Friday, July 25, 2008

Iran Running out of Time?

US officials are calling for Tehran to respond to the EU and UN Security Council proposals that would ultimately make Iran suspend its enrichment of uranium. The international stalemate with Iran has been long-standing, as Tehran says it wants to perfect enrichment to generate fuel, while critics fear the development of arms.

Iran wants to increase cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency “in accordance with [their] legal obligations,” said chief delegate Ali Ashgar Soltanieh. However, he questioned the IAEA’s probing of weapons allegations, claiming it to be outside of its domain, and a threat “fabricated and forged…by the US”. The IAEA’s report from May said that Iran may be withholding information and that Tehran continued expanding its uranium enrichment program, despite the UN Security Council’s retaliatory sanctions.

A package of incentives was discussed last week, in a meeting between Iran, the P5, Germany, and the EU, offering Iran access to technology for nuclear power plants that would take care of fuel supply and address their security concerns. The “freeze-to-freeze” negotiation, where Iran would freeze its uranium enrichment program and the international community would freeze its sanctions, would build confidence and the lay the groundwork for more substantive future negotiations.

Iran has less than a week to respond and US leaders are encouraging a quick reply, especially with the threat of more sanctions under their belt. Many believe that Iran is buying time until the US change in administration, as it is sure to play a large role in the foreign policy work of the next President.

Senator Obama has in the past said that he is willing to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but also insists on direct US talks with the country. In a press conference in France today with President Nicolas Sarokzy, he urged Iran to accept the UN and EU proposals.

Senator McCain’s foreign policy frustrations include the determination to continue disengagement with Iran. While he has said he is opposed to regime change, he has joked to “bomb-bomb-bomb Iran,” maintaining that Iran is a threat to Israel.

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