August 30, 2006 | WebMemo on Iran
As the August 31 deadline to freeze its uranium enrichment program approaches, Iran continues to shrug off its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and thumb its nose at the U.N. Security Council. The Ahmadinejad regime apparently has calculated that the Security Council will fail to follow through on its threat under Resolution 1696 to impose sanctions if Iran merely signals a willingness to enter endless talks without shutting down its suspect activities or that Iran's friends, Russia and China, will use their veto power to water down any sanctions. Once the deadline passes, the United States should take immediate action to mobilize support for the strongest possible sanctions at the Security Council and press its allies to follow through with even stronger sanctions outside the U.N. framework, where Russia and China will not be able to protect Iran from the consequences of its nuclear defiance.
This course is likely to prove necessary. On Saturday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ostentatiously inaugurated Iran's heavy water nuclear reactor at Arak, a provocative symbolic gesture. This reactor is capable of producing plutonium, the preferred fissile material for arming nuclear warheads for ballistic missiles, and gives Iran yet another possible route to attaining nuclear weapons.
The EU-3's (Britain, France, and Germany) on-again off-again negotiations with Tehran from 2003 to 2005 only allowed Iran to defuse and delay international action and buy more time for its nuclear weapons program. Tehran continues to stall. In its non-response to the U.N. Security Council's demand for a halt in uranium enrichment, Tehran included a 21-page document that sought to clarify "ambiguities" in the incentives offered by the EU-3 and the United States if it suspends its suspect activities. This is another Iranian attempt to bog down the issue in endless talks.
An international response to Tehran's stubborn refusal to abide by its treaty commitments-and not further talks about talks-is long overdue. Yet U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is due to meet President Ahmadinejad on September 2. The Bush Administration should privately warn Annan that it will torpedo any last-ditch attempt to stave off international sanctions with another round of desultory talks. Iran has not paid any price for its failure to disclose its nuclear activities, which were discovered in 2002. It is high time that Iran be penalized for its continued refusal to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency's investigation of its clandestine nuclear program.
The United States should:
Tehran's strategy is clear: Just as it has since 2002, it will pursue diplomatic gambits to drive a wedge into the tentative coalition of states opposing its nuclear weapons program and stall action while it builds its nuclear capabilities. So far, it has evaded any consequences for its nuclear duplicity. The United States must take the lead to raise the diplomatic, economic, political, and possible military costs to the Ahmadinejad regime of its prohibited nuclear activities.
James Phillips is Research Fellow in Middle Eastern Studies, in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.