Speak up on Iran

Can Israel continue to sit silently, pretending the int'l community is successfully blocking the bomb?

iran woman , gun 88 (photo credit: )
iran woman , gun 88
(photo credit: )
With its rejection Sunday of a Russian proposal, the increasing belligerency of the Iranian regime may have once again staved off the West's best efforts to avoid confronting the world's principal international threat. The question is whether Israel can continue to sit silently on the sidelines, pretending that the international community is successfully blocking the Iranian bomb. The Russian proposal, which would have allowed Iran to produce nuclear fuel precursors provided they are shipped to Russia for further processing, was itself a dangerous setback. For years now, there has been an on-again-off-again understanding between the E-3 (UK, France, Germany) and Iran that, in exchange for continuing negotiations, Iran will suspend all enrichment-related activities. This includes transforming yellowcake, a raw material containing uranium, into UF-6 gas, an immediate precursor to uranium enrichment. The Russian proposal would have allowed Iran to produce UF-6 gas completely aboveboard, thereby moving the regime a step further toward its goal of indigenously developing the entire nuclear fuel cycle. This week, Iran simply pocketed this concession and demanded that it not be "discriminated against" by having to produce fuel in a third country. That Russia would come up with such an idea is hardly surprising. The E-3, with its endorsement of the Russian plan, was also acting true to form by jumping for another excuse to continue to negotiate. What is surprising - and disturbing - is that the US also backed the Russian scheme. The US, it seems, has decided it will not break ranks with Europe, and even Russia, at all costs, even if the policy is moving in the wrong direction. What, for example, will the US do if Iran comes to its senses and says yes? The world will proclaim the Iranian problem as solved, and Iran will have bought more time and legitimacy for its obvious quest for the bomb. Two years ago already, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) admitted that Iran was in breach of its treaty obligations, which according to the agency's own bylaws require a referral to the UN Security Council. Since then the IAEA and the E-3 have repeatedly drawn lines in the sand which have all been crossed. Now the IAEA itself has fingered Iran with proof that it is planning for a bomb, not just nuclear power. Whether the E-3 is simply deluding itself or has willfully concluded that an Iranian bomb is a fait accompli, the result is the same: Europe, let alone Russia, cannot be relied upon to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Every day that goes by in which the US continues to follow Europe's, and now even Russia's, lead, the presumption grows that even the Bush administration has given up on stopping an Iranian bomb, and is just going through the motions. Our reluctance to, even implicitly, criticize the US, and risk turning the matter into an "Israeli" issue, is understandable and was probably even warranted up to this point. But the failure of the IAEA to refer the matter to the Security Council, combined with the international acceptance of Russia's blatant watering down of even the E-3's demands, shows that psychological acceptance of an Iranian bomb is growing. In this context, the time has come for Israel to sound the alarm. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should not allow even the impending elections to distract him from openly campaigning to gain global recognition for the need to stop Iran. Israel has the right and obligation to openly spell out the global implications of a nuclear Iran, and to frontally combat the creeping sense of helplessness in preventing this nightmare from coming about. For us to remain relatively silent is to contribute to our own marginalization as a nation. This would be true even if Sharon had not built up significant international credit, even admiration, within the international community. If Sharon launched an international campaign of public statements and private diplomacy on this issue during this election season, it would only enhance the sense of urgency that should be brought to bear, not to mention a prime-ministerial image of dedication to the national interest that he hopes to continue to represent. The hour is short: the "point of no return" should be measured not only with respect to Iranian capabilities, but when Western rhetorical determination quietly morphs into resignation and defeatism.