December 6, 2007

France, Germany Still Consider Iran A Threat

Despite the surprising conclusion of the American intelligence committee that Iran suspended its push for nuclear weapons, both France and Germany insisted that Iran represents a real threat. Nicolas Sarkozy still wants to impose harsher sanctions, although Angela Merkel would not commit to supporting another round at the moment. The two EU powers want Iran to end its uranium enrichment:

"Iran continues to represent a threat," Mrs Merkel said during a joint news conference with Mr Sarkozy in Paris.

She did not specifically express support for a new UN sanctions resolution against Iran, which the US is calling for. ....

Mr Sarkozy said he agreed with his German counterpart that Iran still posed a danger, and that he supported the push for more sanctions.

"Notwithstanding the latest elements, everyone is fully conscious of the fact that there is a will of the Iranian leaders to obtain nuclear weapons.

"What made Iran move up to now, it was sanctions and firmness," he said.

The statements show that the NIE has made little difference in the international evaluation of Iranian nuclear research. No one feels that the mullahs will simply give up their desire to wield nuclear power and shift the balance of power in the Middle East sharply in their favor. France, Germany, and Britain spent years attempting to convince Iran to allow verification of the shutdown of the program, offering a wide range of economic concessions. If Iran had nothing to hide, why not take advantage of the offers in 2003, 2004, or 2005?

If pressure and sanctions convinced the Iranians to shelve the nuclear-weapons research temporarily, then it would be madness to back away now. Iran has not acknowledged its previous work on nuclear weapons, much as they hid it for years until a dissident group exposed the program in 2003. No one trusts them now when they claim they have only pursued peaceful nuclear power, and so France and Germany -- two nations that rely on trade with Iran -- still want to keep Iran isolated.

It provides a helpful reminder that the danger has not passed. As long as Iran enriches uranium and builds ever-larger centrifuge cascades, they can build a weapon fairly quickly. They bought the knowledge from the AQ Khan network, and they already have the missile platform for delivery. The issue may not be as acute as first thought, but the danger remains real -- and even if some Americans don't take it seriously, Iran's European trading partners still do.


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» Estimated Intelligence from Public Secrets: from the files of the Irishspy
Among the big news this week has been the bombshell dropped in the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE): the determination that Iran stopped its military nuclear program in 2003. You can read the publicly released version of the document here. [Read More]