Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Diplomacy better than brute force for Iran :: The Daily Herald, Provo Utah

Diplomacy better than brute force for Iran :: The Daily Herald, Provo Utah: "Diplomacy better than brute force for Iran

The Daily Herald
From the Miami Herald, Sept. 22, 2004
Despite Iran's defiant attitude, the world's nuclear watchdog agency is giving the country's leaders one more chance to resolve doubts over an alleged forbidden weapons program. The decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency to have Iran comply with IAEA demands to stop nuclear-enrichment activities by November is a clear signal that its 35-nation board is determined to go the last mile in using diplomacy to resolve what has become one of the most pressing matters on the global agenda.

This is a commendable decision, but it's far from clear that Iran is prepared to back down, now or in November. Iran would make a serious mistake to regard the reliance on diplomacy as a form of weakness by the world community. The Bush administration has made it clear that U.S. patience is wearing thin.

The administration first sought to have the IAEA refer the Iran issue to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions on Iran. In the end, U.S. diplomats agreed to a softer line promoted by Europeans to give Iran more time. But even Europeans understand that Iran must eventually comply or face the consequences.

What does the IAEA want? For Iran to stop all nuclear-enrichment activities, as a goodwill gesture, and resolve all doubts about its suspect nuclear program before it's too late. The Iranians have responded with a voluntary suspension of actual uranium enrichment, but its leaders intend to continue related programs that feed suspicions of a secret nuclear program.

The suspicions are bolstered by the sudden disclosure in 2002 of a secret uranium-enrichment program that Iran had wrongly failed to inform the IAEA about. This has prompted U.S. leaders such as Secretary of State Colin Powell, a leading advocate of diplomacy, to declare that Iran has a secret nuclear program and that the international community must "apply all the pressure we can" to end it.

Already, administration hard-liners and their allies on Capitol Hill, led by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., are suggesting that "regime change" in Tehran should become official U.S. policy if Iran continues to stonewall the IAEA. The idea seems to be that because this policy is working so well in Iraq, it should be implemented next door in Iran, a vastly bigger country with more resources and more manpower than Saddam Hussein ever possessed.

Santorum's idea, we hope, will not catch on anytime soon inside the Beltway, but it points to the dangers of a continued Iranian standoff. Threats by mullah hard-liners to stop cooperating with the IAEA altogether only serve to raise the stakes and reduce the chances of a reasonable settlement.