The United Nations Security Council deadline for Iran to stop uranium enrichment is only one week away. While for the White House escalation hysteria is the name of the game, Europe once again has nothing better to do than to demonstrate its paralysis over bottles of Bordeaux.
Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, at the sidelines of the Munich security conference this past Sunday, told Javier Solana, the European Union’s top foreign-policy diplomat, that “Tehran is ready to unite all its nuclear activities in a consortium with other countries”. Larijani could only have made this offer under instructions by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Solana admitted publicly that the meeting was “constructive”.
On Monday, Larijani met with the Swiss foreign affairs minister as Switzerland offered to act as a mediator between Iran and the EU under a new proposal. The Swiss proposal is for Iran to stop feeding centrifuges with processed uranium-hexafluoride gas while negotiations resume.
On the same day, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini, at his weekly press conference, confirmed in Tehran that all the issues in the nuclear dossier – including suspension of uranium enrichment – could be discussed again. Hosseini, stressing that Iran’s nuclear program is totally in accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations, added “we are ready to consider any plan that guarantees our rights”.
The problem is that right on cue, the EU decided to implement the UN sanctions.
Yet also on the same day, Solana’s office in Brussels delivered a document to EU foreign ministers according to which the Iranian nuclear program was slowed down only by “technical constraints” and not “diplomatic pressure”. The gist of the document is that it may be “too late” to stop Iran from “enriching enough uranium for a weapons program”. In essence, sanctions won’t work, Solana’s office said to the EU, while Solana himself believes dialogue remains possible.
What is it going to be?
It may be, once again, a case of the heavily disunited EU shooting itself in the foot. No one in Brussels – apart from a bunch of hawks closely connected to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – wants confrontation with Tehran, as for the EU, Iran in the long run is the ultimate, ideal gas supplier, capable of balancing the overwhelming power of the Gazprom nation (Russia).
The US administration’s over-the-top tactics – where Iranians are not only the new nuclear evildoers on the block but also the cause of the US disaster in Iraq – in essence cut no ice in Brussels. These tactics will only tend to get more far-fetched – as in Pentagon “evidence” of Iran supplying weapons for Iraqi Shi’ites to kill Americans.
Brussels diplomats were livid on reading reports that President George W Bush had ordered StratCom – the military command in charge of nuclear weapons – to plan for the possibility of an air and naval strike against Iran. They may be as livid as many in Tehran, where the mood is that the Chinese and the Russians – not the Europeans – will have to make a significant move at the eleventh hour to prevent a US attack.
All over this dangerous escalation, there is the implied assumption – especially in the US but even in Europe – that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb. This fallacy is never questioned. To make matters even more absurd, it is Iran itself that is being targeted – by the US – for a preemptive nuclear attack.
A recent, wide-ranging poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org reveals that the majority of Americans are against such an attack. Fifty-five percent of Americans support Iran’s right to enrich uranium, as long as UN inspectors have full access to its nuclear installations. That’s exactly what Iran has been doing for the past three years; and the IAEA has found absolutely no sign of a nuclear-weapons program.
For their part, 84% of Iranians say their country has the right to enrich uranium – which is guaranteed by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But 66% also approve continuing membership of the NPT – which prevents a nuclear-weapons program.
For world public opinion, it’s abundantly clear who the warmongering minority is: the same disgraced neo-conservatives who sold the Iraq quagmire. In this volatile situation the European (dis)Union could at least decide not to side with irrelevance – and give all power to the hope of a Swiss mediation.