Sunday, May 28, 2006

Neutralizing Tehran

Investor's Business Daily: Editorial
As Europe caves and Iran drags its feet, the pressure grows for the U.S. to engage in one-on-one talks with Iran. We shouldn't let Iran — or the rest of the world — off so easy.

The temptation to let the U.S. go toe-to-toe in talks with Iran over its burgeoning nuclear weapons program is great. After all, the European Union has shown no willingness to get tough with Iran's rogue leaders.

Last week, after meetings of the "six world powers," the EU offered, in the words of a Reuters dispatch, to "drop the automatic threat of military action if Iran remains defiant."

Ponder that for a moment. The EU says it will, in essence, do nothing, no matter what — other than, perhaps, put some feeble sanctions in place. Yet it somehow expects this will prod Iran to act.

Iran, meanwhile, is pushing hard to have the U.S. engage in bilateral talks, excluding others. Doing so would be quite fruitful. It would let Iran play the "America as bully" card, claiming the U.S. is being too tough on a "developing" nation. READ MORE

Saddam played that card brilliantly before the U.S.-led war. Today, many in the world's intelligentsia willingly parrot Saddam's line, asserting — contrary to logic and available evidence — that the U.S. picked a fight with Iraq for no good reason.

Iran knows it will be able to isolate the U.S. in world opinion, absolve the craven United Nations of all responsibility for Iran's actions, further humiliate Europe and move forward with its nuclear program, all in one swoop. And it'll do so safe in the knowledge that in mere weeks the U.S. will be blamed for the whole mess.

But wait! That's already happening. On Friday, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, basically blamed the U.S., as a nuclear power, for encouraging countries like Iran to build their own arsenals.

So the bottom line is: It's America's fault — not Iran's. And when Iran builds a nuke and uses it — on Israel, or Saudi Arabia, maybe even Europe — that, too, will be our fault.

As you read this, Russian, Chinese and EU officials are busy crafting an elaborate "incentive" plan to get Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. But given that China and Russia, both major trade partners with oil-rich Iran, have said they will not go along with sanctions or military action against Iran, an obvious question arises: What incentive does Iran have to do anything?

The answer is none. Europe is starting to see the limits of its kinder, gentler approach, and in recent days has hinted it might just want the U.S. to help it with missile defense after all. That would be a step forward for Europe, which until recently showed few signs of wanting to defend itself.

As for the U.S., we really don't need to talk further with Iran about anything. Bilateral talks won't do any good, but they could do much harm. And further U.N. efforts are a waste of time.

So what to do? The U.S. now would best be served by convincing EU allies to go along with a package of economic sanctions. If those don't work, our cards are already on the table:

The U.S. will not tolerate — cannot tolerate — Iran getting a nuclear weapon. That means we, or our friends in Israel, will have to take out Iran's nuclear installations. It's that simple.