The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
UN Says Iran May Be Buying Time for Bomb

When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon watched North Korea test its third nuclear device this week, he thought of Iran. If the Norks exploited years of diplomatic talks to achieve nuclear capability, Ban appears to be thinking, why couldn’t the mullahs? The WaPo reports:

“We should not give much more time to the Iranians, and we should not waste time,” Ban said. “We have seen what happened with the DPRK.” […]

“It ended up that they [were] secretly, quietly, without any obligations, without any pressure, making progress,” Ban said.

The U.N. Security Council must “show a firm, decisive and effective, quick response,” Ban said, that makes plain to Iran that the rest of the world is not convinced that it is not seeking nuclear weapons.

On the one hand, it’s good to see the UN truly concerned about Iran and taking the nuclear threat seriously. On the other hand, no precedent exists to suggest that the UN’s concern will amount to much; the Norks’ nuclear test this week probably confirmed for Iran just how serious the world’s demands really are.

None of this bodes well for negotiations. When the mullahs look at the UN negotiators across the table, they see people with all bark and no bite, and they need only look to North Korea for proof that persistence will bring rewards.

The U.S. is likely the world’s only power with the means and wherewithal to convince Iran that the tough talk could be backed up by military action. But America’s reticence in Syria, downsizing in the Persian Gulf, and talk of cutting its nuclear arsenal are having the opposite effect.

The U.S. and UN are united in their claim that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, but both are failing to prove it to the mullahs. If something doesn’t change, the day may be near when they’ll have to decide whether to give up that claim, or go to war.

[Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com]

Published on February 15, 2013 4:08 pm