September 30, 2009

U.S. Ignores Its Own Deadline on Iran

By Dore Gold

  • Iran’s new proposal to the West did not provide any opening for serious negotiations on the nuclear issue, but rather vague formulations for the agenda of any future talks. Back in July, when the G-8 announced that the opening of the UN General Assembly “would be an occasion for taking stock of the situation in Iran,” most international observers understood that there was a hard September deadline that Iran had to meet to begin serious nuclear negotiations.
  • Unfortunately, at this stage, there is little evidence that the Obama administration is about to adopt effective action in a timely manner in light of Iran’s policy of rejectionism, setting aside diplomatic engagement and moving to a policy of severe sanctions.
  • Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), recently acknowledged that the Iranian stockpile of low-enriched uranium has already reached a sufficient level so that it was possible to talk about Tehran having “a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity.” Tehran undoubtedly observed that no serious action was taken against North Korea for its nuclear breakout, either by the Bush or Obama administrations.
  • The common assumption in Washington policy circles today is that even if Iran reaches the nuclear finish-line, the U.S. can fall back on the same Cold War deterrence that was used against the Soviet nuclear arsenal. However, Iran is a true revolutionary power whose aspirations extend into the oil-producing states. It is involved in both the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies, while its support for terrorism reaches into Lebanon, Gaza, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. With Iran threatening the flow of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz as well, through which roughly 40 percent of the world’s oil flows, the nuclearization of Iran has global - and not just Middle Eastern - implications.
  • In 2003-2005, Tehran engaged with the EU-3 for two years, exploiting the talks to race ahead with construction of key uranium enrichment facilities, while fending off punitive measures by the UN Security Council for three entire years. Iran today is far more advanced than it was then and the time for diplomatic experimentation is extremely limited.

Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1997-1999. He is the author of The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West (Regnery, 2009).