Iran : How to Come out of the Dead End (Le Monde, February, 2007)

The US would be well inspired to take into account the useful advices of Mr. El Baradei

Iran must not have the bomb. Considering the present stalemate, Mohammad El Baradei, Director General of the International Agency of Atomic Energy, Nobel Price for Peace, has suggested a way out : to put into brackets, at least for a while, our pressure and threats of sanctions, and to accept that Iran maintain, as it wishes, some centrifugation activity, but tightly limited and monitored under a specific agreement. It is true that centrifugation is a highly sensitive activity. If it escapes IAEA controls, it can be used for producing the highly enriched uranium necessary for the bomb. But if Mr. El Baradei, in his position, suggests such a formula, he must feel assured that his inspectors are able to fully control the whole process, whatever the hidden intentions of the Iranian leaders.

Mrs. Condoleezza Rice, followed by a few other Ministers of Foreign Affairs, has been scolding Mr. El Baradei, accusing him to undermine the process launched by the West to bend Iran to its will. This attitude implies strong confidence in its final success. At the moment, nothing comforts such a hope. The Iranians stubbornly stick to their points, and so do we. Without agreement, Iranian scientists and technicians progress at steady pace towards an enrichment capacity of industrial size. Once it is installed, it will be easy to tell the World that there is no other solution than to bomb Iran if we want to save peace and order in the Middle East.

Why are Mrs Rice and her partners so sure to be right against Mr. El Baradei? Not because of their personal expertise. They have other talents, but certainly not the capacity to find their way into this complex file, mixing scientific and technical data to political and strategical dimensions. Of course, they have their own experts, who whisper to them the language to hold. Are they more competent than Mr. El Baradei and his IAEA teams? This has to be proven. Those are the ones who have been predicting for twenty years that, next year, Iran would have the bomb. Who see no other solution to curb Iran's projects than forbidding it all enrichment activity, even tightly limited and controlled. Shielding in the process that no clause in the Non Proliferation Treaty allows for such a demand : certainly highly regrettable, but this is how it is. Or else, we should amend the Treaty and introduce this ban as a rule erga omnes (with a waiver for the eight or nine countries which already master the technology). Good luck to our negotiators!

Again, Iran must not have the Bomb. But the process launched in 2003 by three European countries to avoid such an outcome has not progressed, despite growing pressure within IAEA, and now from the Security Council. After almost four years of efforts, should we not give ourselves some room for introspection? The person certainly best informed in the world on the subject offers a solution. Whatever our poor appreciation of the Iranian Regime, especially of Ahmadinejad, why not give it a try? One or two months would be enough to evaluate its chances of success. And if this formula fails like the others, our experts will be in a stronger position to demonstrate that, facing Iran, the only solution left is the use of force.

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