First Published: 2004-09-20

 
Iran's nuclear program a high-risk issue for US
 

Nuclear-armed Iran would profoundly affect Washington's national security policy, its Mideast allies.

 

Middle East Online

By Christophe de Roquefeuil - WASHINGTON

Picture of Iran's first nuclear reactor

The United States wants to maintain a hard stance against Iran over the "axis of evil" nation's nuclear program, but by doing so Washington runs the risk of inflaming a neighbor of war-wracked Iraq.

In addition to accusing Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, the United States has charged that Iran is providing support to insurgents battling US-led forces in Iraq.

President George W. Bush lumped Iran with Iraq and North Korea in 2002, calling the trio an "axis of evil."

The Bush administration has also warned about the danger of allowing "rogue" states acquire weapons of mass destruction.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution Saturday demanding that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and report sensitive nuclear activities. The resolution also set a November 25 deadline for a full review of Tehran's nuclear program.

Iran reacted to the resolution by saying it would cooperate, but it warned it may defy the agency's call to suspend uranium enrichment, the process for making fuel for nuclear reactors but also the explosive material for atomic bombs.

The Islamic regime insists its nuclear program is strictly aimed at generating electricity.

The resolution allows the Europeans and Americans to keep a unified front over Iran's nuclear program, and its November 25 deadline is helpful to Bush, since any action taken by the United States, which could prompt strong international reactions, would come after the November 2 presidential election.

Bush, who is seeking a second four-year term, will face Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts in the election.

A nuclear-armed Iran would profoundly affect Washington's national security policy and its Middle East allies: Israel, Saudi Arabia and post-Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The United States is already concerned about Iran's alleged role in the violence in Iraq.

"I don't think there is any doubt that the Iranians are involved and providing support" to insurgents in Iraq, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Friday's Washington Times.

"How much and how influential their support is, I can't be sure and it's hard to get a good read on it," Powell said.

In contrast with its pre-invasion warnings against Saddam's Iraq, Washington has shied away from making military threats against Iran.

The Bush administration also wants to avoid a rift with Britain, France and Germany, which seek a diplomatic solution in Iran. While Britain is a US ally in Iraq, France and Germany were fierce opponents of the March 2003 invasion.

Another political crisis with the European powers would likely add fuel to Kerry's contention that Bush has alienated Washington's traditional allies.

The Bush administration has also failed to point to a "smoking gun" or irrefutable evidence proving that Tehran has plans to build a nuclear bomb.

Washington is already hard-pressed to provide proof that Saddam had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, none of which have been found. Iraq's alleged arms cache was Bush's chief argument for toppling the Iraqi dictator's regime.

UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Sunday that "we haven't seen in Iran any material imported or produced that could be used for nuclear weapons. That is good news."

"I'm not sure we are facing an imminent threat," he said.

But, he cautioned, "we are facing an Iran acquiring, if not already acquired, a capability to produce the material that can be use for nuclear weapons should they decide to do that. It's really a question of intention."

 

Serious challenges for Arab leaders in Amman

US-backed fighters battle IS near north Syria town

Iraq investigates Mosul civilian deaths

Iran to symbolically sanction 15 US companies

Egypt’s dwindling Jews struggle to maintain heritage

Germany’s Turks cast early ballots for Erdogan referendum

German court convicts Pakistani of spying for Iran

Qatar to invest £5bn in UK within five years

'Kill Erdogan' banner probed in Switzerland, Turkey

Arab League chief urges resolution to Syria conflict

Israel arrests 22 ultra-Orthodox sex offenders

Syrian forces pause offensive on IS-held dam for repairs

Dubai's Emaar Malls offers $800m to buy Souq.com

Iraq launches fresh Mosul Old City advance

Hamas partially reopens Beit Hanoun crossing

In Algeria, everyone wants to be MP, few likely to vote

Yemeni rebel supporters flood streets on conflict’s anniversary

Syria fighting damages IS-held dam posing rising water risk

Iran to appeal seizure of 9/11 compensation money

Hamas shuts Gaza crossing after assassination of official

Deep concern as Israeli laws entrench the occupation

Turkey’s Kurds could sway tight referendum vote

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

US and allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Israel’s air strike on Syria spooks Middle East

Gunmen kill Hamas official in Gaza

Separate Syria air strikes kill at least 32

UN says Israel has ignored resolution on illegal settlements

Veteran politician says Turkey referendum a 'test' for Kurds

More Algerian women in work, but husbands control wages

Beirut university settles US lawsuit over Hezbollah

1.1 million weekend travellers from Dubai hit by laptop ban

Shiite Lebanese women endure painful custody battles

Russia, China seek Iraq chemical weapons probe

Besieged Syrians struggle with dwindling dialysis supplies

Syria army retakes Damascus areas from rebels

Syria says peace talks must first focus on 'terrorism'

12 Syrian refugees dead after boat sinks off Turkey coast

Mosul displaced head into unknown

As war keeps them away, Yemen children dream of school

Ousted Egyptian president Mubarak freed from detention

Iraq's Sadr threatens boycott if election law unchanged

Israel, US fail to reach settlement agreement

Yemen rebel missile kills Saudi soldier

Turkish FM in Switzerland amid rising tensions with Europe