Skip to comments.Iranian Alert -- June 13, 2004 [EST]-- IRAN LIVE THREAD -- "Americans for Regime Change in Iran"
Posted on 06/13/2004 5:24:43 AM PDT by DoctorZIn
The US media almost entirely ignores news regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Tony Snow of the Fox News Network has put it, this is probably the most under-reported news story of the year. Most Americans are unaware that the Islamic Republic of Iran is NOT supported by the masses of Iranians today. Modern Iranians are among the most pro-American in the Middle East.
There is a popular revolt against the Iranian regime brewing in Iran today. I began these daily threads June 10th 2003. On that date Iranians once again began taking to the streets to express their desire for a regime change. Today in Iran, most want to replace the regime with a secular democracy.
The regime is working hard to keep the news about the protest movement in Iran from being reported. Unfortunately, the regime has successfully prohibited western news reporters from covering the demonstrations. The voices of discontent within Iran are sometime murdered, more often imprisoned. Still the people continue to take to the streets to demonstrate against the regime.
In support of this revolt, Iranians in America have been broadcasting news stories by satellite into Iran. This 21st century news link has greatly encouraged these protests. The regime has been attempting to jam the signals, and locate the satellite dishes. Still the people violate the law and listen to these broadcasts. Iranians also use the Internet and the regime attempts to block their access to news against the regime. In spite of this, many Iranians inside of Iran read these posts daily to keep informed of the events in their own country.
This daily thread contains nearly all of the English news reports on Iran. It is thorough. If you follow this thread you will witness, I believe, the transformation of a nation. This daily thread provides a central place where those interested in the events in Iran can find the best news and commentary. The news stories and commentary will from time to time include material from the regime itself. But if you read the post you will discover for yourself, the real story of what is occurring in Iran and its effects on the war on terror.
I am not of Iranian heritage. I am an American committed to supporting the efforts of those in Iran seeking to replace their government with a secular democracy. I am in contact with leaders of the Iranian community here in the United States and in Iran itself.
If you read the daily posts you will gain a better understanding of the US war on terrorism, the Middle East and why we need to support a change of regime in Iran. Feel free to ask your questions and post news stories you discover in the weeks to come.
If all goes well Iran will be free soon and I am convinced become a major ally in the war on terrorism. The regime will fall. Iran will be free. It is just a matter of time.
Tehran is on an Irreversible Nuke Path
June 13, 2004
The Associated Press
Ali Akbar Dareini
TEHRAN -- Iran won't accept any new internationally imposed obligations regarding its nuclear program and the world must recognize the country as a nuclear-capable nation, the foreign minister said yesterday.
The comments suggested a toughening of Iran's position two days before a meeting of the 35-nation board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to discuss Iran's nuclear program.
"We won't accept any new obligations," Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told reporters. "Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club," he said. "This is an irreversible path."
The IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, has wrestled for more than a year with what to do regarding what the United States and its allies say is a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program. Iran has rejected such charges, saying its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity, not making a bomb.
Mr. Kharrazi insisted yesterday that Iran won't give up its development of the nuclear fuel cycle, the steps for processing and enriching uranium necessary for both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. Iran says it has achieved the full cycle but is not enriching uranium.
"That somebody demands that we give up the nuclear fuel cycle ... is an additional demand," Mr. Kharrazi said. He apparently was referring to demands by the United States and European countries that Iran halt operations of a plant it inaugurated in March in Isfahan, central Iran, that processes uranium into gas and abort plans to build a heavy water reactor in Arak, another city in central Iran.
"We can't accept such an additional demand, which is contrary to our legal and legitimate rights," he said. "No one in Iran can make a decision to deny the nation of something that is a source of pride."
Iran suspended uranium enrichment last year under mounting international pressure. In April, it said it had stopped building centrifuges. IAEA inspectors had found traces of highly enriched uranium at two sites, which Iranian officials maintained was due to contaminated imported materials.
Mr. Kharrazi also said a draft resolution critical of Iran drawn up by Germany, France and Britain to be presented at the IAEA board meeting tomorrow is "unacceptable unless changes are made."
He said insistence by Europeans on "very tiny issues is contrary to the spirit of cooperation" and accused them of bowing to U.S. pressure and showing "lack of independence."
Washington wants the IAEA to declare Iran in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and refer Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
Mr. Kharrazi confirmed Iran's efforts to buy 4,000 magnets needed for uranium enrichment equipment, saying the issue was being "unnecessarily" hyped. He did not say where the magnets were purchased.
Diplomats in Vienna said Iran has acknowledged inquiring about 4,000 magnets needed for uranium enrichment equipment with a European black-market supplier and had dangled the possibility of buying a "higher number."
Iran Summons Qatari Ambassador
June 13, 2004
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting
Tehran -- Iran summoned Qatari ambassador to Tehran Saturday after an Iranian boat came under fire by a Qatari destroyer in the Persian Gulf high seas.
Iran's foreign ministry filed sever protest to the Qatari ambassador Salah al-kuwari, calling for an explanation and immediate returning of the boat and its crew captured by the Persian Gulf littoral state.
Iran also called for swift punishment of the culprits.
The Qatari ambassador deplored the event and said that he was not informed of the issue.
June 13, 2004
In totalitarian states artists play a cat and mouse game with the censors, though, unlike a Tom and Jerry cartoon, only the mouse is likely to end up crushed. This has happened to the Iranian writer-director Babak Payami.
A few years ago he returned home after a longish period studying in Canada, and made the admirable Secret Ballot, a witty fable about democracy, part Beckett, part Ealing comedy, in which an educated young woman flies into a desert area from the big city to collect votes in a general election and is driven around by an illiterate soldier. It was universally admired. His next movie, Silence Between Two Thoughts, was banned, the negatives confiscated, and Payam briefly imprisoned, though no charges were brought. However, a makeshift version was put together partly from film, partly from video, and it is this that was shown at Venice last year and is being distributed here.
What clearly annoyed the ayatollahs is the film's attack upon the corrupting effect of religious fanaticism and the suggestion that one day people will rise up and reject it in the name of reason and human decency. It's a stark, paradoxical tale that Borges or Dürrenmatt might have written and it begins with a long single take of nearly nine minutes that brings to mind the opening of Welles's Touch of Evil and the end of Antonioni's The Passenger. The camera focuses on a man, his face covered with a scarf, standing on a sandy wasteland pointing his Kalashnikov at an unseen target. He takes aim and fires one shot. After a lengthy pause he fires another. But as he raises the gun for a third shot a voice out of frame calls upon him to cease firing. His next victim, he's told, is a virgin and, if she remains so, will go to heaven without paying for her crime. Therefore she must marry, the marriage must be consummated, and then she can be executed and go to hell. We see the executioner's two victims carried off behind him on a donkey cart, and the camera circles around him, ending up with a long shot of the virgin against the bullet-scarred wall.
The man who has to marry the virgin, whose crime is never revealed, is the executioner himself, and he is acting under the orders of Haji, a religious zealot who has this remote impoverished village in his hands. His only opponent is the muezzin, the man who calls the faithful to prayer. The executioner prevaricates, wishing neither to disobey his master nor to carry out his horrendous orders. This seems to reveal to him his independent conscience, and it transpires that far from being the person who will restore the ailing village's fortunes, Haji is the source of their misfortune.
This is a very slow film, sometimes obscure to the point of opacity, and rendered more vague by the murky, ill-defined images. It is nevertheless a work of considerable moral power, if of a somewhat oppressive sort. Its central ideas are gripping, and - at least in downtown Tehran - they have the capacity to shock.
Iran rejects demand to drop reactor
By Christian Oliver and Parinoosh Arami
June 12, 2004 2:45 PM
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has rejected European demands that it freeze additional parts of its atomic programme, saying it would push on with plans to build a heavy-water reactor.
"We will not accept any new obligation," Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told a news conference on Saturday. "If anyone asks us to give up Isfahan industries to change yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride gas or to give up heavy-water facilities in Arak, we cannot accept such an extra demand that is contradictory to our legal rights."
Yellowcake is processed uranium ore, mined near the central desert city of Yazd. Uranium hexafluoride gas is pumped into centrifuges that enrich uranium by spinning it.
The United States says Iran is using its programme as a smokescreen for building an atomic bomb, but the Islamic Republic insists its scientists are working only on ways to meet booming domestic electricity demand.
Britain, Germany and France penned a tough draft resolution this week deploring Iran's failure to cooperate fully with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The document, to be debated at an IAEA board meeting starting on Monday, asked Iran to freeze its operation of a uranium conversion facility near Isfahan and reverse its decision to construct a heavy-water reactor near the central industrial city of Arak.
Kharrazi said he hoped IAEA board members would resist U.S. pressure and not only soften the resolution but also drop Iran's case. "It is not fair that Iran's case remains on the agenda for two minor issues," he said.
Iran must explain how traces of bomb-grade uranium came to be found on components, and what it plans to do with advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges it initially failed to declare.
The heavy-water reactor Tehran has decided to build would be capable of producing weapons-usable plutonium. Kharrazi said the reactor was still being designed and he did not know when construction work would start.
FRESH EUROPEAN DEMANDS
Iran promised to suspend its uranium enrichment last year but the three European powers' call to halt work at Isfahan and drop plans for the Arak reactor is new.
The United Nations does not define Isfahan and Arak as enrichment sites, but European diplomats have argued that the gas pumped into centrifuges is integral to the enrichment process.
Low-enriched uranium can be used in nuclear power stations such as the one Iran is building at Bushehr on its south coast, but if enriched further it can be deployed in warheads.
Kharrazi said Iran had the technology to produce fuel for its nuclear programme and wanted a full fuel cycle.
"Iran is powerful and should be regarded as a member of the nuclear club and that is an irreversible step," he said.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's former representative to the IAEA, said in a recent newspaper interview that Iran was 10 years away from being able to supply fuel to Bushehr.
Iran frees Internet journalist on bail
An Iranian journalist, who was detained after he strongly criticised his former conservative political allies, has been allowed free on bail after spending four days in jail.
Student news agency ISNA reports that Abbas Kakavand had been charged with spreading false information, and was jailed pending trial.
The journalist told ISNA he has posted bail, which is set at 100 million rials ($US11,600).
Kakavand has been charged with spreading false information in an article he published on the Internet.
In the article he accuses powerful conservative figures of profiting from their positions.
Iran's judiciary, a bastion of the Islamic republic's religious right wing, is maintaining a tough crackdown on pro-reform writers.
Since 2000, it has closed down more than 200 publications.
Around 12 journalists are currently in Iranian prisons.
Iran-EU Resume Talks on Human Rights
June 13, 2004
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting
Tehran -- The European Union and Iran are to hold the fourth round of talks on human rights this week with participation of representatives from various government and non-governmental sectors, it was announced here Sunday.
The Islamic Republic of Iran and the EU has launched human rights dialogue since September 2002.
The EU delegation consists of representatives from the European Commission, the European Council, the EU troika, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and some European university professors, said the information and press department at the Foreign Ministry.
Iran believes that human rights dialogue have prepared the ground for Iran and the EU to further promote traditions, culture and principles of human rights.
Further, such negotiations also ease bilateral cooperation based on mutual respect and interest and materialize the real trend of human rights.
Iran bans Nobel winner from representing slain photographer's family
TEHRAN, June 12 (AFP) - Iran's hardline judiciary has barred Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi from representing the family of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photographer who died in custody here, a spokesman for her group said Saturday.
Mohammad-Ali Dadkhah of the Human Rights Defence Circle said Ebadi's name did not figure in the list of approved lawyers on a summons for the next hearing in the case, set for July 17, some nine months after a controversial first hearing.
"This means that the judiciary has refused that Shirin Ebadi can represent the mother of Zahra Kazemi as a lawyer," he said.Kazemi, 56, was arrested in June 2003 for taking photographs outside Tehran's notorious Evin prison. She died in hospital on July 10, 2003 from a brain hemorrhage caused by a blow to the head.
Ebadi, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for her work on women's and children's rights, announced last November that she had agreed to represent Kazemi's family in the trial of an intelligence agent charged with her killing.
A small and soft-spoken 56-year-old jurist, she emerged as one of Iran's leading pro-reform activists and a thorn in the side of powerful hardliners by spearheading a drive for rights for women and children as well as representing political dissidents.
Intelligence ministry agent Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, 42, has been charged with "participation in a semi-intentional murder", in a trial that has sparked a feud between the courts and the intelligence service.
When the accused allegedly began questioning Kazemi, the photographer was in good health, but following an interrogation she was admitted to hospital, the prosecution has alleged.
The judiciary is a bastion of Iran's religious right, while the intelligence ministry is seen as close to the reformist government following a shake-up in 2000.
The intelligence service argues that Kazemi was fatally hurt while in the hands of the judiciary.The case, which caused an international uproar, has served to focus more attention on Iran's human rights record and has caused relations between Iran
and Canada to nose-dive.
The affair also descended into a tit-for-tat spat, when Iran responded to Canadian complaints by raising the issue of the killing of an Iranian-Canadian teenager by a policeman in British Columbia in July last year.
On Thursday, Iran officially protested to Canada after authorities in British Columbia concluded the policeman acted in self defense.Iran's director for consular affairs, Morteza Javedan, expressed "deep concern over the fact the case was handled with total opacity, that the family's lawyer was not able to sit in the meeting where the prosecutor's report was examined and was not able to learn about the case."
Last year, Iran's judiciary also slammed Canada's legal system as the "backward and racist" after the United Nations passed an Ottawa resolution condemning human rights in the Islamic republic.
Iran Will Not Make Concessions on Uranium Enrichment Program: Musavian
TEHRAN, June 13 (MNA) Hussein Musavian, the secretary of the Foreign Policy Committee of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), said here on Sunday that the Islamic Republics uranium enrichment activities have created a new dispute between Iran and the West, adding that Iran should make a serious decision on the issue.
Musavian told the Mehr News Agency that France, Britain, and Germany have fulfilled the commitments they made in the Tehran Declaration because they prevented Irans nuclear dossier from being referred to the UN Security Council.
However, Europe has apparently failed to remain committed to the February agreement in Brussels, according to which efforts should be made to close Irans nuclear dossier at the June session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, he said.
Musavian went on to say that the draft resolution prepared by Britain, France, and Germany for the IAEA Board is not dissimilar to IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradeis recent report on Irans nuclear activities.
He stressed that the three countries expressed appreciation of Irans cooperation with the agency in the resolution and have officially recognized the authenticity of IAEA inspections in Iran.
However, by referring to minor remaining issues between Iran and the IAEA, European countries are trying to force Iran to extend its suspension of uranium enrichment and to permit the agency to gain control over the UCF project in Isfahan and the heavy water installations in Arak, he added.
Musavian stressed that Iran expects Europe to change its draft resolution, adding that if the resolution is approved in its current form it will have a negative influence on the continuation of Iran-EU dialogue on nuclear affairs.
He said that the EU big three had previously announced that if Iran completely halted its uranium enrichment activities they would cooperate with the country in all other areas of nuclear technology and even provide the fuel required for its nuclear power plants for a 50-year period.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Musavian said that the September IAEA resolution on Irans nuclear activities fostered international mistrust of the country.
Referring to the G8 statement on Irans nuclear program, he said that Iran has positively responded to the groups demands that it remain committed to the safeguard agreements, the additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and efforts to create a WMD-free zone in the region.
However, the G8s emphasis on restricting enrichment activities in Iran runs completely counter to the commitment to the safeguard agreements, he said.
Musavian added that according to the NPT, all signatories have the right to enrich uranium. He stressed that any measure to restrict Irans enrichment activities, which are meant for peaceful purposes, should be regarded as a violation of the NPT.
He stated that Iran considers uranium enrichment part of its technological expertise, adding that the country will never forgo its right in this regard or negotiate on the issue.
Asked if Iranian MPs would ratify the additional protocol to the NPT or vote to reject it, Musavian said that the Majlis is the countrys highest legislative body and everyone is required to abide by its decisions.
Iran Will Not Make Concessions on Uranium Enrichment Program: Musavian
TEHRAN, June 13 (MNA)
Despite lack of results, EU keeps up human rights talks with Iran
Sun Jun 13, 4:34 AM ET Add World - AFP to My Yahoo!
TEHRAN (AFP) - The European Union (news - web sites) and Iran are to hold a fourth round of talks on human rights here this week, as EU diplomats admit their efforts to engage the Islamic republic have so far failed to stem widespread abuses.
The dialogue, which began in December 2002, is part of an ambitious EU bid to engage the clerical regime on a string of sensitive topics, including nuclear proliferation, the Middle East peace process and terrorism.
On human rights, the dialogue has been credited with paving the way for a de facto moratorium on stoning as well as unprecedented visits by United Nations (news - web sites) human rights rapporteurs.
But the wider picture appears to be just as grim as it was when the talks began some 18 months ago and when Brussels dangled a carrot -- in the form of a potentially lucrative Trade and Cooperation Agreement -- to Iran's clerical rulers in exchange for such talks.
"There has been little or no real progress. It is frustrating, and the only thing we can be credited with is keeping human rights on the agenda," a senior European diplomat here said.
"We are certainly nowhere near a trade agreement."
In a report on Iran released a week before Monday's talks in Tehran, the pressure group Human Rights Watch documented how political detainees here have been tortured in the presence of judges, held for weeks in absolute solitary confinement, and denied basic due process rights.
The group also pointed to a continued crackdown on student pro-democracy activists and journalists hostile to Iran's religious right-wing, a group that has secured a near monopoly on elected office after barring reformers from contesting February's parliament elections.
Human Rights Watch also issued a pointed message to Brussels, calling on the EU to set concrete benchmarks to end abuses.
"Given the human rights climate in Iran right now, a timid 'dialogue' in Tehran would send the wrong message. The EU must publicly condemn the crackdown that is currently underway," said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.
European diplomats based here say they fully share those concerns, but insist the talks themselves -- although short on results -- do represent an opportunity that should not be missed even if immediate results are not being seen.
"Let's not be naive. By the end of the week we are not going to see an end to dissidents being arrested, tortured or thrown into solitary confinement," said a European diplomat close to the talks.
"But it is better to sit around a table and talk about human rights cases than not to talk about it at all. Ignoring it would be tantamount to supporting the regime's conduct."
Instead of hoping for quick results, the EU sees the dialogue as a "window of opportunity" to address human rights alongside the more pressing issue of uncovering Iran's nuclear programme -- where immediate progress is being demanded.
"It's a long-term process. There are a new generation of Iranian judges and jurists who are listening, and maybe a few years down the line they will make a decision based on what they picked up on in the dialogue with the Europeans," another European diplomat explained.
He also asserted that Brussels was not going soft on the issue.
"Inside and outside these meetings, nobody from the EU side is taking a softly-softly approach," he said, noting that the process had late last year been stalled after the UN's human rights committee in New York approved a resolution condemning abuses in Iran including torture, suppression of free speech and discrimination against women.
After this week's talks -- set to focus on judicial administration, legal process and police training among other things -- observers will be looking at how the EU reacts to the no-show of the Iranian non-governmental organisation (NGO) headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.
According to the spokesman of Human Rights Defence Circle, Mohammad-Ali Dadkhah, their request to join the Iranian delegation went unanswered.
Dadkhah, however, said he supported the EU's continued effort.
"These discussions are useful because specific, practical cases can be raised," he told AFP.
"The overall situation has not changed if we compare to six months ago," he acknowledged.
"When I was in prison two and a half years ago, I was maltreated and beaten, punched and kicked by a guard, who also slammed a door against my body. But 20 years ago I was also in prison, and I can say that now the situation is better."
Iran drops idea of moving capital from Teheran due to quake threat
Teheran, June 13 (DPA) The Iranian administration dropped the idea of moving the capital from Teheran to another city owing to quake threats, the news agency IRNA reported.
The issue of moving the capital is not on the agenda and would solve nothing as millions of Teheran residents would still be affected by a possible quake,'' Interior Minister Abdol-Vahed Mussavi- Lari told IRNA.
Following the two strong quakes within six months in Bam in southeast and Baladeh in north Iran and predictions of a massive tremor in Teheran, the government played with the idea to transfer the capital to outside Teheran.
The housing ministry and the municipality should strictly supervise construction standards in Teheran as the only way to confront a massive quake effectively,'' the minister added.
Experts predict that Teheran could be hit by a catastrophic quake measuring more than 7 on the Richter scale within the next few years.
More than 11 million people live in or commute into Teheran during daytime, and eight million reside in the city itself. Considering the fragile capital's residential buildings, a 7 degree quake would be catastrophic, say experts.
The Netherworld of Nonproliferation
June 13, 2004
The New York Times Magazine
President Dwight D. Eisenhower saw nothing even remotely paradoxical about the expression ''Atoms for Peace'' when he delivered a speech of that name to the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 8, 1953. Eisenhower had come to disclose ''a new conception'': that ''if the fearful trend of atomic military buildup can be reversed, this greatest of destructive forces can be developed into a great boon.'' Atomic energy could be applied to ''agriculture, medicine and other peaceful activities'' and ''provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.'' This speech led directly to the establishment of the International Atomic Energy Agency, under the aegis of the United Nations, and, 15 years later, to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Both were founded on a grand bargain: countries that agreed to place their nuclear programs under a system of international inspection and forgo the development of nuclear weapons (if they didn't already have them) would gain access to the expected atomic bounty.
Today the premise of that bargain seems almost quaint. Nuclear energy has never achieved anything like the World of Tomorrow promise it enjoyed half a century ago; meanwhile, the world feels menaced by the threat of nuclear weaponry in a way unimaginable in Eisenhower's day. Authoritarian and, even worse, potentially unstable states like Pakistan and North Korea have opted out of the nonproliferation system in order to develop a bomb; terrorist groups seek weapons of mass destruction; and a global black market delivers nuclear fuel, equipment and weapons designs to states that aspire to join the nuclear club. The United States has already fought what may be thought of as the first war of counterproliferation; the fact that Iraq turned out not to possess weapons of mass destruction shows, among other things, how extraordinarily difficult it is to gain certain knowledge of an adversary's nuclear capacities.
Tomorrow the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency will meet, and the principal item on the agenda will be, as it has been for the last year, Iran's nuclear program. The Bush administration is convinced that Iran is secretly trying to build a bomb. The Iranian officials I spoke with in a visit to Tehran last month insist that they are merely trying to improve their ''energy mix'' by adding nuclear power to their abundant oil supplies. But even in the unlikely event that that is so, an Iran capable of producing weapons-grade uranium is plainly unacceptable, not only to the Bush administration but also to its chief allies. What is not at all clear is how to make the Iranians surrender that capacity.
The nuclear bargain has become hopelessly one-sided, and the instruments created to sustain that bargain seem unequal to the task. Bush administration officials describe the current impasse over Iran as a test that the international community, and specifically the I.A.E.A., is failing. Even the I.A.E.A.'s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, says that the entire nonproliferation system is in danger of collapse, though he would include American bellicosity among the forces that are endangering it. President Bush and ElBaradei, along with a wide range of scientists and policy makers, have proposed a variety of designs for a new and much more comprehensive nonproliferation system. Whether a new network of laws and institutions can plug the holes faster than terrorists, brokers, freelancing scientists and rogue states can fill them is an open question.
The bargain at the heart of Atoms for Peace made the I.A.E.A. a very conflicted agency from the start. It was responsible for developing peaceful uses of nuclear energy and ensuring the safe handling of nuclear materials, but also for monitoring the facilities and stockpiles of the world's nuclear powers. Even today, the curving halls of the agency's circular headquarters building in the urban hinterland beyond Vienna's Ringstrasse are lined with the offices of scientists working out nuclear applications for seed development and medical imaging. Until the last decade, nuclear verification routinely gave way before the demands of nuclear promotion. Inspectors were to serve as accountants, not policemen. Over the years, they logged countless hours earnestly cross-checking the statements of harmless countries like Canada and Sweden. As ElBaradei put it, ''Inspections were often Mickey Mouse.''
It was an almost invisible organization until the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war, when it discovered that Iraq had advanced its nuclear weapons program beyond the gaze of inspectors and under the noses of the world's intelligence services. This past March, when I was at I.A.E.A. headquarters in Vienna, I went to the office of Olli Heinonen, the agency's head of verification for the Middle East and much of Asia, and he showed me an aerial photograph of Iraq's Tuwaitha complex taken after it was bombed in 1991. In the years before the war, Heinonen explained, the Iraqis would lead inspectors on a mazelike journey through the one-kilometer-square complex and then deposit them at an innocuous building. And every year the I.A.E.A. gave Iraq a clean bill of health. After the war inspectors returned to Tuwaitha with a license to roam at will. Heinonen pointed to the map and said: ''The building next to that is where they did the centrifuge testing. This is where they first separated plutonium. Here in these two buildings they did the electromagnetic separation.'' And so on.
I asked Richard Hooper, who conducted inspections in Iraq from 1991 to 1993, if the inspectors couldn't have demanded to see a neighboring facility before the war, and he said, ''The Iraqis would have just refused.'' Visits were governed by elaborate agreements and subagreements that stipulated exactly where, when and how inspectors could operate. The agency could have invoked its power of ''special inspections,'' but this would have constituted an act of confrontation wholly foreign to the I.A.E.A.'s nature.
The I.A.E.A. had no intelligence-gathering capacity of its own, and the 35-nation board of governors was reluctant to let the agency use data gathered by national intelligence services. This changed in 1993, when inspectors in North Korea scrutinized a fuel-reprocessing plant designed to recover plutonium. Tests showed that the North Koreans had produced plutonium more frequently than they declared. Inspectors were at a loss to explain the discrepancy until the Clinton administration made available to Hans Blix, then the I.A.E.A.'s director, a series of satellite photos that showed, first, a waste-storage facility, then a row of trees tall enough to screen the facility from the road to the reprocessing plant, then finally a patch of fresh sod where the facility had been buried.
Blix showed the pictures to the board of governors to support his request for a special inspection. As Richard Hooper recalls: ''Blix arranged to show the photographs in the boardroom. The board members were literally stunned into silence.'' The North Korean delegates ''sat there with their mouths open -- but not for long. They walked out, and then they announced that they were withdrawing from the safeguards.''
In some ways, North Korea's withdrawal was more mortifying to the I.A.E.A. than Iraq's duplicity had been. The agency had, for once, been successful in exposing a clandestine program -- and for that very reason, it lost control over the program. ElBaradei, who was then the I.A.E.A.'s chief legal official, says that the ensuing approach to the issue ''was really a model of how things should not be done.'' At the time, the North Koreans might have responded to harsh criticism from the United Nations Security Council, but the Chinese blocked any action. Looking for an alternative, the Clinton administration agreed in 1994 to help the North Koreans build up their nuclear-energy program in exchange for halting work on weapons. But the inspectors were no longer on hand to monitor compliance. As ElBaradei says, the North Koreans ''got five, six, seven years without inspections, and they managed to keep the spent fuel'' -- the plutonium -- ''as a Damocles sword.'' A nuclear-armed North Korea may now be a fait accompli. Worse yet, the North Koreans may already have gone into the proliferation business. Inspectors recently unearthed evidence that suggests that the country shipped two tons of uranium to Libya in 2001.
The agency never got a second chance in North Korea, but it did in Iraq. After the gulf war in 1991, when I.A.E.A. inspectors returned to Iraq as part of Unscom, the United Nations body whose chief responsibility was chemical and biological weapons, inspectors quickly found evidence of Iraq's secret weapons program not only in Tuwaitha but also across the country. Iraqi officials tried to frustrate the inspectors at every turn, and critics charged that agency officials were all too willing to climb down from confrontation -- proof of the institutional timidity that came of years of passive monitoring. Yet by the time Unscom left Iraq in late 1998, inspectors believed that they had discovered and eliminated virtually every vestige of Iraq's nuclear program. (They were subsequently proved right.)
It was, of course, the run-up to the Iraq war last year that afforded the I.A.E.A. its first real taste of public notoriety. In November 2002, the Iraqis let inspectors return to search for weapons of mass destruction. It took only a few weeks for inspectors to realize that Iraq's technological capacity had, if anything, deteriorated since 1998. ''It was embarrassing when we came back,'' one of the inspectors told me recently. In his report to the Security Council on Jan. 27, 2003, ElBaradei said that his inspectors had, at that point, found no evidence of renewed activity, and he asked for a ''few months'' more as ''a valuable investment in peace.''
This was, of course, precisely what the Bush administration did not want to hear. Vice President Dick Cheney said the previous September that he knew ''with absolute certainty'' that Saddam Hussein was actively seeking to purchase uranium-enrichment technology. President Bush had told the American people about ''high-strength aluminum tubes'' that Saddam was trying to acquire for his nuclear program, and about the uranium Saddam had sought to buy in Africa. (Secretary of State Colin Powell would repeat many of these claims in his speech to the Security Council in early February.) The I.A.E.A. investigated each one and found them baseless. The most flagrantly unsubstantiated, of course, was the tale of the uranium from Niger. It was Jacques Baute, a veteran I.A.E.A. inspector, who discovered that the underlying documents were fraudulent. This triggered an internal debate that spoke volumes about the agency's relationship to the Bush administration. Could they say ''forgeries,'' which is just what they were -- or would that provoke the administration? ElBaradei, ever the peacemaker, opted for ''not authentic.'' Nevertheless, Baute says, ''I feared that I was sending him to the front to be blown up.''
The I.A.E.A. did come under full assault from the Bush administration. On March 16, 2003, days before the war began, Vice President Cheney said on ''Meet the Press'' that the I.A.E.A. had ''consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing,'' though he did not elaborate on those supposed mistakes. The vice president added, ''I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past.'' There were public broadsides as well from Powell and from Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser. Some I.A.E.A. officials say that they had several very bad weeks in the spring of 2003, waiting to see if the U.S. military would find something they had missed. But nothing turned up. And then came vindication: in October, David Kay, a former I.A.E.A. official and longtime thorn in the agency's side whom the administration appointed to hunt for W.M.D. in Iraq, stated that he found no evidence of significant post-1998 nuclear activities. He also said that ''the inspectors in the early 1990's did a tremendous amount.''
ElBaradei, who guards his feelings closely, does not admit to a sense either of resentment or of vindication. (Others in the agency freely admit to both.) He does, however, view the war in Iraq, like the current impasse in North Korea, as an instance of failed diplomacy. The Iraqis, he said, ''had been cheating the system for years'' and needed to be constantly challenged and confronted over their duplicity. At the same time, he added: ''We never gave the Iraqis the feeling that there was light at the end of the tunnel. They complained that it didn't matter what they did.'' ElBaradei said that he recognized that closing the nuclear file, or lifting some sanctions, might have affixed to Saddam's rule precisely the seal of approval that he sought. But he also argued (if not altogether convincingly) that doing so might have afforded Saddam an incentive to cooperate on his chemical and biological weapons programs. It is in ElBaradei's nature, as it is in the nature of Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations, to err on the side of engagement, and to acknowledge the interests and concerns of even the most odious interlocutor. At the end of a long conversation in his elegant apartment in Vienna, ElBaradei said: ''One of the supreme lessons you learn in life is compromise. And you have to compromise by putting yourself in the other person's shoes.''
Like Iraq in the 1980's, Iran through much of the 1990's received a clean bill of health from the I.A.E.A. Iran reported that it had only a ''limited nuclear program,'' and inspectors duly certified that it was so. American and foreign intelligence agencies felt certain that Iran was hiding something, but the agency, as one inspector put it to me, ''was sleeping on its ear.'' Then, in the summer of 2002, an Iranian resistance group disclosed the existence of several secret nuclear facilities, chief among them an enrichment plant in the town of Natanz. ElBaradei and a team of inspectors visited the compound the following February and discovered a highly sophisticated facility with an array of the centrifuges necessary for enriching uranium.
The Iranians claimed that Natanz was intended for civilian purposes; and since the exact same technology is used to make the low-enriched uranium required for a power plant and the highly enriched uranium required for a bomb, this was a plausible claim. But Iranian officials began to make matters much worse by lying about almost everything else. The inspectors immediately recognized that the centrifuges were a Pakistani variation on a Dutch design, known as the P1, but the Iranians insisted they had been domestically designed. The Iranians called Natanz a ''pilot plant,'' though plainly it was intended for large-scale enrichment. The Iranians said that they had never run uranium through the machines, though the inspectors later found evidence that they had. And this pattern of deceit, evasion, delay and literal-minded legalism continued for months.
At the time, the Bush administration had its hands full with war in Iraq, and European diplomats seized the situation as an opportunity to affirm the virtues of diplomacy. In October of last year, the foreign ministers of England, France and Germany journeyed to Tehran, where they offered trade opportunities that Iran craved in exchange for a suspension of nuclear activities and a complete disclosure of the program. This surprising display of deference, possibly coupled with growing American threats to bring the matter before the Security Council, persuaded the Iranians to sign a joint statement with the E.U.-3, as the delegation has come to be known. In the so-called Tehran Declaration, issued in October, the Iranians agreed to suspend all activities associated with enrichment; to offer a complete accounting of the nuclear program; and to accept an ''additional protocol'' to the Nonproliferation Treaty that expands the ability of inspectors to look for facilities that the host country has not disclosed.
So by last fall the Iranians, the Europeans and the I.A.E.A. all had reason to feel that a new, cooperative paradigm might be at hand, an alternative both to war (as in Iraq) and to the stalemate in North Korea. At that very time, however, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi decided to trade Libya's secret nuclear program for better relations with the West. One by-product of his decision was a bumper crop of information about the nuclear-arms trade. Agency experts became convinced that the Iranians must have received the same designs for an advanced centrifuge, known as the P2, that the Libyans had. And when Olli Heinonen confronted Iranian officials in December, they admitted that it was so. The Iranians then made matters worse by concocting one of their legalistic defenses; they didn't think ''research and development'' had to be disclosed.
hen I arrived in Vienna for the board meeting in March, the Americans and their allies -- chiefly, the Canadians, the Australians and the British -- were demanding a resolution harshly criticizing Iranian noncompliance. Rumor had it that John Bolton, the U.S. under secretary of state for arms control and a scorching critic of international bodies generally (and the I.A.E.A. in particular), had been sighted haunting the hallways. A few weeks earlier, Bolton sent a spine-stiffening letter to his chief European counterparts designed to remind them of the threat Iran posed to international peace and security. The rumor turned out to be the product of a fevered imagination; but Mohamed ElBaradei seemed to be hearing footsteps. In remarks to reporters before the session, he said that Iran was in ''violation'' of its obligations to fully disclose its nuclear program -- unusually strong language for him.
When I first spoke to ElBaradei, at the beginning of the week, he said that he welcomed a tough resolution to keep pressure on the Iranians, though he also felt that the moderates in Iran needed some gesture to keep the conservative clerics at bay. Above all, he was hoping to stay clear of the rhetorical battlefield. I said to ElBaradei that his situation was very much like that of Kofi Annan, forever trying to prove to Americans that he is not hopelessly conflict-averse without making developing countries dismiss him as a stooge of the West. ''Actually,'' he said, ''it's even worse than that. I have the right to sit in judgment, where Kofi Annan does not. And that makes many countries uncomfortable. We're in the driver's seat, and they're not. That's why impartiality for us is an absolute key. If we try to offer our own interpretation of the facts, we'll be shot down in no time.''
ElBaradei, who is 61, is a habitually cautious man, with a lawyer's faith in process as well as a diplomat's belief in engagement and compromise. He earned his Ph.D. in international law at New York University, and his father was the president of the Egyptian Bar Association. You hear grumbling among hard-liners in the Bush administration that ElBaradei is a third-world man or an Egyptian nationalist, but he has spent far more of his adult life in New York and Vienna than in Cairo. We had a lengthy colloquy on the merits both of the Yankees' acquisition of Alex Rodriguez and the Knicks' of Stephon Marbury.
With his large head, shining pate, little round glasses and bottlebrush mustache, the director general is an endearing rather than an imposing figure. He seems perpetually flustered, falling all over his own sentences and darting off in new directions. He is fond of American idioms, which he occasionally mangles. He is, according to his aides, very shy and has only slowly adapted to the public demands of his job. And yet he is given a great deal of credit for changing the culture of the agency. Gary Milhollin, a nonproliferation expert who has often mocked the I.A.E.A. for its timidity, says that ElBaradei has projected ''a much more muscular image'' for the agency and that inspectors have ''done a good job of challenging the Iranians and demanding that the Iranians explain the inconsistencies in their story.'' Senior Bush administration officials tend to be less charitable. One confidently assured me that the Iranians ''are stiffing the inspectors, but ElBaradei won't say it'' -- which the inspectors themselves deny -- and speculates that he is soft-pedaling the truth in service to ''higher ambitions'': to head the Arab League, or even to qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize.
ElBaradei spent much of that week in Vienna fielding complaints from the Iranians, who wanted him to stand up to the Bush administration. But they had lost him after the discovery of the P2 centrifuge design. ElBaradei told me he had said to top Iranian figures, ''I stick my neck to try to help you, and then we see that.'' ElBaradei worried about the damage the revelation had done to the I.A.E.A. ''It goes to our credibility as an institution,'' he said. ''We are balanced, and we are weighing our words carefully, but we do not want to be fools.'' ElBaradei would be going to Washington at the end of the week to meet with President Bush as well as with George Tenet, the C.I.A. director; the I.A.E.A. receives intelligence from U.S. agencies as well as from the intelligence services of several other nations, but only intermittently. ''We must communicate that the agency is not a blue-eyed bureaucrat sitting in Vienna,'' he told staff members one morning. Also, he instructed, no gloating about who was right about Iraq, and no meeting during the visit with emissaries from the John Kerry camp. ElBaradei wanted to lay out a vision for putting the nuclear genie back in the bottle that was different from President Bush's; but, he said, ''we need to get them to see that our view complements their view.''
The week ended on a good note for ElBaradei. The Iranians had won the support of countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, few of whom evince much concern with nonproliferation issues; and the two sides had been hopelessly deadlocked on language for the resolution. It didn't help matters that the Americans and Iranians refused to be in the same room with the other, so the Canadian ambassador had to run back and forth, bearing proposed changes. Late on Thursday night, ElBaradei was awakened by a call from Secretary Powell asking him to become personally involved. ElBaradei would go to almost any lengths not to say no to a request from Powell, whom he considers his greatest champion inside the Bush administration. The following day, the two sides began meeting -- separately, of course -- in ElBaradei's office, and by Saturday morning they had agreed on a draft that had enough ''deplores'' in it to satisfy the Americans, and enough caveats to mollify the Iranians.
ElBaradei flew off to Washington the next day. I had a cup of coffee with him in the midst of his tour, and he said, with no little relief, ''We're coming at a good time, because they're very pleased.'' He had already met with Republican congressmen, several of whom seemed to be under the impression that the I.A.E.A. was denying that Iran had a nuclear program; he tried to explain the difference between a nuclear program and a weapons program. He met with several administration officials and was delighted by the professional and nonideological tone of the discussions. ''Now that we have this relationship,'' one moderate said, ''don't be surprised if we turn to you even more in the future.'' ElBaradei then left for his meeting with President Bush. When he returned, ElBaradei said that the president, obviously well briefed, broke the ice by saying, ''So, I hear you're a Yankees fan.'' They talked about A-Rod and then about family. In the course of a 40-minute discussion, ElBaradei raised the need to secure nuclear material in Russia; to criminalize the export of nuclear weapons technology; and to improve the quality of intelligence. I asked whether he carried a message from the Iranians, as I was told he might have, seeking a deal with the United States. ElBaradei declined to answer. He did say that the president was obviously pleased about the resolution on Iran. He realized, however, that the mood could prove transitory.
When I visited Tehran last month, my plan was to accompany the I.A.E.A. inspectors as they visited the country's nuclear sites. The agency agreed to let me do so, and so, apparently, had the Iranians. On my first morning, however, it became plain that officials from the Foreign Ministry had no idea what to do with me. They sent me across town to get a press card from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which ultimately refused to give me credentials. When I returned to my hotel, I was told that a caller, who had not identified himself, left instructions that I was to appear at a police station the following morning. Still later, the I.A.E.A.'s chief inspector in Iran, Christian Charlier, knocked on my door to let me know that the general director of the Foreign Ministry himself approved of my plans for the next day. But by the following morning, that official had been overruled by the Atomic Energy Organization. And that was the end of my nuclear tour of Iran.
Iran turns out to be a very peculiar kind of totalitarian state, one that seeks iron control over public behavior and expression yet is subject to constant improvisation. The Islamic Revolution never fostered an entirely coherent authority structure. Underneath the supreme authority, Ayatollah Khamenei, are councils and ministries that have a more or less horizontal relationship and continually vie to fill whatever vacuums are left by the Leader. Ali Salehi, a nuclear physicist who was serving as Iran's representative to Vienna when the truth about his country's nuclear program first began to come out, told me that ''at the outset, there was not one particular organization that would say the last word; one would not know where to get the authorization and permission. This is because high officials here are all on an equal footing and power is shared among so many.'' Salehi said he grew so frustrated with the secrecy back home that he began leaking information to the Iranian press, at which point he was swiftly relieved of his position.
I had been caught up in the same internal contest that Salehi had -- that between the forces of more-or-less transparency and those of defensive withdrawal. The Foreign Ministry, which apparently gained control over the nuclear program from the Atomic Energy Organization, generally pushes for openness toward the world; sometimes it wins, often it loses. In my case, it seemed to have lost, to both the Atomic Energy Organization and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. But Iran is not a one-man state, like Libya or North Korea. Diplomats point out that the Tehran Declaration represented a major victory for the forces in Iran that, however tentatively, seek engagement with the larger world; if Iran is seen to get nothing in exchange for the risk it took, those forces will be discredited.
The Iranians were, in fact, very eager to let the world know how thoroughly they had been misunderstood, and I received a call from Ali Asghar Soltanieh, deputy director general of the division of international political affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking me to meet with him. I was bowed into Soltanieh's office by various supernumeraries. It was a very big office filled with ponderous, high-backed, carved wooden chairs. On one wall was the official photographic triptych: Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei flanking Mohammad Khatami, the country's increasingly marginalized president.
Soltanieh heard of my travails, and he was profoundly apologetic and solicitous. Tea was served, as were sweets. Soltanieh also had prepared a monologue for my benefit. He was, he said, a nuclear physicist who had served in the Atomic Energy Organization in the days of the shah. America was then eager to support Iran's fledgling nuclear program, and Germany was all too happy to begin work on a reactor in Bushehr. ''At that time, we had oil,'' Soltanieh observed; ''but nobody questioned, 'What is the justification for going nuclear if you have oil?' '' He then went on to serve as his country's representative to the I.A.E.A. from 1982 to 1987, a period when the West was blocking all shipments of uranium to Iran. How was Iran to acquire fuel to get its nuclear power program under way? ''The country had no option other than working on the fuel cycle,'' he said. (The fuel cycle is the process required to transmute uranium metal mined from the ground into fissionable material.) ''We had to try all the routes possible -- plutonium, gas centrifuge, laser enrichment.'' And of course it had to be clandestine, since the West wouldn't stand for Iran having its own nuclear ability.
Soltanieh proceeded to offer me a litany of patently absurd explanations for Iran's undisclosed nuclear facilities. He explained, for example, that Natanz could not be described as ''clandestine'' because the villagers all around knew very well what it was. I could see why Iran is so widely believed to be harboring a secret weapons program; why else would authorities be concocting such laughably transparent lies? And yet, Soltanieh himself may have been kept in the dark about the nuclear program, and then did his best to brazen it out. Inspectors say Iranians from the Foreign Ministry often seemed as amazed as they were by many of the discoveries.
Is it possible, then, that all those lies don't add up to a terrible truth? John Bolton ridiculed ElBaradei last fall for reporting that no evidence had yet emerged that Iran was developing a nuclear weapons program. And yet ElBaradei was stating a fact. Last summer inspectors found particles of uranium enriched as high as 54 percent, far above the 3 to 4 percent needed to produce energy; but the material may have entered as contaminants on foreign equipment the Iranians purchased from their intermediary. Officials like Soltanieh have been so oblique on the subject that it's impossible to tell. Nor have the Iranians yet provided convincing explanations for experiments involving polonium and other radioactive materials. But inspectors have found no weapons, no weapons drawings, no evidence of weapons research. ''Everything seems to be lined up to support enrichment of 3 to 4 percent to produce fuel,'' said Christian Charlier, an I.A.E.A. inspector. While he finds all the lies maddening, ''so far, we don't have any facts that say they have a nuclear weapons program.''
You would think, given the humiliating experience in Iraq, where no evidence of an active nuclear weapons program has been found, that the Bush administration would subject the evidence in Iran to exacting scrutiny. But it hasn't. In fact, its position amounts to ''Where there's smoke, there's fire.'' One White House official explained to me that ''there is no other rational explanation'' for Iran's nuclear program than the development of weapons. But of course there was no other rational explanation for Saddam Hussein's stonewalling of inspectors. You would think that by now ''no other rational explanation'' might have been discredited as a cause of action.
One Western diplomat I met with in Tehran said: ''The Americans are right in saying that a nuclear energy program in this country with these enormous oil reserves does not make sense. At the same time, what is clear is that this country for national security reasons wants to have a nuclear industry. There is agreement across the board to the point of saying, 'We need to have a nuclear capacity to a certain level.' The level is not clear. I am absolutely not sure that there is a decision even by the religious leadership to go for a bomb.''
If Iran is developing a bomb, the Iranian officials I talked to are much better liars than I give them credit for being. On this subject, there was not a hint of waffle. The official line is that Iran must have the capacity to produce its own enriched nuclear fuel. When I asked why they couldn't just buy fuel from others -- they are already working on a deal with Russia to do just that for the Bushehr reactor -- I was told that experience taught them they couldn't rely on others. But that wasn't really the point. When I pressed Dr. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a top official with Iran's Security Council, he said bluntly, ''To stop Iran from a legitimate right of NPT [the Nonproliferation Treaty], which is to enjoy the peaceful technology of nuclear power, is not acceptable to Iran.'' Mousavian spoke -- repeatedly -- of ''the double standard,'' of ''discrimination.'' Why should Iran, he asked, be denied benefits available to Japan? The answer, of course, is that Japan is not a theocratic state with a history of support for terrorism, and it is not located in the Middle East. Mousavian was not much impressed with this point. He said he expected that ''in a very short time -- I would say two years -- we should reach the full transparency and confidence'' promised in the Tehran Declaration, and then the suspended fuel-enrichment activities would resume.
But this almost certainly will not happen. The reason it won't happen is that the bargain enshrined in the Nonproliferation Treaty -- the bargain Iranian authorities wish to see fulfilled -- is effectively defunct. The distinction between peaceful and warlike uses of nuclear power has become hopelessly blurred. The threshold issue in nuclear nonproliferation is not the hardware -- bombs are no longer so hard to make -- but the capacity to enrich uranium. In the case of the ''fuel cycle,'' the same technology serves military as well as civilian uses. It's only a matter of time, and not much time at that, to go from the harmless to the lethal. If Natanz is permitted to go back online, and if the Iranians go back to manufacturing centrifuges, they could soon have a facility capable of converting low-enriched uranium to the highly enriched uranium needed for a weapon. Nobody would know until it was too late. And that is why what is nonnegotiable to the Iranians is unacceptable to the Bush administration, the E.U.-3 and ElBaradei himself.
Can the Iranians be persuaded to mothball their entire enrichment industry? That depends on whether you think the Iranians are a pack of unscrupulous liars, as many Bush administration officials do. For them, the debate over Iran offers more proof that the international community and its institutions are not up to the challenge of confronting evildoers. Administration policy makers are growing increasingly impatient with both the Iranians and European diplomats who have, they say, a ''delusional'' faith in the value of further negotiations -- just as they did with Iraq. This time, of course, there will be no calls for war -- Iraq has seen to that. What the administration wants the I.A.E.A. board to do is refer the matter to the Security Council as a threat to international peace and security, though officials recognize that they have not won that battle. Instead, as one says, ''We have to raise the issue higher than we have'' by calling on allies to at least threaten to impose economic sanctions and political isolation on Iran.
The Europeans take a very different view -- and this time the British, who have taken a fearful pasting over Iraq, will not stray far from the French and the Germans. For one thing, American credibility on the issue of weapons of mass destruction is not what it used to be. The Europeans, too, see the smoke, but they are not convinced of the fire. As one E.U.-3 diplomat says, ''We have been through so many surprises that I cannot rule out'' a clandestine program, but ''we have never seen any additional convincing evidence.'' Nor do the Europeans agree that the Iranians have grossly abused the commitments they made last October. Neither is there an appetite either for Security Council resolutions or for sanctions. ''We consider that the I.A.E.A. process is the best game in town'' is how an official with the British Foreign Office put it.
The European approach is to keep the pressure on the Iranians but to offer them a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel -- a limited expansion of trade relations, perhaps, when the Iranian Parliament ratifies the additional protocol, thus committing Iran to transparency. And the problem of the fuel cycle? Keep the ''temporary'' suspension in place for as many years as it takes for the mullahs to finally go home in favor of a new government able to see the light of reason. In other words, stall. A Western diplomat in Tehran suggested to me that this is not a moment to seek ''truth, justice and clarity'' but rather ''what is pragmatically possible.'' This is, of course, just the kind of counsel that registers as the moral fatigue of Old Europe in certain quarters of the White House and the Pentagon.
Iran is unlikely to make good on its threats to eject the I.A.E.A., which would lead to just the kind of isolation the Bush administration would like to impose. But a policy of unyielding pressure would almost certainly lead the Iranian Parliament to refuse to adopt the additional protocol and generally strengthen the hard-liners. Iran also has the capacity to cause enormous mischief among the Shiites of Iraq. Perhaps something of ElBaradei's empathy is required. Iranians feel encircled by unfriendly countries and threatened by Israel and are now surrounded by U.S. troops. The fuel cycle has taken on a talismanic power for them not only as a matter of national pride and autonomy, but perhaps also as a deterrent (though they won't admit as much). That doesn't mean they get to keep it, but their motivations and political worries and calculations go well beyond ''evil.''
Each of the shocks of the last 15 years has exposed a different failure in the nonproliferation system -- in Iraq, the absurdity of the gentlemen's agreement; in North Korea, the benefits of noncompliance as well as the dangers of diplomatic irresolution; in Libya, the ease and impunity with which the black market in nuclear supplies operated; and in Iran, the legal protections extended to fuel-cycle activities. A new international architecture of nonproliferation, if there is to be one, must address all of these problems.
The I.A.E.A. began to rewrite the gentlemen's agreement when it began promoting the additional protocol in 1997. The additional protocol permits I.A.E.A. inspectors to visit any building that they have reason to believe might contain nuclear facilities, and to conduct spot inspections with as little as two hours' warning. Inspectors say that the protocol gives them all the latitude they need to find what is findable. The problem is that some countries with nuclear programs (including the U.S.) have signed but not yet ratified it. President Bush has proposed that many of the benefits that flow from the Nonproliferation Treaty should be made conditional on ratification of the protocol. But even the countries that do sign up can still bamboozle the inspectors, as the Iranians may or may not be doing. The I.A.E.A. will always have to rely on surveillance conducted by the major intelligence agencies, as it has, sporadically, since the North Korean incident in 1993; officials say that the C.I.A. has promised to work closely with the agency in the future.
And if a country withdraws from the NPT, as North Korea did, or refuses to sign it, as Pakistan, India and Israel have, or blocks inspectors, as Iraq did, the I.A.E.A. is helpless. ElBaradei has proposed making the Nonproliferation Treaty obligatory, like the convention on genocide, so that withdrawal would be illegal. But the international community has to be prepared to deal with the outlaws, as it was not with North Korea. Jessica Mathews, head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out that the mechanism for referring nuclear delinquents from the I.A.E.A. board to the Security Council is hopelessly creaky, but that is largely because most of the members of the 35-nation board care much more about getting access to peaceful technology than about blocking proliferation. Countries like Malaysia have consistently taken Iran's side over the last year. The problem, at bottom, is political will; nonproliferation must move closer to the top of the global agenda than it is now, and not just for nations that see themselves as potential victims of nuclear terrorism.
How can we choke off the black market in nuclear material and know-how? The Bush administration, which is given higher marks for its engagement with this issue than it is on most other international fronts, has promulgated what it calls the Proliferation Security Initiative, a set of agreements with a widening range of countries to work together to interdict nuclear materials; the seizure of centrifuge parts from a ship bound for Libya late last year was the most spectacular success of the P.S.I. so far. The administration also promised to spend $450 million to secure tons of uranium and plutonium originally manufactured by the United States and Russia. (In a speech earlier this month, Senator John Kerry said securing this nuclear material would be his highest security goal as president, and vowed to do it much faster than President Bush would.) But Russia is scarcely the only proliferation problem. Many countries do not now ban the sale of nuclear material, and ElBaradei often speaks of the need for a new regime of export controls.
Clearly the nuclear bargain must be rewritten so that states no longer have the right to make their own enriched fuel. ElBaradei has proposed that the manufacture of enriched uranium for export be placed under multinational control. The supply of nuclear fuel would be guaranteed by international agreements, giving countries like Iran no legitimate grounds to insist on a program of their own. President Bush laid out an alternative vision in a speech last February in which he proposed to vest control over enrichment in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a 40-member community of nations with nuclear programs. ElBaradei says that the problem with allowing only some countries to sell enriched fuel is that ''the representative from South Africa'' -- a country that volunteered to surrender its nuclear program -- ''is going to say, 'How can we accept that Pakistan, India and Israel, which are rogue states so far as the NPT is concerned, are in and we are out?' '' And how will Iran be induced to dismantle its own nuclear program if others -- Brazil and Japan -- get to keep theirs?
ElBaradei insists that the differences between him and the Bush administration are matters not of ''ideology'' but of ''perception.'' But it is also the difference between a preference for universal, treaty-based solutions as opposed to ad hoc ones like the Bush administration's Proliferation Security Initiative. Nonproliferation would seem, in fact, to constitute the supreme test of the world's ability and willingness to act in concert. A proposal for a ''Strategy of Universal Compliance,'' to be issued next week by the Carnegie Endowment, gives the Bush administration credit for forcing a change in ''international threat assessments'' and in the calculus of noncomplying states, but also notes: ''The core problem is that stopping the spread of nuclear weapons requires more international teamwork than the Bush administration recognizes, and more international resolve than previous administrations could muster. . . . The United States cannot defeat these threats alone, or even with small coalitions of the willing. It needs sustained cooperation from dozens of diverse nations to broaden, toughen and enforce nonproliferation rules.''
How can we get that cooperation? Many nonweapons states complain that the U.S. wants to rewrite the rules so that they cannot produce nuclear fuel and must sign the additional protocol -- but itself flagrantly violates the commitment to pursue disarmament enshrined in the NPT. What's more, the Bush administration has begun research on a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons. Is this not, as the Iranians would have it, a double standard? ElBaradei says he believes that it is. In a speech last month before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, he said, a bit more provocatively than is his custom, ''There are some who have continued to dangle a cigarette from their mouth and tell everybody else not to smoke.''
This is not considered a serious argument inside the Bush administration. One official said that the professed concern about American disarmament was ''rhetorical'' rather than real, and in any case failed to account for the destruction of weapons and fuel stocks. (John Kerry says he would also stop development of any new nuclear weapons.) When ElBaradei came to Washington, Brent Scowcroft, the Republican sage and Bush family friend, suggested he keep a lid on the disarmament stuff, and ElBaradei was prudent enough to do so. After all, no responsible president would ever expose the United States to the possibility of nuclear blackmail. Nonetheless, just as we are unlikely to persuade Iran to eliminate its fuel-cycle program through a campaign of threats, so we are unlikely to enlist allies in erecting a new global nonproliferation order if we treat ourselves as wholly exempt from some of its central requirements.
In his ''Atoms for Peace'' speech, Eisenhower said, ''I know that the American people share my deep belief that if a danger exists in the world, it is a danger shared by all; and equally, that if hope exists in the mind of one nation, that hope should be shared by all.'' It is, perhaps, an archaic sentiment. And yet Eisenhower recognized a central tenet of a world into which the destructive power of the atom has been unleashed: as we are collectively menaced, so we must collectively act.
James Traub, a contributing writer for the magazine, is the author of ''The Devil's Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square.''
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Kuwait Intelligence Monitoring Opposition Lawmakers For Iran Ties
June 10, 2004
ABU DHABI -- Kuwait's intelligence service was said to have been monitoring at least 25 parliamentarians for links to anti-regime activities.
Kuwaiti parliamentarian and former speaker Ahmad Al Saadoun asserted that the sheikdom's security agencies were monitoring 25 lawmakers. Al Saadoun said the decision to monitor the 25 parliamentarians was taken recently by Kuwaiti security chiefs.
"A meeting has taken place at the state security agency and those attending were assigned to spy on 25 parliamentarians," Al Saadoun told parliament on June 1.
Parliamentarians said the effort was meant to monitor the activities of the Islamic opposition. They said the effort has focused on Shi'ite members believed to have been in contact with Iran.
"Twenty-five parliamentarians met at parliamentarian Waleed Al Jari's residence recently," Al Saadoun said. "The state security agency asked its members to watch the parliamentarians under the pretext that they were worried about their safety."
The assertion by Al Saadoun took place during a parliamentary debate on a law that would limit public gatherings in Kuwait. The Public Gathering Law allows authorities to reject any license for a demonstration without reason.
Al Saadoun said Kuwaiti authorities have also tapped the telephones of the 25 parliamentarians. He envisioned greater restrictions on individual freedoms with the signing of the new counter-terrorism agreement by the Gulf Cooperation Council in April.
"The country is threatened," Al Saadoun said. "What protects us is not good security, but the degree of freedom we have.
"The GCC counter-terrorism pact is worse than the GCC Security Pact [which Kuwait refused to sign in 2003]."
Parliamentarians have drafted a new bill that eases restrictions on political protests. The draft legislation would require organizers to notify authorities of public gatherings without waiting for approval. The bill has been stuck in the powerful Interior and Defense Committee of parliament since late 2003.
"Look at progressive countries," parliamentarian Yusef Al Zalzalah said. "In America, demonstrations protesting against Bush policies are held under the protection of police. Kuwait which claims to be democratic still has this shameful law."
For his part, Kuwaiti Defense Minister Jaber Al Mubarak Al Sabah denied that authorities had placed the parliamentarians under surveillance. Mubarak said the government was prepared to order an investigation.
"It is totally baseless," Mubarak said.
June 13, 2004
The Jerusalem Post
In October, the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany (known as the EU-3) went to Teheran and came back with a deal: Iran gives up its nuclear ambitions in exchange for better trade relations with the West. The mullahs were given six months to comply.
Eight months later, the jury is in. On June 1, International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed El-Baradei issued a report that was full of smoking guns. In diplomatic language, it caught Iran in lie after lie.
Iran was supposed to declare all its enrichment facilities, yet it neglected to mention it had P-2 centrifuges a particularly sophisticated type used only for weapons-grade enrichment. Inspectors discovered laser enrichment equipment; which again, reasonably points only to a weapons program. Finally, the IAEA found plutonium-separation experiments, and enriched uranium that the Iranians incredibly brush off as contamination from imported material.
The report, issued in advance for the IAEA Board of Governors meeting this week, notes that Iran was given time to clear up all these "omissions" and "outstanding questions." None of them was. Iran, if anything, is becoming more brazen.
On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi openly declared Iran's right to become "a member of the nuclear club." He also rejected US and European demands that it give up its assorted uranium enrichment programs. Finally, he confirmed that Iran had tried to buy 4,000 magnets for uranium enrichment purposes, but said this issue had been "unnecessarily" hyped.
We have gotten to the point at which, in the words of reporter James Traub in yesterday's New York Times Magazine, "What is nonnegotiable to the Iranians is unacceptable to the Bush administration, the EU-3, and Baradei himself."
This should not be a surprise. The last eight months have been spent pretending either that Iran's nuclear ambitions were in question, or would be given up in response on the vague waving of carrots and sticks.
Whether it says so in so many words, the IAEA has succeeded in proving that Iran is bent on enriching nuclear fuel in a way that points in only one direction: nuclear weapons. This has put the international watchdog agency in a bind if it is not forthright and aggressive, it will be duped as it was before the first war in Iraq, in which it gave a clean bill of health to facilities that were later proven to be the heart of Saddam's nuclear weapons program. But if it declares Iran to be in outright violation, the IAEA fears that Iran will follow North Korea's lead and simply withdraw from the treaty, which would end inspections and remove the IAEA from the ball game.
Such institutional dilemmas should not be allowed to drive the international agenda. Iran's intentions are crystal clear. The time has come for a simple question: Does Europe want Iran to go nuclear?
The long, sad story of sanctions against Iraq shows that economic pressure alone does not always produce cooperation. Yet if sanctions are not enough, than surely cajoling short of sanctions is a waste of precious time. Further, the more relevant precedent may not be the failure of sanctions in Iraq, but their success in Libya.
Faced with a united Security Council that imposed draconian sanctions in response to the downing of an American and a French airliner, having been caught red-handed smuggling nuclear equipment, and seeing Saddam Hussein having his teeth examined by a US Army medic, Muammar Gaddafi said that he had enough. He revealed a nuclear program the West did not even know he had and, pending verification, has gotten out of the terrorism business.
Iran is arguably more susceptible to such sanctions than was Libya. The Iranian economy is considerably larger, more advanced, and more dependent on the West than is Libya's. In Europe, Iranian diplomats are not used to being treated as pariahs. The Iranian people, while it may support the quest for the bomb, is likely to blame a government that it hates for any further hardships imposed by the international community.
To some, standing up to Iran's brazen nuclear bid will be seen as starting another war. It is the opposite. It is not too late to attempt, by economic means alone, forcing Iran to go the way of Libya and getting out of the nuclear and terrorism business. The longer Europe and the US wait to act, the more the options will become limited to living with Iran as a terrorist base with a nuclear umbrella, or taking military action.
The world cannot sit idly by while Iran's mad mullahs acquire nuclear weapons. Israel or the US must remove this threat to the world.
I think you can count on absolutely nothing being done.
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