The mullah minuet
THE JERUSALEM POST
Apr. 14, 2008

It was a small news item, easily unnoticed, part of a protracted series of deceptions: "Monday's scheduled meeting in Vienna between Iranian nuclear negotiator Gholamreza Aghazadeh and the UN's nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei has been postponed."

One step back in the minuet.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that it would "propose a package of solutions" aimed at "convergence" with international proposals offering Iran nuclear technology in return for ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons. One step forward - ostensibly.

This ongoing dance is accelerated by the scheduled meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, set for April 16 in Shanghai. They will talk about Iran's brazen, artful stonewalling of three fairly innocuous UN Security Council resolutions (the latest on March 3) aimed at cajoling the mullahs to abandon their efforts to build nuclear bombs.

No one in Shanghai will suggest an international ban on weapons sales to Iran. There will be no talk of any air or sea embargo. Still, the great powers will probably express "disquiet" over the installation of hundreds, if not thousands, more centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Verifiable data on the centrifuges - how many and how prolific - is unavailable. What is known is that Iran is moving rapidly to create as much nuclear bomb-making fuel as possible.

Also overshadowing the Shanghai meeting is last week's Jane's Defense dispatch, which shed light on what Iran wants to do once it has nuclear weapons: place warheads on ballistic missiles. Iran will soon possess solid fuel projectiles capable of reaching Europe. Yet the mullahs keep refining their Shahab missile, and it will eventually traverse 10,000 km., putting the US within range.

If previous international discussion about Iran is any guide, Russia will be thinking about all the nuclear technology it sells the mullahs, the profits reaped and the influence leveraged. Vladimir Putin continues to be Teheran's main enabler.

But China will do its part in Shanghai. One of Iran's two biggest oil customers, it is heavily invested in Iran's petroleum industry. Beijing is also Teheran's second-biggest trading partner. China wants Mideast "stability" and is convinced sanctions are bad for business.

Germany, France and Britain will be mindful of the price of oil ($109 a barrel) and the business they do with Iran. Berlin is Iran's number one import partner; Paris not too far behind. London's record is slightly better: Iran is ranked as the UK's seventh-largest export market in the Middle East and North Africa. But that's still a lot of sterling.

A complete quarantine of the world's number-four oil exporter - the kind of action that would make the mullahs sit up and take notice - is simply not on the Shanghai agenda. And why should it be? There is no constituency for the sacrifices entailed. If anything, many EU citizens believe, incredibly, that Israel is a bigger danger to peace than Iran.

THERE ARE too many sticks and not enough carrots, some of the diplomats in Shanghai will claim. But Iran has time and again rejected generous international offers of nuclear fuel and technology in return for abandoning its bomb. Others will say that Iran feels threatened, and that Washington should negotiate directly with it. Yet Washington and Teheran have been speaking directly in Iraq, to no avail. As the UK's Independent reported only yesterday, back-channel talks between well-connected retired US diplomats and Iranian officials have been dragging on fruitlessly for five years.

The pro-accommodation camp also relies on the December 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate, which invoked the narrowest definitions to assert, high in its text, that Iran stopped working on a bomb in 2003, and left lower down the fact that enrichment and all other elements necessary for a weapons program proceed apace.

Some friends of Israel are in despair. Columnist Charles Krauthammer urges Washington to place the Jewish state under its nuclear umbrella, while pundit Zev Chafets, writing in The New York Times, gloomily concludes that the Jews are on their own.

Granted, Iran is Israel's foremost strategic dilemma. But those gathering this week in Shanghai should not delude themselves into believing that the rapacious Islamist regime in Teheran does not also threaten everything they hold dear. Iran already has all of Israel well within its missile range, and still it extends its delivery capabilities.


Original article: Jerusalem Post
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