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IRAN'S DATE WITH THE IAEA

Prepared by: Michael Moran
January 19, 2006

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Iran's nuclear gambit rumbles on, with an emergency meeting of the IAEA now scheduled for February 2. Efforts by Tehran to avoid referral to the U.N. Security Council are being rebuffed by Europe and the United States, who meanwhile are seeking to assure a nervous Russia that no confrontation is imminent (NYT).

Iran broke UN seals on its nuclear enrichment equipment last week, sparking strident threats of economic sanctions from the United States and EU (WashPost), equally firm declarations from China and Russia urging caution against rash moves (AP), dire leaks from Israel that its security forces were ordered to be ready for possible strikes in Iran’s nuclear sites (Times of London), and little sign that any of it matters much to the leadership in Tehran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in Syria signalling to the world that the two regional allies—each facing threats of referral to the Security Council—will not be intimidated (Guardian).

Facing this circular debate, what’s the world to do? CFR's Lee Feinstein tells cfr.org's Bernard Gwertzman that even if the IAEA decides to bring Iran before the Security Council, it could do little more than criticize Iran's actions. "Beyond that," he says, "it is hard to see what kind of consensus could emerge from the Security Council." Two Iranian dissidents, including Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, raise the radical notion of pegging trust in Iran's nuclear program to progress on internal human rights (IHT).

The emergency meeting of the IAEA is the necessary first step toward UN Security Council action. But Russia says it still hopes an offer to make Iran’s enrichment activities redundant by supplying Tehran’s nuclear power reactors from its own stocks (Scotsman) may avert the crisis. Still, experts see no easy answers. Nuclear expert Joseph Cirincione tells Gwertzman Iran’s “hard line” is making sanctions more likely. CFR President Richard Haass argues in Foreign Affairs Washington must rethink its hopes of regime change in Iran and use a broader approach involving talks, the threat of force, and sanctions. But optimism is not the word of the day. Says IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, sometimes, when diplomacy fails, you have to enforce rules by force (Newsweek).

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