Monday, November 9, 2009
Why does Iran need more time to decide if it will fulfill its nuclear obligations?
Monday's report from Vienna that a top U.S. diplomat said Iran should get more time to decide whether to fulfill the obligation to give up most of its nuclear fuel under a deal negotiated in Geneva in September does not make sense unless something else is going on that has been left out of the public record. Iran agreed to the deal to secure enriched uranium for its nuclear medicine facility and avoid stepped-up economic sanctions by the United States and other world powers; if Tehran wants out of the agreement, it should drop pretending and continue on the road to pariah statehood. "There have been communications back and forth. We are in extra innings in these negotiations. That's sometimes the way these things go," said Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations-sponsored entity that monitors on nuclear activity worldwide. "We want to give some space to Iran to work through this," Davies said. "It's a tough issue for them, quite obviously, and we're hoping for an early, positive answer from the Iranians." But the Iranians have a history of stalling for time to continue developing their offensive capacities, and not to contribute to peaceful resolution of ongoing disputes. Iran contends its nuclear development is intended for peaceful purposes, despite its huge oil reserves and the revelation in September that it was building a secret enrichment plant at a military base near Qom. U.S. experts say the plant could not have enriched enough uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant and was almost surely designed for nuclear weaponry. Turkey has offered to mediate the international dispute, but it is apparent that Tehran is not willing to halt its activities despite the risk of sanctions. That's why Iran has not yet offered a formal reply to international demands that it comply with the agreement, and why it doesn't make sense to give the Islamic republic even more time to stall. If the international community's patience is "not infinite," as Germany's chief negotiator said the other day, it's time to bring on the "consequences" that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned of in Berlin. There is no reason to wait until the end of the year. Iran can continue to protest diplomatically all it wants, but it should do so without its stash of nuclear fuel and without its ability to threaten nearby countries.