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September 7, 2006
Even Europeans Recognize Iran's Stall Strategy

A confidential memo between European nations spells out how Iran has manipulated diplomatic maneuvers in order to stall for time to continue its uranium enrichment. The goal, according to this analysis, is to create a rift within the Security Council and a resultant breakdown of Western stamina:

Key European nations warn that Iran is trying to weaken international opposition to its contentious nuclear program by stalling on giving a clear response to terms set by six world powers for negotiations, according to a confidential document obtained Thursday.

"The Iranian goal obviously is to split the international community," said the document, drawn up by Britain, France and Germany, and made available to The Associated Press ahead of a key meeting of the five U.N. Security Council nations plus Germany. ...

Diplomats familiar with the document said it was drawn up by Britain, France and Germany, which are among the six nations that made the June incentives offer, to inform other nations of the substance of Iran's counteroffer and share the Western view that it was inadequate.

"The reply is along the lines of previous Iranian statements in that typically it neither accepts nor rejects outright" the six-power proposal, said the document sent to dozens of capitals last week.

By hinting that it is prepared to resume suspension of uranium enrichment, the document says, Iran's goal "obviously is to split the international community and draw us into a process of talks about talks, on Iranian terms, while making no commitments of its own while continuing with its enrichment programme."

While this recognition of Iranian intransigence will garner some respect for the Europeans, the main question remains what they intend to do about it. Europeans have given little public support for a sanctions regime against Iran. If they take the problem seriously, and this memo indicates that they do, it's almost certain that they have not established the political support within their own electorates to apply tough sanctions against a key trading partner. This means that their next action will likely be a proposal for another warning and another waste of several weeks before they can build the support necessary to stick with sanctions.

Of course, the last time we partnered on sanctions against a rogue nation in the Middle East, the Europeans hardly demonstrated the kind of faithfulness that such an action requires to have any effect at all. France and Germany sold war materiel to Saddam Hussein, along with Russia, undermining the so-called "box" that supposedly contained the genocidal tyrant. In fact, the two EU powers helped stuff Saddam's pockets with billions of dollars, allowing him to manipulate it to extend his grip on power rather than loosen it.

Even if they intend on following through on sanctions this time, that resolve will get tested by Russia and China, both of whom have so far refused to agree to sanction Iran. China needs Iranian energy, while Russia simply wants the money. Will Europe stand fast even with Russia and China undermining sanctions? Or will they use that as an excuse to throw their hands up and surrender to Iranian nuclear ambitions?

We will know more after today. The six nations that promulgated the incentive package for Teheran meet today in Berlin to discuss their options. If they want to demonstrate some resolve against Iran's provocations, the time is upon them. If they do not meet the challenge, we will know that the international community will have once again abdicated their responsibility -- and freed the US to pursue its own solutions to the problem.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 7, 2006 6:00 AM

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Tracked on September 7, 2006 8:35 AM


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