From The Australian editorial, 4/9/06 [emphasis added]...
Extending talks only plays into Ahmadinejad's hands
IN watching the slow dance between Iran and the rest of the world over Tehran's nuclear program, two things are becoming ever more clear: Iran's theocratic despots are hell-bent on acquiring atomic weapons with which to threaten Israel and control events in the Middle East and beyond, and large swaths of the world appear prepared to let them have their wish.
After the expiration of the UN Security Council deadline demanding Iran halt its uranium enrichment program, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana offered Tehran another fortnight for "clarification talks". Meanwhile UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is in Tehran to ask President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to back UN resolutions calling for the disarming of Hezbollah and to discuss Iran's nuclear ambitions. We're not holding our breath for a breakthrough.
The fact is that this latest two-week extension is only one of a series of attempts to cajole Iran into dropping its nuclear ambitions, even as Tehran cynically plays for time to develop its plans to the point where they are unstoppable by force or sanction. The pattern of blown deadlines and further extensions has become a bad joke....with every day that ticks by, Tehran comes that much closer to being able to build either a dirty bomb or a full-scale atomic fission weapon.
The repeated insistence by the Iranian regime's mouthpieces that the country's nuclear program is being developed for peaceful purposes is a lie of the first order. As one of the world's biggest oil producers, with several centuries' supply of liquefied natural gas, energy security is not an issue for Tehran. And a nuclear medicine program does not require a network of heavy water plants and uranium enrichment facilities.
The fact is that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a disaster for the world, not just Israel and the West. A hegemonic Iran in the Middle East would be hugely destabilising to the Sunni Arab world as well, and would extinguish movements towards reform, openness and democracy. Iran's history of involvement in Lebanon, played out through its Syrian and Hezbollah proxies, demonstrates that the mullahs' regime in Tehran is bent on exporting sectarian violence, terrorism and misery. Hezbollah is thought to have been behind the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people, making it the worst single anti-Semitic attack since the Holocaust. Imagine what such a group could do with nuclear weapons.
It may well be that diplomacy will be unable to find a solution to this rapidly gathering crisis. The faith of the West's foreign policy mandarins that if only an acceptable form of words can be found and the right set of incentives developed, Iran will mothball its nuclear ambitions is touching but naive. On several levels, Mr Ahmadinejad has too much at stake to abandon his nuclear quest. His regime and its fans around the world are shortsightedly counting on Iran's development into a nuclear superpower to counterbalance the perceived malign influence of the US. In this regard the current climate feels reminiscent of the late 1930s, when many in the West supported Germany's right to rearm having had its pride wounded by the Treaty of Versailles, or even the 1940s when some felt the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour was simply blowback for US oil sanctions on Imperial Japan.
Most chillingly, Mr Ahmadinejad's speeches are peppered not only with threats to eliminate Israel and Judaism but also millenarian Shia rhetoric about the 12th, or "hidden", imam whose reappearance will herald the end of the world. Some analysts believe Mr Ahmadinejad feels he is the 12th imam. Under such circumstances, diplomatic threats and sanctions could have the perverse effect of emboldening Mr Ahmadinejad. If so, the world's only option is military, though the window of opportunity for strikes against Iran's nuclear program is rapidly closing as the regime plays for time and hardens its facilities. US President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may each have been weakened by mistakes and miscalculations in Iraq and Lebanon respectively. But they may also have no choice but to act, since no one else in the world seems prepared to. The successful destruction of Iran's nuclear program would put paid to the defeatist thinking of the Western Left, who believe Hezbollah is an authentic movement of freedom fighters, rather than a violent gang of religious and anti-Semitic fanatics. Anyone who cares about the future of humanity should be concerned that nuclear weapons do not fall into Iranian hands.