Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Iran finally responds....

And we'll have to wait and see what they said, because the parties involved aren't saying.

But since Iran has publicly vowed not to give up its enrichment program -- the main purpose of the six-nation proposal -- it doesn't seem likely that their offer, whatever it is, will be acceptable.

Iran recently prevented UN inspectors from examining its main nuclear site at Natanz, a violation of its Nonproliferation Treaty responsibilities. Which would suggest that it is not seriously interested in compromising on the program.

And given that it has taken them weeks and weeks to reply to the Western proposal, it seems apparent that they're content to simply stall and play for time and put off a confrontation as long as possible. It plays well domestically and in certain world quarters, and it lets them pursue the program as far as possible before they have to make a hard decision or face retaliation.

Luckily they're a long ways away from having the bomb. So, irritating as stalling tactics can be, patience is called for. We need to make clear that we prefer to resolve this diplomatically -- but we will take military steps if that is what the situation requires.

And we should identify interim steps to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, like targeted sanctions and inspection demands.

The first decision facing the six-nation coalition is what to do when Aug. 31 rolls around -- the deadline the group gave for Iran to agree to the proposal or face sanctions. Iran clearly is betting that either the coalition is bluffing, or that its proposal will split the coalition and prevent it from acting if the deadline passes.

What they do, and whether I agree with it, will depend on the content of the Iranian proposal. So, once again, we wait.

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