On Thursday, for the first time, North Korea formally admitted that it possesses nuclear weapons. In so doing, the Stalinist state made clear that the Bush administration's recent policy of avoiding public censure of North Korea, in the hope of reigniting the six-party talks on its illicit nuclear program, was at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive.
The North Korean example is worth noting because it bears significantly on the current state of international reckoning with Iran's program to develop nuclear weapons.
Over the past week or so, the Bush administration has made repeated statements to the effect that it has no intention for now of taking any military action against Iranian nuclear sites, but rather wishes to concentrate on solving the issue through diplomacy. This, in spite of Israeli Mossad Chief Meir Dagan's statement last month that "by the end of 2005, the Iranians will reach the point of no return from the technological perspective of creating a uranium-enrichment capability."
Today, two diplomatic plans for contending with Iran are on the table. The first is the attempt by France, Germany and Britain to reach an agreement with Iran whereby, in exchange for nuclear fuel and economic cooperation and assistance, the Iranian government will abandon its nuclear program.
The second is the Bush administration's proposal to have the issue of Iran's nuclear weapons program transferred from the International Atomic Energy Agency to the UN Security Council, where the US wishes to raise the possibility of UN-backed sanctions against the mullocracy.
During her meetings with European leaders and the press in the course of her travels this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent out contradictory signals. On the one hand, she told Fox News Wednesday that the Iranians "need to hear that the discussions that they are in with the Europeans are not going to be a kind of way station where they are allowed to continue their activities, that there's going to be an end to this and that they are going to end up in the Security Council."
Yet later in the day, Rice clarified that the US has "set no deadline, no timeline," for how long talks between the Europeans and the Iranians could continue before the matter was moved to the Security Council.
For their part, the Europeans have dismissed the American proposal, insisting that America support their negotiations now taking place in Geneva.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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