Iran's latest behaviors both domestically and internationally say it all when it comes to its nuclear program standoff with the United States and the international community: fait accompli.
Iran seems hell-bent on getting her hands on the ultimate weapon of choice, and it is highly unlikely to dispense with it. Neither negotiations nor sanctions will have any effect on its arrest and roll-back.
North Korea's route to nukes--play cat and mouse with the West--is Iran's nukes 'R' us. After all, the United States and the international community failed to stop North Korea and Pakistan from acquiring nuclear weapons capability, and how could they succeed this time around against "the land of the sophy," as Shakespeare refers to Iran, a country with unparalleled wealth and a 3,000-year-old civilization and one-time global superpower.
Iran has grand ambitions, wanting to become the indisputable regional power by replacing the United States as the region's security guarantor in the Persian Gulf states. Thus Iran's strategic priority has been to link the nuclear issue to the U.S. regional presence and to the future of Iraq and Afghanistan. By escalating the insurgency in Iraq, Iran has taken the upper hand in the pursue of its nuclear ambition, offering to assist the U.S. stabilization of Iraq in exchange for greater tolerance of Iran's nuclear program.
A nuclear-armed Iran would be better placed to reshape the regional order in a way that gives Iran a leading role in it, and a new status to seek hegemony in the wider Muslim world. It is clear that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons against Israel or the United States, though the Iranian leaders repeatedly claim the otherwise, but "the real target is the creation of Pax Persiana in the Persian Gulf.
President Bush is determined to dismantle Iran's nuclear ambition before he leaves office, but his administration policies remain inconsistent. Already three years ago, Senator Joseph R. Biden said that "the Bush Administration has vacillated between two very different approaches. At times it signaled support for regime change. At other times, it engaged in direct discussions with Tehran over Iraq and Afghanistan."
Of course, this mixed signals has been interpreted as the "dual-track policy" which offers limited dialogue with Iran while stepping up containment and backing the option of military strikes to take out Iranian nuclear facilities. Nonetheless, mixed signals cannot be taken seriously no matter what one calls them. They have no impact on Iran's strategic decision of becoming a nuclear-capable state, and more or less express the view that it is already too late to stop Iran from getting the bomb.
In 2003 Iran's nuclear program was stoppable on the ground to avoid any pretext for the United States to carry out a new Iraq in Iran. Th EU-3 initiative in the Tehran agreement gave Iran a historic opportunity to avoid making a stark choice between suspending enrichment-related activities altogether or risking a possible military confrontation with the United States.
Since then the scenario of engagement, which relies on diplomacy of convincing Iran by sanctions and/or incentives to give up its quest for a nuclear option has repeated itself one way or another, and it has failed.
In the meantime, the Europeans are getting real and preparing for what they see as the need to shift policy from engagement to containment of a potentially nuclear-armed Iran, learning to live with it. This is realism, they said. Washington has already started talking about how to live with a nuclear Iran. The Bush administration's decision to have talks with Iran is just a crash course in peaceful coexistence.
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