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January 29, 2007
A Delay To Consider A Delay

Earlier this weekend, International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaradei suggested that the Iranians and the UN Security Council both take a time-out in order to consider their positions. Given the long delays granted to the Iranians to consider incentive packages from the West in exchange for an end to the pursuit of the Iranian nuclear cycle, the suggestion seems rather ridiculous and utterly pointless. However, leave it to the Iranians to make it seem responsible in comparison:

The top nuclear negotiator for Iran said Sunday that his country needed time to review a plan proposed by the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency that called for a delay in imposing Security Council sanctions if the Iranians suspended uranium enrichment.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, proposed the simultaneous time-out plan during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in an effort to end the standoff between the West and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranians say their uranium enrichment is for peaceful purposes but the West, led by the United States, says the enrichment could also be used for weapons.

“Time should be allocated to see if the plan has the capacity to solve the case,” the Iranian nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, told reporters during a news conference with Russia’s national security adviser, Igor Ivanov, who was visiting Tehran.

Let's make sure everyone's on the same page. The Iranians had almost all of 2006 to consider a pretty generous package of concessions and incentives, including a turnkey nuclear-energy production facility using state-of-the-art technology (but without the ability to produce weapons-grade fissile material), in exchange for an end to their nuclear program. Long past the expiration date of that offer, the UNSC finally considered the continuing Iranian defiance of the non-proliferation treaty and the UNSC's own resolution demanding compliance. Eventually they produced a watered-down set of "smart" sanctions to scold Iran for its bad behavior.

Now Ivanov and ElBaradei want not just a delay in the application of these sanctions, but a delay in the delay to allow Iran time to consider a delay. Huh?

The Iranians don't need any more time to consider any more plans. Ari Larijani already knows what the UNSC and the Western nations want: an end to their nuclear development. The little dramas of pushing notes back and forth and asking for time for consideration amount to nothing more than cynical stall attempts -- cynical because everyone involved knows that Iran is using the time for more work on the nuclear cycle. If Iran wants to stop and cut a deal with the West, it doesn't need thinking time to consider it, and the West can lift the sanctions once they've made that agreement.

The Iranians played the West for saps last year. Hopefully, the West will have learned the lesson for 2007. Tell Larijani that the sanctions remain in effect until the Iranians make the right decision. That's why we applied the sanctions in the first place, isn't it?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 29, 2007 4:52 AM

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