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Put Tehran On Probation

file photo of the Iranian Parliament.
By Bennett Ramberg
Oustside View Commentator
Los Angeles (UPI) Feb 08, 2006
The Intentional Atomic Energy Agency's reporting of Iran to the Security Council is a striking indictment of Tehran's "failure and breaches of its obligations to comply with the NPT Safeguards Agreement" and an "absence of confidence that [its] nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes."

Tehran's scornful response to the Agency's proposed confidence building measures to "re-establish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities" leaves the disputants in a deadly embrace begging the question: what do we do now?

Unless the parties come up with a new strategy that allays international suspicions while preserving Iran's "face" and "inalienable" rights under the NPT to develop nuclear energy, including nuclear fuel production for peaceful purposes, current diplomacy offers little wiggle room. As the parties dig in their heels, this leaves military action with all the attendant risks to regional stability and the global oil market.

However, the seeds for resolution may come in Iran's persistent declaration that its nuclear objectives remain peaceful. "Nuclear probation," offers an unexplored option to put this commitment to a final test.

Probation would concede Iran's right to develop a nuclear fuel cycle. But given its history of safeguards violations, Tehran would agree to place resident international inspectors at all atomic sites of concern indefinitely.

But probation would require more, far more. Iran would ratify the Additional Protocol, the IAEA directive requiring parties to open undeclared nuclear sites to snap inspections. No suspicious site would be excluded. It also would expand IAEA access to personnel and procurement documentation, dual-use equipment and military workshops and research and development locations that the Agency demands.

Combating non-compliance, probation would avoid the dithering that now characterizes the international community's response. The probation agreement would lay out the stark consequences endorsed by the Security Council, namely a time table for the imposition of increasingly dramatic punitive measures including economic sanctions, travel restrictions, military blockade and, armed action to destroy suspicious nuclear facilities inventoried by the resident inspectors and other intelligence.

The proposal recognizes the reality that Iran remains determined to get nuclear fuel facilities to preserve nuclear energy independence. Probation allows it to do so while applying teeth to enforce Tehran's nonproliferation vows.

Probation has additional advantages. It does not excuse the clerics for past transgressions. It provides a far more reliable tripwire to discourage a nuclear weapons breakout than IAEA sensors, seals and periodic limited inspections do today.

Rejection of a plan that would meet Tehran's nuclear energy objectives would remove any doubts that Iran is bent on a nuclear weapons program.

Furthermore, probation marks a superior strategy to tried and touted alternatives.

Europe's economic inducements already failed to sway. Likewise, the IAEA's efforts to embarrass Iran through its quarterly public thrashing. Efforts to resurrect Russia's proposal to enrich Iranian processed uranium remains a possibility, but the program butts against Iran's unalterable commitment to a domestic enrichment capacity. Moscow's recent suspension of natural gas deliveries to Ukraine have given the mullahs fodder for preserving energy independence.

To be sure there remains undefined sanctions that the United States will seek in the U.N. Security Council. However, generating the Council's concurrence will be difficult. Neither Russia or China are likely to risk their economic stakes in Iran unless intelligence demonstrates convincingly that Tehran poses a clear and present danger. Other countries also may recoil from the peril that Tehran may reduce oil exports. There also endures the possibility that the clerical regime will follow the North Korean path and bolt from the NPT.

Probation grants Iran one last chance. As a strategy in the IAEA's enforcement quiver, probation adds something equally important: it generates an important precedent setting mechanism that gives the NPT the authority it never has had to assure nonproliferation fidelity. A successful legacy will force parties to associate "inalienable" rights to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes with irrevocable nuclear nonproliferation responsibilities.

Bennett Ramberg served in the State Department during the administration of George H.W. Bush. He is an expert on nuclear terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation. United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

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