The latest tussle over red lines and deadlines on Iran's nuclear program obscures some of the genuine dilemmas now confronting the international community.
For a long time, the major powers had hoped that imposing strenuous sanctions on Iran could produce an interlocutor willing to negotiate honestly and to adhere to an exacting arms control agreement. But time may no longer permit the patient exercise of coercive diplomacy.
To temper Iran's nuclear ambitions we may need not one strategy but two. The immediate challenge is to obtain an agreement that imposes some limits on Iran's more disturbing proliferation activities. However, this cannot be the end of the story, but an interim step to provide time for a strategy that broadens Tehran's ruling coalition and injects some moderate voices into its deliberations.
It is important to note that the Islamic Republic has persistently violated all aspects of its nonproliferation commitments. Both of Iran's known enrichment installations began as surreptitious plants that were later discovered by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Iranian regime continues to operate and expand these facilities in violation of six United Nations Security Council resolutions that call for their suspension. Tehran has refused the I.A.E.A.'s requests for information on previous weaponization activities or to grant access to its scientists and many of its facilities. Given this history, one can count on Tehran to similarly violate any agreement that it may be compelled to sign. For the Islamic Republic, as currently constituted, treaties are but diversions on its way to greater nuclear empowerment.