That face-to-facer in Geneva’s really paying dividends, huh?
The [UN] investigation ran into trouble just months after being launched [last year]. Deadline after deadline was extended because of Iranian foot-dragging. The probe, originally meant to be completed late last year, spilled into the first months of 2008, and beyond…
Officials say that among the evidence given to the IAEA are what seem to be Iranian draft plans to refit missiles with nuclear warheads; explosives tests that could be used to develop a nuclear detonator, and a drawing showing how to mold uranium metal into the shape of warheads. There are also questions about links between Iran’s military and civilian nuclear facilities.
Today, [Iranian Vice President, Gholam Reza] Aghazadeh appeared to signal that his country was no longer prepared even to discuss the issue with the IAEA.
Investigating such allegations “is outside the domain of the agency,” he said after meeting with Mr. ElBaradei. Any further queries on the issue “will be dealt with in another way,” he said, without going into detail.
Diplomatic sources in the know confirm the probe is at “a dead end.” Thanks partly to the Iraq WMD fiasco, partly to the NIE that claimed Iran had suspended its weapons program, and partly to the fact that this charade has dragged on for so long that no one can follow it anymore, there’s a general public perception, I think, that the UN is on Iran’s side in all this and has largely vindicated them from the charge of trying to build a bomb. Ain’t so. Olli Heinonen, the IAEA’s chief investigator, is the one who made the case back in March that there’s more to the Iranian program than meets the eye. According to tonight’s AP story, in fact, it was Heinonen’s briefing that fueled Iranian “anger” to the point where they’re now toying with cutting the IAEA off, although British and Israeli sources were alleging months earlier that reports of the program’s demise were greatly exaggerated.
They have slightly more than a week left to respond to the west’s incentives offer before Rice goes back to the Security Council for more sanctions. Exit question: How much longer is Israel prepared to wait? Per Shmuel Rosner’s piece today in TNR, don’t think of it as a choice between military action or diplomacy. Think of it as military action and…
According to this line of thinking, which has adherents among some high-ranking officials and former officials in the Israeli defense establishment, focusing on the tactical questions surrounding such an operation–how much of Iran’s nuclear program can Israel destroy? how many years can a bombing campaign set the program back?–is a mistake. The main goal of a hit would not be to destroy the program completely, but rather to awaken the international community from its slumber and force it to finally engineer a solution to the crisis. As one former Israeli official put it, any attack on Iran’s reactors–as long as it is not perceived as a military failure–can serve as a means of “stirring the pot” of international geopolitics. Israel, in other words, wouldn’t be resorting to military action because it is convinced that diplomacy by the international community cannot stop Iran; it would be resorting to military action because only diplomacy by the international community can stop Iran.