Monday, December 24, 2007

America and Europe over NIE Report on Iran

A new NIE report, entitled “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities” has spurred controversy whether to stand tough against Iran or not. According to this paper, Iran has given up developing nuclear bombs, although it continues uranium enrichment research. First, is this evaluation valid? Second, does this mean Iran is no longer a threat to global and regional security?

And finally, I would like to examine the influence on the transatlantic alliance posed by this report. Critics to the Iraq War blame US intelligence fraud that Iraq had no nuclear bombs when it was attacked by the coalition. Some dangerous leftists make use of this, and try to split the relationship between Europe and America.

Even if the report is true, I believe that Iran is a grave threat to us, just as Saddam’s Iraq was. It is an act of evil, if someone were to decouple America and Europe. Remember, terrorists harness war reluctant atmosphere in Europe ever since the Iraq War broke out.

Let me review NIE report briefly. NIE judges with high confidence that Iran halted its nuclear program in autumn 2003. The report states that they do not know whether Iran has no intention of restarting nuclear weapon program, though they have moderate confidence that Iranians have not been exploring such projects by mid-2007. Regarding uranium enrichment, Iran made significant progress in installing centrifuges this year. Still, Iran has not resolved technical hurdles to make nuclear bombs. Things look quite optimistic, if this report is true. However, it is not clear whether Iran has given up its nuclear ambition.

Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, currently Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, casts doubt on this report (“The Flaws in Iran Report”; Washington Post; December 6). He criticizes fundamental assumptions. Though the report says that Iran gave up developing nuclear weapon in 2003, the distinction between “civilian” and “military” use is artificial. Also, he says that Iran is not susceptible to international pressure.

Whether this report is right or wrong, there is no denying that Iran still poses a grave threat to us. As John Bolton does, the Economist points out that this report contradicts the 2005 evaluation by NIE ("What’s Not to Celebrate?"; December 6, 2007). Also, the article says that the IAEA questions why Iran has acquired highly enriched uranium from unexplained traces. From North Korea, I wonder. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that even if America is unwilling to strike Iran, Israel will keep highly alert against this terrorist regime “because of an intelligence report from the other side of the world, even if it is from our greatest friend.”

Nevertheless, NIE report poses critical constraints to US attack against Iran. Even neoconservatives admit this. Robert Kagan, Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says that regardless of validity of the report, the United States must consider talking with Iran (“Time to Talk to Iran”; Washington Post; December 4). It has become impossible to bring European allies together since the report was published. However, Kagan says that America is not in a weak position, as the surge in Iraq has succeeded, and its influence in the Middle East will be sustainable. Rather, he argues that the Bush administration seize this opportunity to talk with Iran before it acquires capability to nuclear bombs, because the next US president will not be ready to start dialogues at an early stage. Furthermore, Kagan insists on the following.

The talks should go beyond the nuclear issue and include Iran's support for terrorism, its harboring of al-Qaeda leaders, its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, and its supplying of weapons to violent extremists in Iraq.

In view of NIE Report release this November, the New York Times reports possible split between America and Europe over Iran (“Europeans See Muskier Case for Sanctions”, December 4). According to this article, an anonymous European diplomat said that tougher sanctions against Iran had become out of question.

How do European leaders act since NIE assessment on Iranian nuclear program? I would like to mention press conferences held at foreign ministries of Britain, France, and Germany.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband contributed an article “Why We Must not Take Pressure off Iran” to the Financial Times on December 6. In this article, Miliband questions why Iran chooses to confront the international community. Foreign Secretary condemns Iran’s support for terrorists in Iraq, and Afghanistan. Also, he stresses that EU3 and the United States are not willing to confront this country.

In an interview with BBC Radio, Secretary Miliband explains why the British government regards Iran’s uranium enrichment program dangerous.

Because of the history of this area, where Iran has misled the international community, people are rightly sceptical of claims that don't add up on the Iranian side. It's not a matter of saying that Iran shouldn't have energy security. What it can't be is a source of political insecurity.

A Spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France also warns of Iran’s intention for nuclear bomb, because “it has violated it appears that Iran is not respecting its international obligations, and our position therefore remains unchanged” (Daily Press Briefing, December 4).

On the other hand, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomes this report, and says this is a good opportunity for initiating talks with Iran.

European attitude to Iran varies from cautious Britain to positive Germany. However, it has become increasingly difficult to fight against Iran. It is not the matter of validity of NIE Report. It is a matter of political interactions. The United States and Europe can take some actions for a dialogue with Iran, and observe its response. Also, it is necessary to see what sort of dangerous connections with terrorists and North Korea will emerge, when talking with Iran. I would like to explore Iranian threat furthermore on another occasion.