Among the many other serious things currently happening on the international front – think Obama’s decision on Afghanistan, for example, or the upcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen – the knotty problem of Iran is also re-emerging. OK, they’ve had their massive street-demonstrations in the wake of last June’s fraudulent presidential election, but those were suppressed by the authorities, and the resulting show-trials are largely winding down. So you’d think that country could simply settle down into the sort of quiet dissatisfied-people-under-dictatorship status that Eastern Europe under Soviet rule displayed for decades (with periodic violent interruptions) and let the rest of the world get on with its other urgent business.
It’s not quite like that, though, because even if we get “All Quiet on the Iranian Front,” that tranquillity could be shattered on any given morning as Europe and the US wake up to news of an Israeli airstrike against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities. Furthermore, the current heightening confrontation – in which the Iranian regime has recently announced that it has plans to build 10 more nuclear fuel-enrichment plants – was admittedly sparked by last Friday’s demand to Iran from the International Atomic Energy Agency that it freeze operations at its already-existing uranium enrichment plant at Qom. And this, as Atlantic journalist James Fallows would have it, was itself a result of successful behind-the-scenes diplomacy in Beijing during President Obama’s recent Asia trip.
Be that all as it may, this Iran-vs.-the-World stand-off is indeed getting steadily nastier, as is described in that previously-cited NYT article from today but also by another piece in the Dutch newspaper Trouw (“Iran weighs pulling out of nuclear treaty”). That “nuclear treaty” is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT), originally from 1968, in which treaty-signatories who don’t have nuclear weapons pledge never to try to get them, in exchange for those that do have them working to (eventually) give them up. Iran is a signatory to the NNPT, which among other important things means it is obliged to allow period visits from IAEA inspectors, which it has done. (Although that enrichment plant in Qom was for some reason kept secret – ooops, sorry about that! – and that was the main point of the IAEA’s complaint of last Friday.) The Trouw article cites growing sentiment from among important Iranian parliamentarians that their country might as well just withdraw from the NNPT regime if it’s going to be treated that way. And while they are at it, they say, why not just explicitly bar entry to any more IAEA inspectors as well?
It must be borne in mind that, as the article also points out, such thoughts are for now being aired only within the Iranian parliament, not by government officials. Furthermore, the intent here may just be – for now – to bluff and remind Iran’s accusers at the IAEA of what further non-cooperation they could provoke if they go too far with their demands. But surely all of this also brings that much closer to us all that terrible morning when we wake up to news of the Israeli attack.