Saturday, May 28, 2005

Cooling down in Iran - The Boston Globe - - Editorials - News

Cooling down in Iran - The Boston Globe - - Editorials - News: "Cooling down in Iran
May 28, 2005

THE AGREEMENT reached in Geneva Wednesday between Iranian negotiators and the foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany hardly solves the dangerous confrontation over Iran's nuclear program, but it does buy valuable time, and it does preserve the possibility of eventually striking a deal that keeps nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran's rulers.

The threats Iran issued before the Geneva meeting -- to resume the enrichment of uranium if the Europeans did not meet Iranian demands -- were a familiar negotiating ploy. Nevertheless, the three foreign ministers deserve praise for crafting an interim accord that, at the least, deflects the Iranians from taking actions that might pass a point of no return, and, at most, illuminates the way to a resolution of a grave international crisis.

The Iranians were able to say they got what they needed in Geneva. After complaining that the Europeans had been procrastinating about formulating concrete proposals for a bargain that would allow Iran to develop peaceful nuclear energy without acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, Iranian officials could say that the Europeans had pledged to draw up just such an offer and to present it in late July or August.

The Iranians do not acknowledge publicly that this timing suits their political calendar. On June 17 they are to elect a new president from among six candidates whom Iran's Guardian Council of clerical watchdogs culled from more than a thousand aspirants. The delay until August and the Geneva promise of a detailed European offer are likely to help the cause of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who presents himself as a pragmatic conservative capable of making a deal with the West.

To conclude any such deal, however, Rafsanjani or any other Iranian leader will have to provide ironclad guarantees that Iran will not use its nuclear energy program to become a nuclear power. This means Iran will have to cede its claim of a right to enrich uranium in return for international guarantees that Iran will have uninterrupted access to nuclear fuel at fair market prices.

Before Iran's rulers accept some version of this bargain, they are sure to demand a high price. Only Washington can sign off on the concessions the Iranians most want: entry into the World Trade Organization, advanced technology transfers, access to international financial institutions, and assurance that the presence of US troops in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan does not foreshadow a military campaign to change the clerical regime in Tehran. Sometime soon, President Bush will have to decide that paying that price is the lesser of two evils."