Iran's Nuclear Ambition
Today's editorial in Le Monde.
Iran's Nuclear Ambition |10.08.05 | 13h16
At first glance, negotiations between the international community and Iran on the nuclear question seem complex, with endless reversals, pressures, blackmail and avowals of sincerity. In reality, the chess match begun in November 2004 between the Troika (France, Germany and Great Britain) and Tehran is a simple affair which cannot hide the obvious--Iran's nuclear ambition is an unambiguous and enduring long-term strategic goal.
For decades, Tehran has been pursuing the Nuclear Dream while issuing repeated denials. Iran has found the financial means to build the ultra-secret installations necessary for the acqusition of expertise in uranium reprocessing. The Shah nourished this ambition; so do the mullahs.
The Europeans are familiar with the story. Years ago, Germany agreed to supply equipment for two Iranian uranium processing plants before later denying the necessary export license. The equipment has been warehoused in Germany for the last 25 years. In 1974, France agreed to grant a billion-franc loan to Iran’s Atomic Energy Commission. In return, Iran was permitted a 10% share in the European Eurodif Consortium and signed a contract to purchase two atomic power plants from Framatome. This is an old project abandoned after numerous fits and starts.
The Iranians are not discouraged by the obstacles encountered in their nuclear race. Quite the opposite. The awareness of their long history, their stormy nationalism and their geographic location reinforce their ambition. This regional power, endowed with considerable petroleum reserves, believes that a nuclear capability (both military and civilian) is the only weapon capable of countering the pressures of its neighbors. US military bases have sprouted all along its borders—in Iraq, in the Gulf States and in Central Asia. Three new nuclear powers have arisen in this unstable region: India, Pakistan and Israel, a country detested by Tehran, which not only professes desire to cancel it from the map but has the means to inflict damage on it through Lebanese Hezbollah.
Beset by the determination of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its subtle diplomacy, which blows hot and cold, Europe falters. Myopic, Europe did not notice the hardening of Iran’s populist stance during the recent presidential elections. She had fixed her expectations on Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an Iranian political figure capable of softening his country’s foreign policy. Europe has had to resign herself to the victory of conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Deaf to the signals from Teheran, Europe was unable to decode them.
The Troika, now firmly backed by Washington, continues to wager on the virtues of diplomacy. There is no other option besides an dangerous escalade and a last resort—military action.