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The Guardian reacted with trepidation at the news of Iranian enrichment of uranium, not for its implications in the Middle East as much as for its political implications in the US. The leftist British daily predicts that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's triumphalism will bolster the hawks in American politics who favor a military solution, if for no other reason than to underscore Iran's need to end their nuclear program before our bombs fall:
The Security Council had been waiting for a UN report at the end of the month on Iran's nuclear intentions, before deciding on further measures. But after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's triumphal announcement yesterday - accompanied by chants of "Death to America", "Death to Israel" and "Death to Counter-Revolutionaries" - some UN members were drawing their own conclusions.
Not for the first time, US diplomats found themselves grateful that President Ahmadinejad had made the work of persuading other UN members of Tehran's intentions so much easier. "I can't imagine anyone would be pleased by such a blatant disregard of what the council has asked for," the official said.
However, the findings of the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are not a foregone conclusion. The speed with which Iran has moved has surprised some experts, and it is possible that the Iranian leader was grandstanding for political reasons. Whatever the reality at the enrichment facility in Natanz, though, the Iranian leadership has shown it is in no mood to comply.
The Guardian's analysis mostly comes in its headline, "Tehran's triumphalism plays into hands of US hawks". The report itself carries little evidence for this assertion, although it's fair to say that it may well be self-evident. After more than two years, the diplomatic option has achieved nothing, not even a slowdown of Iran's march to nuclearization. Iran has made a series of commitments, promises, and proposals that they contradict just as breezily as they make them. Even the Russians have been taken aback by Teheran, issuing a rather surprising diplomatic scolding last night:
Russia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday criticized Iran after its president said Tehran had successfully enriched uranium for the first time, Russian news agencies reported.
"We believe that this step is wrong. It runs counter to decisions of the IAEA (the U.N. nuclear watchdog) and resolutions of the U.N. Security Council," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin was quoted as saying by ITAR-Tass.
A second Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andrei Krivtsov, echoed the criticism, but said Russia was still hopeful that a visit to Iran by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Wednesday could help resolve the standoff.
"We hope that Iran will use the visit ... to agree on specific moves to resolve the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program," RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.
Mohammed ElBaradei visit gives Ahmadinejad the opportunity to present the IAEA chief with a fait accompli, an insult that will test the resolve of the IAEA chief. Iran obviously intended on humiliating him; will ElBaradei finally draw a line in the sand and call Iran's hand?
Probably not, if history is any guide. The IAEA spends most of its time avoiding confrontation, and any expectation of a different outcome will be sorely disappointed. The IAEA reflects its parent organization, the UNSC, as an arbiter of the status quo. It is not equipped or designed to enforce regulations but instead relies on the UN to do so. It also has a political stake in the process, as the member nations elect the chief -- and ElBaradei understands that most nations did not elect him to give the UNSC a casus belli.
In this respect, the Guardian is correct. The announcement does boost the standing of hawks on Iran, but only because it exposes the diplomatic effort as shabby and ineffective against a tyranny determined to arm itself regardless of the consequences. As long as Russia and China refuse to give way, Europe will not act against Iran. That truth has eaten away any credibility the EU-3 may have had during the negotiations. Iran always knew it was bargaining with paper tigers, and like Hitler did seventy years ago, Teheran played cat and mouse with Europe while building its arsenal.
The time has come for the hawks to come to the fore on Iran. If Russia and China do not want that, then they had better use their influence to halt Iranian intransigence now.Sphere It View blog reactions
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Tracked on April 12, 2006 5:22 PM
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