By Alan Cowell, New York Times, February 21, 2012
Iran said on Tuesday that a team of United Nations nuclear officials visiting the country for the second time in three weeks would not go to nuclear facilities, despite earlier reports that its members had sought permission to inspect a military complex outside Tehran.
The Associated Press quoted the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, as saying the investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who arrived in Tehran on Monday, had no plans to visit the contentious nuclear sites, which the West maintains are part of a covert weapons program.
On Monday, The A.P. said, Iranian radio said the inspectors had asked to visit a military complex outside Tehran that is a suspected secret weapons-making location. It was not clear whether the Iranian authorities had specifically turned down the reported request. I.A.E.A. officials did not immediately return calls seeking clarification.
As the I.A.E.A. delegation left its headquarters in Vienna late Sunday, its leader, Herman Nackaerts, said the delegation wished to investigate “the possible military dimensions” which Tehran insists that the program does not have and which the inspectors’ previous visit did nothing to resolve.
International tension has been rising steadily, as Iran claims significant technological advances in uranium enrichment and threatens retaliation against countries that pursue sanctions against it, including a boycott of its oil.
Shortly after the I.A.E.A. team arrived for talks with Iranian officials, the Iranian government signaled that it might expand a ban on oil shipments to Britain and France, announced on Sunday, to cover other European powers that it deems “hostile” because of broader economic sanctions by the European Union that are scheduled to come into force on July 1. The ban was apparently announced to pre-empt those sanctions, which include a boycott on new purchases.
This is, clearly, a game of high-stakes diplomacy. If the I.A.E.A. inspectors are denied access to the sites where they suspect weapons' grade uranium is being developed, and if their report is inconclusive about such findings, we will all remember the "FAUX" Weapons of Mass Destruction reports out of Iraq that took the U.S. into that country under George W. Bush. The world is watching and waiting for the inspectors' report, conditioning next steps in this Mexican stand-off.
Whether the Israelis will listen to the U.S. pleas to resist attacking what they believe are nuclear facilities in Iran that threaten the stability of both their nation and the Middle East, is another hanging question. Recent rumblings out of Israel, including an announced visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu in the next several week, to both Canada and Washington, would seem to suggest that the visit might well be a prelude to an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, with or without a positive, confirming report of weapons grade uranium.
Writing in his blog, Fareed Zakaria, puts it this way about a preemptive strike:
The efforts to delay and disrupt Iran's nuclear program are working. But even if one day Tehran manages to build a few crude bombs, a policy of robust containment and deterrence is better to contemplate than a preemptive war. (From CNN website, February 19, 2012)
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, interviewed on GPS, on Sunday, reinforced the same point that the U.S. has been making to Israel for some time.
However, without the opportunity to full inspect Iranian facilities, and without a clear and workable resistance to hold Israel back from acting on what she sees as an obvious existential threat, from either the world community or the United States, one can have little if any confidence that a preemptive strike can be avoided.
Already the world is experiencing higher gas prices in part because of the rising tensions over Iran. One has to wonder if their manipulation of the world oil markets will be off-set by Saudi Arabia's increase in production; there is no love lost between Iran and the Saudis.
China is making overtures that it wants to play a more significant role in both Syria and Iran, given that the west has few bargaining chips left to bring these two rogues into some form of compliance. Russia, too, is making noises of military build-up, as Putin seeks to restore some of the former glory of the former Soviet Union.
And the world watches and waits....holding its breath in some considerable anxiety. For, if there is a military action, we will all be affected, some obviously more than others. And this is just one more voice urging restraint by Iran and by Israel, and also on the hawks in the U.S. who would jump at the opportunity to come to the aid of their ally Israel, if the occasion presented itself, as it most definitely would, in the event of a solo strike by Israel on Iran.