OpinionIran in the World PressCarrots for the Mullahs

Carrots for the Mullahs

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The Wall Street Journal – Editorial: The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency is in session this week in Vienna, and today it will review the latest batch of evidence concerning Iran’s violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. These violations include:

The Wall Street Journal

Editorial

The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency is in session this week in Vienna, and today it will review the latest batch of evidence concerning Iran’s violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. These violations include:

. Refusal to allow the IAEA to inspect all areas of the Parchin military site near Tehran, which the U.S. suspects is involved in illicit nuclear research.

. Failure to disclose construction of a tunnel under the nuclear site of Isfahan.

. The unresolved question of how weapons-grade uranium was detected on Iranian centrifuges.

. A document describing technical assistance offers received from nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan dating back to 1987.

Sounds bad. So what does the Administration intend to do?

One option being considered by the Administration is to join the EU in offering Tehran a package of incentives — including commercial aircraft and membership in the World Trade Organization — in exchange for a formal Iranian commitment to renounce plans to build a bomb. More broadly, the intention is to create a united front with the Europeans now in the hope that they will join the U.S. later if Iran continues to violate its NPT commitments. “The reason we’re comfortable considering this tactically is because, strategically, when the President was in Europe, he found them solid on the big issue: that Iran can’t have nuclear weapons,” a senior State Department official tells the Washington Post.

If all this sounds disconcertingly familiar, it’s because it is. In 2002, Washington thought that if it would bend to European demands and achieve a U.N. consensus on Iraq, the Europeans would bend to Washington if and when Iraq failed to comply with U.N. demands. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell even extracted a promise of support from his French counterpart Dominique de Villepin, only to discover the French had no intention of supporting a second resolution against Saddam, whatever the circumstances.

The Europeans are being disingenuous again. Sure, they “oppose” Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But they have also made the calculation that they can live with a nuclear Iran just as they currently live with a nuclear North Korea. That’s why British Foreign Minister Jack Straw says he cannot see “any circumstances in which military action would be justified against Iran .” That’s also why German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer recently toasted Iranian-German relations at the opening of Tehran’s new embassy in Berlin, treating the nuclear question as a mere hiccup on the road to closer partnership.

As it is, even if the Europeans were sincere, the deal being considered for Iran is certain to fail. The Iranians have already publicly forsworn any interest in nuclear weapons: Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi insists that Islam itself forbids their development. So just what purpose is served by another attestation of Iran’s fidelity to the NPT?

Perhaps Tehran’s good faith may yet be purchased with (Airbus) planes and WTO membership. But what guarantee is there that the arrangement will last? As we have seen with North Korea, rogue regimes rarely stay bribed, and the most effective way Tehran could up the ante is to continue to develop its nuclear options. At that point, a U.S. military strike would be too risky to contemplate. We also doubt the Iranians would be stopped by a hostile Security Council resolution, even if the Europeans could be brought to support it. “What’s the point?” they would say — and they’d be right.

What’s needed now is some genuine realism on Iran . The Europeans are free to believe that a nuclear Iran is a safer bet for them — a “status quo” power, as they like to say. As for the fact that Western Europe may soon be in range of nuclear-tipped Iranian missiles — that’s their business, as we like to say.

But the U.S., with its stake in Iraq and the Persian Gulf, its opposition to terrorist groups that Iran sponsors, and its commitment to spreading democracy in the Mideast, cannot be indifferent to a nuclear Iran . The problem is not that we have yet to hit on the right mix of carrots and sticks to cajole Iran into responsibility. The problem is that Iran’s theocratic regime is by its nature inimical to American interests; any move that extends its life also prolongs the hazard it poses to the U.S.

That does not mean the U.S. should drop diplomacy and take up arms against Iran tomorrow. It does mean that if any headway is to be made, the Administration needs to be absolutely clear about Iran’s intentions and Europe’s motives. Signing on to Europe’s strategy offers one certain outcome: a nuclear Iran.

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