Coucil, Iran's top decision-making body.

Iran suspended uranium enrichment last year under strong international pressure over the aims and dimensions of its nuclear program. But it continued to build centrifuges, which are used in enrichment, despite criticism that this violated the spirit of its pledge to cease enrichment.

Iran had long been defiant about its nuclear program, which it insists is limited to power generation and has no application towards weapon development. Last year, after the invasion of Iraq made it clear that certain members of the UN took disarmament seriously and facing a revolt at home, the Iranian mullahcracy decided to forego the standoff and comply, at least superficially, with IAEA inspectors. Shortly afterward, the discovery of centrifuge manufacturing at an Air Force base led Iran to suspend the inspections, due to a harsh report on their cooperation by the IAEA.

Now, however, Iran has not only allowed the inspectors back into the country but has also announced the cancellation of their centrifuge production. Iran may remain a hard case throughout the inspections, and I suspect that this inspection process will be akin to Iraq's cheat-and-retreat strategy. The difference this time is that Iran knows that consequences will result from a failure to comply, unlike Saddam, who had been confident of a French rescue.

Iran controls 9% of the world's oil reserves and oil production accounts for 20% of its GDP and 85% of its exports. Ask yourself why Iran would be building nuclear reactors for civilian power generation under those conditions, when oil is not only so much cheaper but also so much safer and easier to clean up. That's why the IAEA and the UN Security Council doesn't buy the Iranian centrifuge fantasy. Would you?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 29, 2004 5:28 AM

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