With the International Atomic Energy Agency set to release a new report next month detailing Iran’s efforts to create a nuclear weapon, Tehran’s main protector in the international community is making a last ditch effort to squelch the watchdog group’s efforts to blow the whistle on this threat.
Russia announced today it opposed the IAEA’s plans to publish a report about the military implications of Iran’s illegal push for nukes. In what can only be described as an utterly disingenuous appeal, Moscow said bringing out the truth would heighten suspicion about Iran’s nuclear program and “strain” efforts to bring about a diplomatic solution to the problem. They are right on both counts, but anyone who thinks Russia’s diplomatic ventures on the issue are aimed at stopping Iran from getting nukes hasn’t been paying attention the last few years.
Since the beginning of the last decade, Iran has played Western diplomats for fools with Russian assistance. Every effort to reach out to Tehran, including the Bush administration’s try at outsourcing diplomacy via France and Germany and Barack Obama’s celebrated and disastrous “engagement” policy has been a failure, though not from lack of Western effort. The Iranians, with Russia standing by as their helpful partner, have become experts at stringing along American and European envoys with proposals about stopping their nuclear plans or rendering it harmless. But every time even one of these largely symbolic measures gets close to fruition, the ayatollahs back away.
The result of all this diplomacy is that Iran has gained several years to get closer to their nuclear goal while the West continues to fool itself into believing just one more try will get the job done. Though the Russians have as much reason to fear a nuclear Iran as anyone else, they continue to facilitate this farce because Moscow’s boss Vladimir Putin believes anything that thwarts American foreign policy goals constitutes a win for his government.
The one bright spot in an otherwise dismal international scene in which apathy about this deadly nuclear threat seems to be universal is the IAEA. Under the leadership of Yukio Amano, the agency has ramped up its efforts to uncover the truth about Iran, making no secret of its determination to remove any doubt about the nature of the problem. It is to be hoped a strongly worded report from the IAEA will help galvanize international efforts to impose serious sanctions on Iran rather than the weak measures passed by the United Nations with Russian and Chinese assent.
While Russia can’t silence the IAEA, it can make it difficult for the UN to use the new report as an impetus for strong action. The best response to the Russian initiative aimed at silencing the watchdog group would be a strong statement from President Obama signaling not only that the United States demands the publication of the report, but that it will immediately take its findings to the Security Council as evidence of the need for action. In the past, as his wont, Obama has appeased Russia and thus failed to exercise the decisive leadership this dilemma requires. If the president once again allows Moscow to dictate the extent of pressure on Iran, it will be yet another in a long list of failures that mark the decline of American prestige and power during the last three years.