Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Chicago Tribune: ‘West is urged to accept Iran’s nuclear program’

Posted by proliferationpr on December 11, 2008

Attention-grabbing headline, though a bit misleading—the next line reads: ‘Arms-control expert says goal should be stopping Tehran from building a bomb

So is the best way to stop an Iranian nuclear bomb to accept Iranian enrichment of uranium and nuclear-energy production: thereby giving Iran the raw materials nessecary for nuclear weapons?

The Tribune brings attention to a recent IISS report  (download PDF here or read summary text without download) by Mark Fitzpatrick calling on Western nations shift their diplomatic energies from stopping Iran’s nuclear energy program to stymieing an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

 I would comment on the report, unfortunately it demands a reader’s fee. But my first reactions to such a shift in strategy are as follows:

1)      Isn’t the real problem in the Iranian nuclear dilemma the threat of Israel preemptively attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities? Would shifting U.S. foreign policy away from Iran’s nuclear enrichment only further the likelihood of such an attack?

2)      Fitzgerald’s approach seems very similar to the approach taken by Western nations towards India and Pakistan’s nuclear programs throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Though there is an important difference: Iran remains a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty—concerned nations offering diplomatic leverage over Iran. Also the gradual evolution from ‘latent’ to ‘active’ nuclear weapons capability did provide time for the international system to respond, and in the case of Iran might hold out the following possibility: in five to ten years, the Iranian regime may look very different than it does today. And shifting focus from Iran’s nuclear energy program would play well to Iranian citizens, currently supporting what they believe to be their country’s fight for sovereignty and energy independence.

3)      President-Elect Obama’s task: To resolutely combat Iran’s nuclear program, while designing a new and appealing diplomatic posture towards Iran while preparing the American public for a world with another latent nuclear power. Iran successfully testing a nuclear bomb could very well box-in Obama’s ambitious foreign and domestic policies, mirroring the campaign against Truman when China went Communist under his watch. And such a Iran debacle comes with this added thorn: an anxious Israel one-step away from launching air-strikes against Iranian nuclear targets.    

The IISS report mirrors suggestions by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who holds out hope that Obama can turn the tide on what he considers the Bush administration’s failed approach towards Iran. From the Global Security Newswire:

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei last week said the international community has failed to contain Iranian atomic activities that could support a nuclear weapons program, the Los Angeles Times reported (see GSN, Dec. 4).
Iran has endured economic isolation over its nuclear drive but has repeatedly rejected offers of economic and security benefits to halt its disputed nuclear work, which it defends as strictly peaceful.
“We haven’t really moved one inch toward addressing the issues,” ElBaradei told the newspaper. “I think so far the policy has been a failure.”
Sanctions aimed at punishing Tehran’s defiance have ultimately contributed to “more hardening of the position of Iran,” he said. “Many Iranians who even dislike the regime (are) gathering around the regime because they feel that country is under siege.”
However, ElBaradei added that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has offered “lots of hope” by expressing willingness to diplomatically engage U.S. antagonists such as Iran and by making worldwide nuclear disarmament a goal of his political party.
“He is ready to talk to his adversaries, enemies, if you like, including Iran, also (North) Korea,” ElBaradei said, arguing that President George W. Bush has been slow to engage international foes. “To continue to pound the table and say, ‘I am not going to talk to you,’ and act in a sort of a very condescending way — that exaggerates problems.”
ElBaradei suggested that Washington and Tehran could launch talks addressing the nuclear dispute along with other points of contention dating back decades (Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 6).
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