Under its current head, Yukia Amano, the International Atomic Energy Agency has taken a far more aggressive investigatory stance toward Iran than in the past. In the past year, the IAEA has laid out the growing volume of evidence that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon. But with the next quarterly report of the agency on Iran due out in November, observers will be waiting to see whether the UN’s nuclear watchdog group continues to highlight the facts about the Iranian threat even though many in the world body don’t want to hear it.
While there is no longer much doubt about the military aspect of Iran’s covert nuclear program, the IAEA has not yet issued a clarion call to the world about what is going on. Instead, Amano has allowed a steady drip of information that is enough to convince the West their fears are justified but not enough to generate an international consensus on behalf of action. But even if the agency does draw the drastic conclusions the evidence proves, it’s far from clear Russia or China will allow the UN to enact draconian sanctions on Tehran that would be required to avoid the use of force.
In recent months, Iran’s nuclear ambitions have dropped off the radar screen, as the UN has become the focus of a Palestinian diplomatic offensive. But while the world obsesses about efforts to pressure Israel to make concessions to create a state for the Palestinians, Iran continues to show that the mild sanctions passed by the UN in order to restrain their nuclear ambitions are a joke. Though their economy is hurting, the ayatollahs who rule Iran haven’t loosened their grip on power. They can also still count on the loyal support of their terrorist allies Hezbollah and Hamas.Both Russia and China have occasionally supported American non-proliferation initiatives so long as the effect of the measures was symbolic. But as they showed last week in the Security Council when they vetoed a rebuke of Syria’s Iran-backed dictatorial government, they still form an impassable obstacle to effective multilateral action on Iran.
A frank report about Iran that pulls no punches on the military aspects of their nuclear program could serve as the foundation for a new push for sanctions or the threat of force. Given the drastic implications of an Iranian nuke for the entire Middle East, including the rest of the oil-rich Persian Gulf, that ought to be enough to generate a powerful international consensus. But with the Obama administration distracted, Europe disinterested and Russia and China adamantly opposed to drawing tough conclusions, there doesn’t appear to be any realistic hope the IAEA’s efforts will bear fruit.
An Iranian bomb would present an existential dilemma for Israel as well as putting the entire region under the thumb of Iran and its terrorist auxiliaries. While President Obama and the Republican presidential candidates proclaim their unwillingness to accept a nuclear Iran, the fact is unless real sanctions are imposed now, whoever is sitting in the Oval Office in the next few years will inevitably be faced with a terrible choice in which they must either use force or live with the reality of the ayatollahs having their fingers on a nuclear button. The upcoming IAEA report may make it clear the world can’t wait to act on this information.