OpinionIran in the World PressLast chance to avoid war

Last chance to avoid war

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Sunday Telegraph – Leaders: Our report today on the illegal transfer of missile technology to Iran marks a serious raising
of the stakes in the faltering effort to make Teheran come
clean about its nuclear programme. As Con Coughlin reveals, former members of the Russian armed forces are helping Iran receive assistance from North Korea. Sunday Telegraph

Leaders

Our report today on the illegal transfer of missile technology to Iran marks a serious raising of the stakes in the faltering effort to make Teheran come clean about its nuclear programme. As Con Coughlin reveals, former members of the Russian armed forces are helping Iran receive assistance from North Korea.

The significance of the illegal trading is that Iran may be even closer to developing a full-blown strategic missile capability than most Western nations have been willing to concede. Iran already has missiles capable of carrying warheads to targets throughout the Middle East. But the system now under development could – if completed – rain nuclear weapons on many parts of Europe. The crisis must now be referred to the United Nations Security Council as a matter of urgency – with the unambiguous understanding that this is only a first step.

In Paris on Friday, Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, made clear her view that the time for diplomacy between the so-called EU-3 – Britain, France and Germany – and Teheran is rapidly drawing to a close. “There is always the course of negotiation,” she said, “but there is also the course of the Security Council.” The Bush administration is privately mystified by the argument often deployed in the British Foreign Office that referral to the Security Council is more effective as a threat than as an action. This raises the question: what is the Security Council for if not to act in such situations? Busying itself with trivia, the council should instead be taking urgent steps to prevent a geo-political disaster.

Iran has always maintained that its nuclear programme is civilian in nature, although it is hard to see why a country with such rich natural resources would invest so heavily in nuclear power. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country’s hardline president, declared last month that “with respect to the needs of Islamic countries, we are ready to transfer nuclear know-how to these countries”. Having imported the means to cause millions of deaths, Ahmadinejad now threatens to export the technology to other Muslim states, creating an Islamic commonwealth of nuclear terror.

Two weeks ago, the British Government confirmed officially that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was behind the attacks in Iraq that have recently claimed the lives of eight British troops. While the EU-3 promise ever more negotiations, Iran makes its position clear in the blood of British soldiers.

Last month, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said that “this will not be resolved by military means, let’s be clear about that”. Mr Straw’s motives are unimpeachable and he has laboured hard to make the talks with Teheran work: but he spoke too soon. It is now clear that the Iranian crisis must be addressed much more robustly. The capacity of the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor the development of a weapons system is in doubt: the Security Council should consider a more aggressive inspections regime. Swift action now by the council is not a path to war. It is the last chance to avoid war.

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