Leading article: Too much is at stake to give up on diplomacy

Share

The gathering crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions reached a new stage yesterday when the troika of European Union foreign ministers declared that their talks with Iran had reached a dead end. Iran is now likely to be referred to the UN Security Council, which could decide to impose sanctions. Were sanctions to have no effect, military force in one or other form would be the one remaining option.

Expressed in such stark terms, yesterday's admission by the European ministers constitutes a double failure. Not only is Iran apparently intent on continuing its nuclear programme but a diplomatic initiative in which EU ministers, and Jack Straw in particular, invested much time and political capital has come to nothing. By any standards, this is a disappointment.

Everyone's worst fear is that Iran is cynically concealing its determination to become a military nuclear power behind the legitimate development of an energy programme. And the nature of the Iranian regime offers no consolation whatever. This is a country run by a coterie of conservative clerics with a hard-line prime minister who has called for Israel to be "wiped off" the map. The nightmare is of a hostile Islamic state armed with a nuclear bomb.

Such a black-and-white scenario, however, is too simple. It ignores the fact that Iran has some legitimate concerns. For all its oil riches, Tehran anticipates an energy shortage and is trying to diversity its sources to include nuclear power as a cheap additional source of energy. Moreover, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has every right to do so. When the International Atomic Energy Agency imposed extra conditions on Iran's nuclear energy programme two years ago, it effectively adopted a double standard: there were first-world signatories who could be trusted with a nuclear programme, and then there was poor, Islamic Iran that could not.

That Iran nurtures the ambition to develop its own nuclear weapon is all too plausible. It inhabits a dangerous neighbourhood. China, India, Pakistan and, it is assumed, Israel all have a military nuclear capability. The US occupies neighbouring Iraq and has bases nearby. Equally, Tehran is entitled to point out, the "new" nuclear powers benefited from not being signatories to the non-proliferation treaty. The great fear is Iran might emulate North Korea in withdrawing from the treaty, even if it becomes an international pariah by so doing. This is the - small - leverage Iran still has in its dealings with the IAEA and, as now seems inevitable, the UN.

Even now, though, it is too early to conclude that all is lost. Thus far, Iran has preferred to push the limits of the international regulations that bind it rather than flout them. In breaking the seals at its uranium enrichment facility, as it did - to almost universal condemnation - this week, Tehran ended the commitments it had entered into under pressure from the IAEA; strictly speaking, it was not breaking the rules. And the risk in believing the worst of Iran is that it will eventually fulfil those expectations. Only last week, we revealed that, contrary to earlier reports, Iran was not involved in the deaths of British servicemen in Iraq. To rush to conclusions about Iran's malign intent just because we fear its regime contains perils of its own.

In dealing with Iran, the priorities must be international security and nuclear non-proliferation, but also fairness. The next step needs to be broad international, not just European, solidarity - and there are some hopeful signs. US and Russian representatives will join the European troika for talks next week in London. The objective should be to reinforce the diplomatic pressure rather than to give up altogether. Too much is at stake for that.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer/UI Developer (HTML5, CSS3,Jquery) London

£55000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

C# Web Developer (C#, MS Dynamics CRM, SQL, SQl Server) London

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Oracle developer- (Oracle, PL/SQL, UNIX/LINUX) - Trade- London

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the global leaders in prov...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Scottish independence: ‘I am as British and European as Scottish’

Sir Menzies Campbell
 

We should applaud Mary Berry for her bold views on assisted dying

Chloe Hamilton
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering