Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What counts on Iran

MONDAY, JUNE 5, 2006

nuclear iran-The Bush administration's smart diplomacy over Iran seems to be bearing fruit already. Whether or not Iran ultimately agrees to Washington's offer of talks, and specifically to the condition that Iran first suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the administration has already strengthened its hand with European allies, Russia and China. Support from all of these would be needed for any successful resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis.

After Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the new approach last week, the Russians, Chinese, Europeans and Americans quickly followed up with agreement on a new tactical approach. It would, for now, suspend discussions of UN Security Council sanctions and instead offer a jointly agreed set of incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to suspend nuclear work and come to the bargaining table. If Iran spurns that conciliatory approach, Washington is sure to put sanctions back on the international agenda.

The next few days and weeks will be delicate. Iran makes much of its right, under international law, to enrich uranium for power plants. But it is much less eager to talk about its unambiguous obligation, under the same treaty, not to abuse that right for building nuclear weapons.

Its current enrichment programs threaten to cross that critical line. Tehran would not be giving up any rights by suspending enrichment-related activities. It has already done so twice before. Many other countries with exactly the same legal right to enrichment and reprocessing have wisely chosen not to engage in those problematic activities.

There is only one successful resolution worth talking about - a verifiable commitment by Iran not to develop the capacity to build nuclear weapons. Whether this comes about through incentives, punishments or some combination of the two does not matter very much, so long as it comes about.

The Bush administration's smart diplomacy over Iran seems to be bearing fruit already. Whether or not Iran ultimately agrees to Washington's offer of talks, and specifically to the condition that Iran first suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the administration has already strengthened its hand with European allies, Russia and China. Support from all of these would be needed for any successful resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis.

After Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the new approach last week, the Russians, Chinese, Europeans and Americans quickly followed up with agreement on a new tactical approach. It would, for now, suspend discussions of UN Security Council sanctions and instead offer a jointly agreed set of incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to suspend nuclear work and come to the bargaining table. If Iran spurns that conciliatory approach, Washington is sure to put sanctions back on the international agenda.

The next few days and weeks will be delicate. Iran makes much of its right, under international law, to enrich uranium for power plants. But it is much less eager to talk about its unambiguous obligation, under the same treaty, not to abuse that right for building nuclear weapons.

Its current enrichment programs threaten to cross that critical line. Tehran would not be giving up any rights by suspending enrichment-related activities. It has already done so twice before. Many other countries with exactly the same legal right to enrichment and reprocessing have wisely chosen not to engage in those problematic activities.

There is only one successful resolution worth talking about - a verifiable commitment by Iran not to develop the capacity to build nuclear weapons. Whether this comes about through incentives, punishments or some combination of the two does not matter very much, so long as it comes about
new york times
posted by ali ghannadi-irannuk

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