Iran Nuclear 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The announcement by the nuclear chiefs of Russia and Iran that they have reached a tentative agreement is grounds for concern rather than relief. The problem is not, as US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley responded, that "the devil is in the details." In this case, the devil is in any agreement that gives the illusion of resolving a crisis, thereby sparing a no less dangerous Iranian regime from international sanctions.
The deal in question is based on a Russian offer to enrich uranium in Russia and deliver it to Teheran, as a way of ensuring that Iran will not be able to itself produce bomb-grade material and build a nuclear weapon. Europe and, surprisingly, the US have supported such a plan in principle. As murky as the plan is, no one disputes that it would allow Iran to openly produce large quantities of uranium hexaflouride gas - an important precursor to enriching uranium to bomb-grade level.
It is not even clear that Iran has agreed to end the banned enrichment activities it recently resumed after the UN helpfully removed the seals on certain facilities at Iran's request. But what if Iran did agree? Does any nation seriously believe that Iran has given up its quest for nuclear weapons? Does anyone trust Iran, or Russia for that matter, to keep its word?
It strains credulity to suggest that the Iranian regime has suddenly given up what it views as not only a theological imperative, but as the ultimate guarantor of its power. Indeed, many are skeptical that any number of UN sanctions will induce Iran to reverse course. It is, of course, even less likely that Iran would do so before the UN has begun to consider action in earnest.
But let us assume for a moment that Iran seemed to be suddenly abandoning its nuclear ambitions. Would this mean that there would be no further reason for international concern or action?
In an interview in today's Jerusalem Post, visiting State Department counterterrorism coordinator Henry Crumpton said, "Look at the Iranians and their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Make no doubt about it. This is a clandestine military program; this is not about nuclear energy." He continued, "Some pundits talk about delivery systems, missiles, and that is a concern, but there is also another delivery system, and that is called Hizbullah, that is an extension of the Iranian government. You combine the Iranian nuclear weapons program with Hizbullah, and that is a pretty nasty mixture."
Michael Rubin points out in yesterday's Wall Street Journal that "Hizbullah used Iranian money to create an extensive social service network" which allowed it to take over southern Lebanon. It is using the same model in Iraq today, via Shi'ite militias, and Crumpton states that using Hamas is an Iranian "objective" as well.
All of this continues to take place regardless of Teheran's nuclear quest. For the mullahs, the bomb is the ultimate extension and protector of its established and expanding terror activities.
In short, the Western objective cannot just be to freeze Iran's nuclear program, even if there were more confidence that the Iranians could be trusted to abide by new agreements more than the many they have broken in the past.
The root problem is that the Iranian regime systematically employs terrorism as a means of aggression, and that the international community has yet to lift a finger - over four years after 9/11 - to do something about it. Iran's nuclear quest is a natural consequence of years of international neglect.
Iran represents the greatest test of the international community's willingness and ability to protect itself since 9/11. There is no option of being satisfied with pretend solutions that the regime will rightly portray as diplomatic victories, and that do not fundamentally change Iran's behavior, let alone free the Iranian people from the grip of extremist clerical rule.
The international community's objective must be to, as the first operative sentence of the UN Charter states: "take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression ..." (emphasis added). Only by imposing draconian multilateral non-military sanctions now is there a possibility of avoiding the need for military actions in the near future.