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Stick vs. Carrot: US and EU Diverge on Iran's Nuclear Program

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November 22, 2004

Stick vs. Carrot: US and EU Diverge on Iran's Nuclear Program

Washington is taking a hardline approach to last week's suggestion by outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell that Iran will soon be capable of a long-range weapons system that could deliver nuclear warheads. While the US has stated publicly that it wants to employ UN sanctions against Iran if it fails to prove that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, the Pentagon is also reportedly discussing military options, including strikes in support of regime change.

While the EU is concerned that Iran's nuclear ambitions will pose a threat if left unchecked, European governments are proceeding with dialogue in an effort to provide incentives for Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. In a pact reached last week, Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program while a deal is negotiated that would see non-military nuclear technology and increased trade from Europe exchanged for the suspension of all nuclear weapons programs.

Whereas international pressure to abandon nuclear weapons is growing, domestic opinion opposes dismantling the national nuclear weapons program. Interviews in Isfahan and Tehran indicate that the public supports both the development of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons as a means to gaining respect and assuring national security. Many Iranians point to the nuclear arsenals in Israel, Pakistan, and India and argue that it is within their rights to pursue their own program as a means of deterrence.

The Iranian government, notorious for its stalling tactics in recent years despite its claim to uphold non-proliferation agreements, is trying to deflect accusations that the country is pursuing nuclear missile technology. Currently under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iranian officials want to avoid a decision by the body, expcted later this week, that would declare Iran in breach of non-proliferation measures. Such a decision would increase the likelihood of UN sanctions and would provide hawks in the US with greater political ammunition for a military response.

While Washington is taking the line that a WMD crisis is looming in Iran, independent assessments of Iran's gas centrifuge program and its capacity to produce highly enriched uranium suggest that the country is at least several years from producing its first nuclear weapon. Observers point out that while preventing the further development of Iran's nuclear program is of the utmost importance, doing so will require a more unified diplomatic approach than the current diverging policies of the US and the EU.

Nathan Lepp

» The Observer: Pentagon turns heat up on Iran

» Kansas City Star: Many Iranians want nukes to ensure respect, security

» Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Iran: Countdown to Showdown

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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