Iran's Leader May Favor a Showdown
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Today Iran said it plans to resume work at one of its nuclear plants early next week. That's later than Iran had hoped, but it still flies in the face of the European Union, which is warning Iran against any effort to restart its nuclear activities. NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr is not surprised by the actions, given the outcome of Iran's recent elections.
It is chilling to think that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who took office today as president of Iran, was elected in a landslide as a harder-liner than Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has talked up Iran's need for a nuclear bomb to deal with the West and Israel. Rafsanjani has spoken of the day when the Islamic world would have nuclear weapons like those Israel now possesses. And then he said, `The imperialist strategy would reach a standstill because one nuclear bomb in Israel would destroy everything.'
Iran is being treated by the international community as a threat as serious, perhaps more serious, than North Korea, which has several nuclear bombs while Iran may have a nuclear weapon in five or 10 years, depending on which intelligence estimate you accept. While the negotiations with North Korea drag on, the effort to talk Iran out of its nuclear ambitions is apparently near a dead end. Several times Iran postponed the resumption of uranium conversion, which can be a step towards fashioning a nuclear bomb, while Britain, France and Germany, with American support, worked on a package of economic and political incentives for Iran to give up its nuclear plan.
Iran was set to resume uranium processing today, the day of the presidential inaugural, but then announced one more delay until early next week, ostensibly to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency time to get its monitoring equipment in place. It hasn't helped that the United States left it to the European states to handle the negotiation. America may be the Great Satan to Iranian officials, but the Great Satan commands a kind of respect that the European states lack.
If after many months of delay uranium conversion actually does start next week, then the West will have to deliver on many threats of international action, something which has not figured in the North Korean negotiations. First, the IAEA will condemn Iran. And then the issue will be put before the United Nations Security Council for possible action, meaning sanctions. Russia and China are likely to oppose sanctions. Trying to get a UN consensus may be Ambassador John Bolton's first major assignment. All that can be discerned in this miasma is that with a new and tougher government, Iran seems poised for a showdown. This is Daniel Schorr.
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