Critical in Iran

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Boston Globe – Editorial: This fall, Iran’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been conducting an ominous purge of top ministers, diplomats, and security officials, a crackdown on reformers, and a renewal of terrorist sponsorship abroad. Simultaneously, his regime has been defying European Union negotiators who are trying to strike a deal that would compensate Iran for abandoning its
transparent pursuit of nuclear weapons. Boston Globe

GLOBE EDITORIAL

THIS FALL, Iran’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been conducting an ominous purge of top ministers, diplomats, and security officials, a crackdown on reformers, and a renewal of terrorist sponsorship abroad. Simultaneously, his regime has been defying European Union negotiators who are trying to strike a deal that would compensate Iran for abandoning its transparent pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Neither the Bush administration nor European governments can do anything to halt the power grab by Ahmadinejad and his former Revolutionary Guard colleagues — something akin to a revolution within a revolution. But the outside world can and must act resolutely to prevent Ahmadinejad’s belligerent regime from continuing its pursuit of nuclear weapons. An offer is on the table that is eminently fair — if Iran wishes merely to exercise its right to acquire nuclear material for peaceful purposes, as it claims.

In coordination with Russia, European negotiators from Britain, France, and Germany are proposing a plan that would give Iran guaranteed access, at market rates, to uranium that is enriched to the low levels suitable for domestic energy production. The crucial caveat is that the uranium would be enriched in Russia. In this arrangement, Iran would enjoy the right to civil nuclear energy that it claims as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but would forfeit complete control of the fuel cycle, meaning that it could not produce the highly enriched uranium required for nuclear weapons.

Iran is running out of pretexts for refusing such an offer. The International Atomic Energy Agency has seen documents from Iran that describe how to cast and machine uranium metal into the hemispheres needed for atomic warheads. This is a telltale sign of a military use for Iran’s nuclear program, particularly when viewed alongside Iran’s previously concealed heavy-water reactor and its recent, promise-breaking insistence on converting uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride, the gas required for the enrichment of uranium.

In a talk last week at Johns Hopkins, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns was mordantly critical of Ahmadinejad’s hard-line rhetoric but sketched an administration policy on the nuclear question that is properly balanced between diplomatic flexibility and a firm resolve to avoid what he called the ”unthinkable” outcome of Iran in possession of nuclear weapons. Since there are no realistic military options to prevent such an outcome, the administration must be prepared to muster overwhelming international support for isolating Iran diplomatically and punishing it with sanctions should Tehran’s hard-liners continue their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

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