Friday, November 18, 2005

Iran's nuclear program: Time's running out for the Bush administration

Kash Kheirkhah

In his testimony before U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Mr Ray Takyeh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies in Council on Foreign Relations, called for an effective American participation in the nuclear talks with Tehran's regime. Mr Takyeh's suggested strategy for solving Iran's nuclear imbroglio came on the day Iran--dismissing a new offer by Russia to ease tensions over its nuclear ambitions-- began converting additional uranium at Isfahan's nuclear facility.

The fact that Mr Takyeh seems to be persistently ignoring is that, as I explained in my response to Mr Fareed Zakaria's argument on Iran's nuclear crisis, Tehran's nuclear program is the key to the survival of the regime. It simply doesn't matter whether the U.S. gets involved in the talks or not. The fact that no economic and political incentives offered by the Europeans have so far managed to lure Iran away from running its uranium conversion program is nothing but a clear sign that Tehran is seeking goals beyond an alleged simple civil nuclear program.

Iran's government has time and time again proved its nuclear program is not negotiable even with countries such as Russia--its biggest ally-- which now seems to be the main obstacle on the way of US referring Iran to the UN Security Council. Iran even rejected a deal--offered by Igor Ivanov, Russia's former foreign minister last week-- that would have allowed it to continue operating the Isfahan facility as long as the converted uranium from Isfahan could be shipped to Russia for enrichment.

It doesn't take a genius to see that Tehran's current strategy is based on utilizing tactics that will buy it enough time to move from one IAEA session to the next until first, its nuclear program has passed the point of no return and second, it has seen the second term of Bush's presidency out.

On the one front, Tehran is very cleverly playing with IAEA inspectors, half-cooperating with them and making sure it has gained itself enough saftey margin to avoid a UN Security referral. On the other front, as Tehran continues to beguile the IAEA, the uranium conversion program in Isfahan facility moves forward as planned, keeping Iran's nuclear program on track.

As Washington Post reports, it's been more than two years that the Bush administration has been unable to persuade its allies to send the Iranian nuclear case to the U.N. Security Council, where Iran could not only face economic sanctions for failing to disclose a nuclear energy program built in secret over 18 years, but also evidence of its involvement in the past and present terrorist activites around the world.

The current US administration hasn't got much time left. If Mr Bush and his foreign policy team can't devise a strategy to put an end to this cat and mouse game in the six months ahead, a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic of Iran and its dire consequences for the Iranian people and the world will be inevitable.

UPDATE: AP reports that Iran received designs from the nuclear black market run by a Pakistani scientist showing how to cast highly radioactive uranium into a form that could be used to build the core of an atomic bomb, diplomats said Friday.

Reuters also reports that The U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a confidential report on Friday it had found an Iranian document which one European diplomat described as a "cookbook" for a nuclear weapon...