Friday, March 10, 2006

UN 'Has Less than a Year' to Stop Iran Going Nuclear

Bronwen Maddox, The Times:
Now to New York. With the close of talks in Vienna, the United Nations Security Council takes up the challenge of trying to convince Iran to drop its nuclear ambitions. But a British official warned the Council yesterday that it should move fast as it was “reasonable” to think that Iran could acquire the technology to make nuclear weapons “within a year”.

He added that Iran had made “a pretty thinly veiled threat to use violence in retaliation, in declaring that it could cause “harm and pain” to the West.Because Iran has a record of using violence in pursuit of its foreign policy objectives, you have to take it seriously,” he said, although he added the threat was “non-specific” at this point.

Iran has used the turmoil in Iraq to extend its influence over the Shia-led Government, as well as in Syria and Lebanon. Britain has been sceptical of Iran’s threats this week to cut oil supplies, as it believes these would hurt Iran more than they would disrupt world oil markets.

But Britain and the US will press the council to come up with demands that Iran must meet “within weeks, not months, said the official.

Diplomats say they have three aims in New York:
  • to exert pressure on Iran to suspend its work and co-operate with the IAEA
  • to build up pressure in a gradual series of reversible steps “so that Iranian compliance means we can get back into some sort of negotiation”
  • as far as possible, to maintain international consensus
One official added: We will be looking to impede ways that Iran might develop nuclear technology, and to bring home to the Iranian leadership that it cannot defy international community without some penalty.”

Europe and the US will try to crack down on equipment supplies through the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime. The US and Europe hope that the pressure will cause the regime to split. “I think there will be quite a debate in Tehran,” said the official. “I think they don’t want to put themselves in the position of North Korea.” READ MORE

There have been some signs of dissent. Former President Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on state radio on September 30 that Iran should talk with its opponents to achieve trust, and that “here you need diplomacy and not slogans”.

On October 10 reformist legislator Mohammad Reza Tabesh said that the Government had failed to handle Europe well and urged the return of its former negotiating team. Legislator Hussein Afarideh also spoke out against the “mistaken measure” of a “hasty” reshuffle of the team. The reformist Sharq newspaper called the foreign policy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, ineffective, and recommended the creation of a “crisis diplomacy team ”.

But there is little sign of wavering from those close to Mr Ahmadinejad. On Wednesday, Keyhan, a hardline Iranian paper supportive of the President, ran an uncompromising analysis of the strength of Iran’s position, which may well reflect the President’s thinking.

Some of the so-called reformers have become very frightened and very intimidated, as though as the result of these policies a great calamity would immediately descend upon the country,” it said.

But “what we have is worth [all the trouble], because an Iran that possesses nuclear capability would be an unrivalled regional power”, it added. If it added nuclear energy to its oil and gas, “Iran shall have a unique position in the field of energy in the world”, it said.

“One cannot put a price on such an advantage . . . This is not something that any rational politician would like to give up as soon as he hears some hue and cry or faces some empty threats.”