Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Blinded by the Light

I was doing some research on some work stuff and came across this article in the Washington Post.
It is somewhat dated, as it originally appeared in the post this past June. However, in reading it, it seemed very relevant to what we are currently going through with Iran today and the broader differences between the US and EU.

NINE MONTHS AGO, as a confrontation loomed between Iran and the United Nations over Iran's illicit nuclear programs, three European governments staged a preemptive operation. Flying to Tehran, the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany struck a deal with Iran's Islamic regime: The Europeans would block a referral of Iran's violations to the U.N. Security Council and provide technical cooperation, and in exchange Iran would stop its work on uranium enrichment, fully disclose its nuclear programs and accept a new U.N. protocol giving inspectors greater access. The Bush administration was upstaged; some in Paris and Berlin smugly suggested that it had been given an object lesson by the Europeans in how "soft power" could be used to manage the rogue states in President Bush's "axis of evil."

This week, with the world's attention focused on the troubled situation in Iraq, the European version of preemption is yielding its own bitter -- if less bloody -- result. Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency have reported that Iran never honored its agreement; it has stalled and stonewalled the inspectors while continuing to work on elements of a nuclear program that could soon allow it to produce weapons. The Europeans have responded by drafting for approval by the 35-member IAEA board a stern statement demanding Iranian cooperation; Tehran has replied with threats to restart uranium enrichment and suspend negotiations with the West.

Probably there will be no such rupture, and IAEA inspectors and European officials will resume their efforts to obtain Iranian cooperation. But there can be no disguising the fact that the European strategy for handling one of the world's most dangerous proliferation problems is proving feckless.
It is amazing that even today the European powers continue to dignify the Iranian lie that they are not working on nuclear weapons. Each time the Iranians refuse to comply, issue more unrealistic demands, and tell them that up is down and down is up, the Europeans simply press on with the process and act like nothing bad has happened.

It is one thing to believe that collective diplomacy and the process of negotiation can bear results and often be an end in itself, but how far can one go propping it up when the result is nuclear proliferation?

Given that weapons grade higly enriched uranium (HEU) has been found at multiple locations (in trace amounts) in Iran, it is reasonable to state as fact that Iran is working on developing nuclear weapons. There is simply no reason outside of developing nuclear weapons to have uranium enriched to such levels. It is a smoking gun in determining whether a state is developing nuclear weapons.

A wonderful resource for following this issue is available at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Monterey. From their chronology, we see the following:

  • 26 August 2003
    IAEA Inspectors find traces of highly enriched uranium (HEU) at Iran's Natanz nuclear plant. Iranian officials claim the traces came from equipment imported from "another country" [unidentified] which included centrifuges used to enrich uranium and machinery associated with them. Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesman for the IAEA says Iran has "a large and sophisticated nuclear program".
    "Iran nukes still a concern-IAEA," CNN, 26 Aug 2003, .

  • 2 April 2004
    An unidentified Western diplomat divulges that HEU has been located at sites other than Natanz and Kalaye, raising further questions regarding Iran's bomb-making ambitions.
    —Louis Charbonneau, "More Bomb-Grade Uranium Found in Iran," Reuters, 2 April 2004.

Certainly, Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is problematic for the US, EU, and the entire world. However, there is a grave risk in indulging the Iranian's in the refusal to admit their goals.