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Reacting to Iran?s reactors

It will be instructive to see how the five permanent members of the UN Security Council deal with the IAEA report on Iran.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2006 00:27 IST
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It will be instructive to see how the five permanent members of the UN Security Council deal with the IAEA report on Iran. According to the report, the Iranians have begun feeding uranium gas into centrifuges — a first step towards producing fuel for nuclear reactors, or for bomb material. The IAEA blew the whistle on Tehran primarily because it failed to comply with its obligations as a member of the NPT and has yet to provide credible answers to questions relating to its activities that suggest it is hiding a nuclear weapons programme. So with the ball in the UNSC court, the question is when and how the council will act.

Its first step will probably be to demand that Iran stop nuclear activities by a certain deadline, rather than consider the imposition of punitive sanctions. Washington may find that pushing the referral through was the easy part, compared to the uphill task of trying to convince veto-wielding members of the UNSC, like Russia and China, of the need for sanctions. Worse still, if the credible threat, or actual imposition of sanctions fails to convince Tehran, the next step on the escalation ladder could be the possible use of military force against Iran. But this is fraught with risk. Tehran knows this as is clear from its threat to press ahead with industrial-scale uranium enrichment if reported to the UNSC.

Perhaps the US and other countries could reduce the risk of Tehran building atomic arms by using a strategy of carrots and sticks to bring Iran into the world community. The US should initiate a security dialogue involving members of the UNSC and Iran: a multi-party format similar to the stance Washington has taken vis-à-vis Pyongyang. These talks could offer Tehran nuclear fuel guarantees (maybe by placing the fuel with, say, Russia) and tangible economic incentives to help the ailing Iranian economy. Of course, things haven’t worked with Pyongyang as yet. But there is no reason why there can’t be one more push for peace.