June 28, 2004
By Peter Brookes
Iran ratcheted up international nuclear tensions late last week
by announcing it would resume (as soon as tomorrow) building
nuclear centrifuges - an essential element in nuclear-weapons
The rest of the world keeps protesting - and Tehran keeps
thumbing its nose right back.
Iran insists its "civilian" nuclear power program is for
"peaceful" purposes only. That's laughable - but the consequences
If other countries don't take decisive action soon, the world
will have the 9th nuclear weapons state - and its first
nuclear-armed state that also sponsors terrorism - faster than you
can say "atomic ayatollah."
Efforts to stop Tehran's atomic quest have been lackluster so
far. The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) latest rebuke,
for example, didn't even stop the mullahs from making last week's
in-your-face announcement. The European Union's "peace in our time"
agreement with Iran last October on nuclear transparency and
inspections has become a tragic joke.
Even Iran's old pals, Russia and China, don't buy Tehran's line
anymore. Iran's nuclear mendacity and obfuscation has become so
obvious - and embarrassing - that Beijing and Moscow deserted the
Islamic republic and supported the critical IAEA resolution.
(Although China has been accused recently of secretly aiding the
Iranian nuclear program in exchange for oil . . .)
The confrontation between the IAEA and Iran has dragged on for
two years now. And time is on Iran's side: Each day, it moves one
step closer to achieving its nuclear ambition.
As the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA said, "The passage of time is
not a neutral factor in proliferation cases." Iran may become a
nuclear power in the next 18 months.
Supporting Iranian nuclear efforts are:
* A heavy-water reactor at Arak, which will produce large
amounts of plutonium suitable for use in nuclear weapons.
* A nuclear-conversion facility at Isfahan to produce uranium
hexafluoride, a basic ingredient for developing nukes.
Iran insists that these facilities are for producing nuclear
fuel for its civilian energy sector, which will free oil and gas
reserves for export.
But as John Bolton, under secretary of state for arms control
and international security, testified on Capitol Hill last week,
"The costly infrastructure to perform all of these activities goes
well beyond any conceivable peaceful nuclear program."
Plus, Iran, with the world's second-largest natural-gas
reserves, wastes enough gas each year to generate four
1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors' worth of electricity.
Bottom line: Iran doesn't need nuclear power.
Will the international community abandon its so-far-impotent
ways? It's time for the U.N. Security Council to insist on broad,
multilateral economic sanctions.
Tough sanctions made Libya knuckle under on weapons of mass
destruction (WMD), may have crippled Saddam Hussein's WMD programs
and, last week, led even North Korea back to the nuclear
But getting sanctions in place won't be easy. Countries such as
France, Germany and Japan have invested heavily in Iran's
For instance, the French energy giant, Total Group, recently
signed a $2 billion joint venture with the state-owned National
Iranian Oil Company for natural-gas exploration. Germany's business
presence in Iran exceeds France's, and the European Union is
looking at a bilateral trade agreement with Iran as well. Japan? It
recently signed a $2 billion deal for oil exploration in Iran.
(Iran has the world's third largest deposits of oil.)
And China's insatiable energy appetite likely will prevent it
from supporting Security Council sanctions.
If the international community lets Iran go nuclear, the U.N.'s
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) would become a laughingstock,
and no longer serve as a deterrent to nuclear proliferation. (Over
the weekend, Tehran hinted, via a regime-friendly newspaper, at
withdrawing from the NPT.)
A nuclear Iran would undermine stability in region, threatening
the new Iraqi and Afghan governments and giving Syria and the
Saudis strong incentive to go nuclear, too.
And Iran has long-range missiles on the drawing table - so NATO,
Israel and the United States will become at risk.
It seems obvious: The Iranians aren't interested in negotiations
- they're interested in having the bomb.
We've tried to counter Iran's nuclear intentions through
mommy-coddling diplomatic means for long enough: That approach has
It's time we all recognize this fact and agree to take the
matter to the Security Council for more drastic action.
Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow. E-mail:
First appeared in the New York Post
Iran ratcheted up international nuclear tensions late last week by announcing it would resume (as soon as tomorrow) building nuclear centrifuges — an essential element in nuclear-weapons development.
Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
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