Iran irresolution

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Wall Street Journal – REVIEW & OUTLOOK: Among the least surprising news coming out of the holiday weekend is that Iran denounced even the U.N. Security Council’s tepid sanctions resolution against its nuclear weapons program. More surprising — and encouraging — is that the U.S. State Department also seems unenthusiastic.
The Wall Street Journal

REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Iran Irresolution
December 27, 2006; Page A8

Among the least surprising news coming out of the holiday weekend is that Iran denounced even the U.N. Security Council’s tepid sanctions resolution against its nuclear weapons program. More surprising — and encouraging — is that the U.S. State Department also seems unenthusiastic.

“From Sunday morning we will begin activities at Natanz,” said Ali Larjani, Iraq’s top nuclear negotiator about the site of its 3,000 centrifuge machines for enriching uranium. “And we will drive it with full speed. It will be our immediate response to the resolution.”

And why should Iran react with any greater concern, since the language of the U.N. resolution was at most a wrist slap at Tehran for years of violating its promises under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty? Four months after Iran rejected the U.N.’s August 31 deadline for ending its nuclear enrichment plans, the most the Security Council could unite behind was a narrow freeze on the assets of 10 companies and 12 individuals related to the program.

The resolution’s order that countries stop supplying material for Iran’s nuclear effort carves out a huge loophole for Bushehr, the Russian-supplied light-water reactor. Even a proposed international travel ban on Iranian officials was dropped in the end at Russian insistence. As John McEnroe might describe this resolution: “You cannot be serious!”

The charade was even more than the State Department could bear to endorse wholeheartedly. Nicholas Burns, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s right-hand man, praised the resolution for isolating Iran but added that “We don’t think this resolution is enough in itself.” And he suggested that the U.S. would now work to form coalitions outside of the U.N. to add pressure on Tehran. It’s about time.

The aftermath of the resolution coincided with reports that coalition troops had captured Iranians helping insurgents in Iraq. This ought to underscore to Americans just how much Iran’s leaders are trying to damage U.S. interests in the Middle East. These are the same Iranians with whom Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton and most of the U.S. foreign policy establishment want to negotiate; perhaps if the U.S. allows them to become a nuclear power, Iranian leaders will then agree to help kill fewer GIs.

As his Presidency grows shorter, Mr. Bush is going to have to decide how much longer he can afford to let diplomacy dominate his Iran strategy. The mullahs in Tehran have made clear their determination to build a nuclear weapon; the West has yet to show any comparable determination to stop them.

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