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April 30, 2006
Teheran Tries To Turn Back Time

Iran attempted to shift the non-proliferation process into reverse yesterday by proposing that the UNSC drop its review of the IAEA dossier on their uranium enrichment program, even while they insisted the program would continue. The US didn't bite on the Iranian time-machine gambit, and even Russia got blunt in their demand to an end to Teheran's enrichment activities:

Iran said on Saturday it would allow United Nations inspectors to resume snap inspections of its nuclear facilities, but only if the dispute again went before the U.N. nuclear monitor.

The White House rejected the offer, which apparently came as Iran sought to avoid a full-blown U.N. Security Council debate over sanctions.

"Today's statement does not change our position that the Iranian government must give up its nuclear ambitions, nor does it affect our decision to move forward to the United Nations Security Council," White House spokesman Blaine Rethmeier said.

Russia, which has steadfastly opposed possible sanctions against Iran, joined the international chorus in telling Iran it must stop nuclear enrichment. ...

Iran gave no ground on the enrichment program but offered to reopen it to IAEA inspectors were the Security Council to drop the matter.

"If the issue is returned to the International Atomic Energy Agency, we will be ready to allow intrusive inspections," Mohammed Saeedi, Iran's deputy nuclear chief, told state-run television.

In effect, Teheran wanted the UNSC to ignore its defiance of the world body while it continues to publicly defy them more. One has to admire the chutzpah of such an offer; it basically asks everyone to sit back and allow Iran to continue doing whatever it wants, but to feel really good about it. As far as intrusive inspections go, that amounts to little more than a temporary inconvenience for the Iranians; they will have to admit IAEA investigators into the declared facilities to show them that they continue to do exactly what they say they will do -- which is to keep enriching uranium, in defiance of the IAEA and UNSC. That will only last until Teheran tires of it again, which will prompt the entire merry-go-round to begin again.

Even Russia appears to be losing patience with the Iranians. Moscow's foreign minister warned his Iranian counterpart that Russia expects Iran to cease all enrichment programs and to comply with the IAEA and UNSC resolutions and rules on the matter. In response, Iran announced that they would continue with enrichment and the world had better get used to a new nuclear power (peaceful, of course!) in Southwest Asia.

Russia and China have the most to lose diplomatically from Iranian defiance. They need a credible UNSC to guard against American economic, military, and diplomatic hegemony in the same manner that France tried to use it in 2003. If the West finally decides that the UNSC has no will or ability to enforce its own resolutions (again), if the Iranians play Russia and China against the West long enough to develop a nuclear weapon, then the UNSC is dead and so is its parent organization. Russia and China will bear the blame for this development and lose the one diplomatic tool that has -- until recently -- contained American diplomacy and military forces.

If Iran continues to make such a public spectacle of its defiance, Russia may have to cave on sanctions, and China would likely follow. If that doesn't happen soon, however, the West may complete the collapse of the UN and render it into the dustbin of history. After all, if the UN serves as an obstruction to the defense of its member nations, then it has no purpose at all.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 30, 2006 8:00 AM

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