Made in Tehran.

What the foreign papers are saying.
Sept. 20 2004 3:56 PM

Made in Tehran

Is the world getting serious about the Iranian nuclear threat?

Newspapers in Iran and around the world reacted to Saturday's call by the International Atomic Energy Agency for Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment efforts that could be used to produce nuclear weapons.

In Iran the hard-line Jomhuri-ye Eslami advocated rejection of the IAEA's efforts to control Iran's nuclear program. "Our powerful stance will undermine the weakness of the Western camp even further," the paper said, calling the country's pursuit of nuclear technology a "national issue" that enjoys "total support among the people." The conservative Hemayat said, "No country should be allowed to threaten Iran's security, and warned that "American-Israeli threats" could force Iran to consider taking drastic action. The more moderate Mardom Salari denounced "those who want Iran to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty" and urged the country to pursue diplomacy. (Translations from the Farsi courtesy of BBC Monitoring.)

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The Tehran Timescarried an Islamic Republic News Agency report quoting the speaker of Iran's parliament, the Majlis, as saying, "Iran considers the peaceful use of nuclear technology to be the inalienable right of the nation and will not forgo its peaceful nuclear activities." The speaker insisted that Iran's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and he said the country is willing to cooperate with the IAEA if allowed to pursue its peaceful goals.

In widely circulated statements, top Iranian officials have rejected the IAEA's ultimatum. The Independent of Britain quoted top security official Hassan Rohani saying, "Iran will not accept any obligation regarding the suspension of uranium enrichment. … No international body can force Iran to do so." He added that Iran would stop allowing the IAEA to conduct facilities inspections on short notice if the country's nuclear program was referred to the United Nations Security Council for discussion.

Even before the IAEA issued its call, Germany's Die Welt said the repeated deliberations are a waste of time and the issue should be referred to the U.N. Security Council, which, it said, could make Iran understand that its political standing is weaker with nuclear weapons than without them. (Translation from the German courtesy of Deutsche Welle.)

Agence France-Presse circulated a story detailing Iranian tests of long-range missiles and Israeli concerns about the implications. "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Iran and its nuclear ambitions represent 'a very great danger' to the Jewish state but played down the prospect of a pre-emptive strike on its atomic facilities," AFP wrote. "Israel has acted in the past to eliminate perceived nuclear threats, bombing Iraq's Osirak nuclear facility in 1981. Iran has promised to retaliate against any such move."

A commentator in the Daily Star of Beirut said Iran's "overt muscle-flexing" makes it "vulnerable to a joint pre-emptive strike by Israeli and American forces. ... If the Americans can obtain a UN resolution based on the International Atomic Energy Agency findings that Iran is in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, they can justify military action." But an opinion in London's Guardian warned that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear targets would have grave global consequences. "A repeat performance [of Israel's 1981 air-strike against the Iraqi nuclear facility] against Iran today would be universally perceived as American in spirit, even if exclusively Israeli in execution, and the whole Middle Eastern mess which America came to Iraq to clean up would instantly cross a new threshold in scale, virulence and unpredictability."

In a leader, the Daily Telegraph of Britain warned that the United States has allowed its preoccupation with Iraq and the Nov. 2 presidential elections to deflect its attention from the very real Iranian nuclear threat. Whoever wins the election will have to address the Iranian problem head-on, "by negotiation, military intervention or the fomenting of an internal uprising," the paper said. "Despite the rhetoric, there could be an opening for the first. The second, given the dispersal of Iran's nuclear activities, might only be partially successful. The third runs the risks of savage reprisals by the conservatives."

Carl Schrag, formerly the editor of the Jerusalem Post, is a writer and lecturer.

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