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Monday, October 20, 2003

Latest in anti-proliferation efforts

Already, it has been a busy week for the remaining two members of the so-called "axis of evil." When President Bush applied this label to Iran and North Korea in his January 2002 "State of the Union" address, terrorism was on everyone's mind. It has now been made quite clear, however, that the primary western security concern relating to these states is old-fashioned nuclear proliferation.

The US is now floating an offer not to attack North Korea (well, officially, US officials are talking about "security assurances") in exchange for the renunciation of North Korea's nuclear program. The deal is reminiscent of the bargain agreed between the US and Soviet Union in 1962 to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis. In exchange for an agreement not to attack Cuba, the Soviets would withdraw their missiles.

While US-Cuban ties have remained sour for 4 decades, the deal has mostly worked. Hopefully, North Korean proliferation can be prevented via peaceful diplomacy.

In the case of Iran, the foreign ministers of Britain (Jack Straw), Germany (Joschka Fischer) and France (Dominique de Villepin), are visiting Iran to discuss Iran's nuclear program. The details are a bit different, but the deal's logic is similar:
Diplomats said the EU ministers would demand Iran cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), accept tougher U.N. inspections and halt uranium enrichment.

In return, the ministers would offer to recognise Iran's right to a civilian nuclear energy programme, give some technical assistance and guarantee Iran's access to imported fuel for nuclear power plants.
The IAEA has set an October 31 deadline to set up inspections that can confirm Iranian compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty. Otherwise, the IAEA might recommend the UN Security Council impose sanctions.

Perhaps the EU has decent leverage on Iran since it has long pursued trade ties to moderate Iran, rather than sanctions, which the US has used since the Shah fell and American hostages were taken.

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