The Corner

Iran

From last week, but worth noting: Thursday’s LA Times had a long article about Iran’s nuclear program by reporter Douglas Frantz. It points out many of Tehran’s deceptions–which John Bolton’s team at the State Department has succeeded in making a point of serious international concern–and gives a sense of where the Bush administration, the Europeans, and the Iranians stand right now. Frantz presents a very cautious view overall on the question of whether Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons (something few serious Iran-watchers, at least in this country, seem to deny), and may underplay some of Tehran’s more troubling activities. For example, he mentions Iran’s stated plans to produce large amounts of uranium hexafluoride gas, the material that becomes enriched uranium, but he doesn’t explain that Iran has no clear non-military need for such quantities. He also writes that Iran’s best chance to avoid a Security Council referral, which the Bush administration sees as the necessary next step, is to accept a new European incentives package that promises, among other things, civilian nuclear technology and fuel in exchange for Iran’s pledge to suspend uranium enrichment. But he doesn’t mention that top Iranian officials, including President Khatami and chief Iranian IAEA delegate Hossein Mousavian, have expressed their refusal give up Iran’s “right” to complete the fuel cycle, making a deal look unlikely and further indicating that a civilian program is not Tehran’s main concern. (Frantz does say that there are “moderate” Iranian voices who argue for accepting the deal, but it’s not clear who they are or how much power they have, or whether their intent is really to suspend enrichment or only pretend to do so.) Overall, though, the article is fair, and a good read for anyone looking to catch up on what may be the most important foreign-policy issue on our horizon.