On Monday, the London Financial Times's "Observer" column commented on the escalation of rhetoric in the U.S. and Iran after the passing of the Aug. 31 U.N. deadline to Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing:  "Mohammad Khatami, former Iranian president, has attracted some lively opinion during his current U.S. tour.  Rick Santorum, Republican senator, called him 'one of the chief propagandists of the Islamic fascist regime,'" the "Observer" noted, adding:  "Criticism of Khatami is equally vitriolic back in Tehran.  Fatemeh Rajabi, wife of the government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham, has demanded that leading ayatollahs defrock the cleric for accepting U.S. 'remuneration' and peddling 'American Islam.'"[1]  --  The column also described U.N. officials as "shell-shocked" after their 90-minute meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  --  Tim Hames, chief leader writer at the Murdoch-owned Times of London, talked up the value of a "military strike" against Iran in the Times of London, eagerly escalating his rhetoric, bemoaning the "shambles" that Iran diplomacy has become.[2]  --  After giving his blessing to Israel's possession of nuclear weapons, Hames proclaimed that "Iran is different," because, he believes (probably because he has never read a history of Iran), that the Islamic Republic is presently possessed of a "drive to seize command over a faith that was briefly, if tenuously, held and then lost in the 7th century."  --  Hames also seemed to endorse the view that an attack on Iran that would be illegal under the U.N. Charter would boost the U.N.'s credibility.  --  In its leader, the Times took a slightly less aggressive, but still hard-line, position:  "Either Iran’s position changes or the international community will have to alter its stance on this controversy completely."[3]  --  A piece in the Age (Australia) described Iran's view of the dispute:  "We do not see any legal basis for this demand," Iran's representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told CNN.  --  "There is no provision in the IAEA statute also and NPT for requesting a country to stop or suspend enrichment activities.  The only thing is that the IAEA has to verify and control the activities to make sure that there is no diversion," noting that the most recent report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei was "a document proving our assertion that all activities have been for peaceful purposes and there is no evidence of diversion . . ."[4] ...

1.

Observer

IRAN 0 UNITED NATIONS 1

Financial Times (UK)
September 4, 2006

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/6cc3e1ce-3c3d-11db-9c97-0000779e2340.html

Mohammad Khatami, former Iranian president, has attracted some lively opinion during his current US tour. Rick Santorum, Republican senator, called him “one of the chief propagandists of the Islamic fascist regime”.

Criticism of Khatami is equally vitriolic back in Tehran.

Fatemeh Rajabi, wife of the government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham, has demanded that leading ayatollahs defrock the cleric for accepting US “remuneration” and peddling “American Islam”.

The Iranian government, meanwhile, has been making gestures to improve relations with the United Nations. Hamid-Reza Asefi, foreign ministry spokesman, responded to yesterday’s plea from Kofi Annan, the visiting U.N. secretary-general, to accept the “historical fact” of the Jewish Holocaust by announcing an autumn conference in Iran on the subject. “I have visited the Nazi camps in eastern Europe -- I think it is exaggerated,” Asefi said.

U.N. officials emerged shell-shocked from a 90-minute meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian president, but didn’t say if the Holocaust had been mentioned.

Annan recovered quickly for a press conference. When a reporter from IRNA, the official news agency, denounced the U.N. for backing Israel, Annan said: “That’s a statement, not a question.”

2.

Comment

WHAT A SHAMBLES OVER IRAN
By Tim Hames

** The collapse of resolve towards Tehran’s nuclear plans will deeply undermine international order **

Times (London)
September 4, 2006

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2341668,00.html

Persian proverbs have a particularly poetic quality to them. Among my personal favorites are: “The wise man sits on the hole in his carpet”; “You can’t pick up two melons with one hand”; and “When fortune turns against you, even jelly breaks your teeth.” Profound.

Another local maxim appears to capture the outside world’s response to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It is akin to an ancient remark: “A gentle hand may lead an elephant by a hair.” For that is clearly the approach that Kofi Annan, on behalf of the United Nations, and Javier Solana, for the European Union, are adopting. Mr. Annan was in Tehran this weekend to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the firebrand Iranian President, and ask him politely if he would mind suspending the enrichment of uranium as the U.N. Security Council has demanded. Señor Solana is due to see Ali Larijana, nominally Iran’s chief negotiator on these issues, this week to explore once again whether formal negotiations can start on a new package of “economic and other incentives” that might allow Iran to do what U.N. Resolution 1696 has sought under the threat of sanctions.

Not that this measure was especially intimidating. The most that the permanent members of the Security Council were poised to agree on at this stage was a travel ban on senior Iranian leaders and a partial freeze on selected assets held abroad. Unless Mr. Ahmadinejad ached to visit Disneyland Paris, he was hardly likely to be troubled by this possibility.

And, in truth, he has no reason to fear that such a trip may be cancelled.

For after a brief period of relative solidarity, international policy towards Iran has returned to a shambles. Erkki Tuomioja, Foreign Minister of Finland, reacted to Iran’s latest nuclear defiance on behalf of the EU by insisting that it was way “too early” to consider anything other than diplomatic activity. The Russians are more interested in selling Iran nuclear technology and arms than in preventing it acquiring such resources.

The Chinese, whose enormous oil needs are serviced by Iran, are mumbling in the corner. Britain and France, which once took a comparatively tough line, have begun retreating. When President Bush speaks of the need for something to be done, he is portrayed as the reincarnation of Dr. Strangelove. Our collective stance today is all holes and no carpet.

Whether a nation possesses nuclear weapons is not always a political catastrophe. That Israel has such an arsenal has surely rendered another regional war similar to those of 1948, 1956, 1967, or 1973 unviable. That both India and Pakistan have the bomb is better than only one of them being in that position, and conflict was more likely when each enjoyed only conventional military muscle. The thought of the crackpot regime in North Korea being a member of the atomic club does not lift the heart, but it dare not dream of deploying such weapons without the blessing of Beijing, which would not be forthcoming. There is an extent to which nuclear missiles are little more than a national virility symbol, the military version of counterfeit Viagra.

Yet Iran is different, which is why a collapse in resolve towards Tehran really matters.

Iran is a special case because, first, it is already an established menace. It has spent the past two decades consistently seeking to sabotage any prospect of a permanent peace settlement between Israel and its neighbors and it remains dedicated to that mission. It continues to sponsor extremist fanatics in the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon. It is behind much of the trouble that has tortured Iraq and it does not intend to stop pulling these strings once U.S. and British troops have left. If it becomes a nuclear nation, it is likely to be emboldened in these deeds.

Iran is also distinct because this project is not merely about national symbolism, but also religious aspirations. It would not be an “Islamic” bomb but a “Shia Islamic” bomb, the most potent physical representation so far of a drive to seize command over a faith that was briefly, if tenuously, held and then lost in the 7th century. It would be in the hands of people whose interpretation of theology places a weight and value on the concept of martyrdom that the rest of us properly find alien, bizarre, and chilling.

Sunni nations, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, would, rightly, be aghast at, and uncomfortable with, the notion that they have to rely on Israel as their de facto nuclear deterrent. The incentives for them, too, to pursue nuclear status would be overwhelming. Indeed, to put it bluntly, if Tehran obtains nuclear standing, then tacitly encouraging Cairo and Riyadh to travel down the same path may be the least bad outcome for outsiders to fall back on.

An Iranian nuclear capacity would, finally, make a mockery of the United Nations. It would be seen as confirmation that the phrase “Security Council ultimatum” is close to a contradiction in terms. I am not a huge fan of this organization, but it undoubtedly has its merits. It will be seen as having huffed and puffed on Iran and blown nothing down. Other rogue states will observe these events and reach their own, rational, conclusions. What passes for international order will be deeply undermined by this imminent debacle.

The awkward reality is that Iran will only reconsider its plans if it decides that there is a plausible chance of a military strike against it.

The equally inconvenient situation is that it has absolutely no reason at the moment to assume this. Señor Solana declared that a willingness to talk did not mean that Tehran had “infinite time” at its disposal. But Iran does not need infinite time, merely long enough to obtain nuclear weapons and thus close this debate in a manner of its choosing. It is time that it is being awarded.

One last Persian proverb is appropriate. It runs: “A blind person who sees is better than a seeing person who is blind.” On Iran, the world is, alas, led by the seeing blind.

3.

Leading articles

** The EU must not allow itself to be divided from Washington **

Times (UK)
September 4, 2006

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,542-2341447,00.html

Kofi Annan’s meetings with the Iranian leadership this weekend appear to have yielded little progress. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s President, made it plain that, while he was interested in more talks about his country’s evident nuclear ambitions, he would not contemplate any suspension of uranium enrichment in advance of those negotiations. That requirement, however, is the essence of U.N. Resolution 1696 passed on July 31 and whose deadline expired without compliance last Thursday. Matters would appear to have reached an impasse. Either Iran’s position changes or the international community will have to alter its stance on this controversy completely.

The second course is a profoundly unattractive option. It would allow the Iranian regime to continue in what is believed to be a quest for nuclear weapons while simultaneously being in discussions as to what it might receive if it abandoned such pretensions. Most if not all of the cards would, therefore, be placed in Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hands, which is just where he wants them.

The character of Iranian politics is such that it is never completely clear as to what that nation’s intentions are. It is not obvious whether it is the President or Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, who is driving policy or if the motives behind it are nationalist or theological in nature. There are reformist and pragmatic elements in Tehran which would prefer to be integrated into the outside world, not isolated from it. It is possible that, having salvaged pride through a period of posturing, Iran might agree to the suspension of uranium enrichment yet find a different name for that decision.

This is, though, the optimistic scenario. Iran may well be determined to acquire a nuclear capacity and wishes instead to play for time to minimize the damage that it sustains in the process. It knows that Russia, its principal supplier of atomic technology over the years, has been extremely reluctant to issue threats to Tehran. Mr. Ahmadinejad is a shameless showman. If he can turn this saga into a circus for his own benefit, then that is what he will do.

This circus strategy will work if the EU and the United States can be divided. Their responses to Tehran’s latest stance will have been well received by Iranian hardliners. While George W. Bush asserted that there had to be consequences if Iran continued to ignore the U.N., the EU, in the form of Finland, which presently holds its presidency, offered the sense that there was no urgency on this matter. Javier Solana, the EU’s primary negotiator, then restored ballast to policy by insisting that there would only be a two-week delay before the EU, like the U.S., returns to the U.N. Security Council.

It is imperative that this delay does not stretch indefinitely and that the basic premise for serious bargaining is not diluted. Iran will be happy to hold talks about talks for as long as anyone else will hold meetings with it. The central question, nevertheless, is not whether Tehran is willing to send out envoys but when uranium enrichment will be suspended. If the EU and Washington are not perceived to be as one, the world will hardly be a safer place.

4.

NO LEGAL BASIS TO STOP NUCLEAR PROGRAM: IRAN

Age (Australia)
September 4, 2006

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20348749-1702,00.html

Iran's ambassador to the U.N. nuclear watchdog has said that neither the Security Council nor international treaties can legally require Iran to stop enriching uranium.

"We do not see any legal basis for this demand," Ali Asghar Soltanieh told CNN television.

"There is no limitation or restriction" on peaceful uses of nuclear power according to the rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency or nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, he said.

"There is no provision in the IAEA statute also and NPT for requesting a country to stop or suspend enrichment activities," he said from Vienna.

"The only thing is that the IAEA has to verify and control the activities to make sure that there is no diversion" of fissile material to use in weapons.

He called the most recent report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei "a document proving our assertion that all activities have been for peaceful purposes and there is no evidence of diversion to nuclear material."

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, on a visit to Tehran to meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said he was assured that Iran was "prepared to negotiate and find a way out of this crisis."

He also claimed that Mr. Ahmadinejad had said that "Iran does not accept a suspension (of uranium enrichment) before negotiations."

Iran has defied Western demands to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear fuel and, in highly extended form, the core of an atomic bomb.

Iran's rejection of a U.N. deadline to halt enrichment, which expired last week, has left Tehran facing a push by the U.S. for the Security Council to impose sanctions.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, a charge fiercely denied by Tehran, which insists that its nuclear program is solely aimed at providing civilian energy.