The World from Berlin 'Iran Requires the Right Mix of Sticks and Carrots'

The surprising US intelligence report released on Monday says Iran is not actively pursuing nuclear weapons. This has allowed many to breath a sigh of relief, but the Bush administration still hopes to keep the pressure up on Tehran lest it change its mind.


Then and now: A carnival float carries a large papier-mache figure of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Duesseldorf in February 2007.
REUTERS

Then and now: A carnival float carries a large papier-mache figure of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Duesseldorf in February 2007.

Last week Iran was considered a country hiding a menacing nuclear weapons program. Now the White House is scrambling to convince the world that -- despite an intelligence report that put the kibosh on the nuclear weapons program rumors -- the world must follow its lead and continue diplomatic pressure to make sure the program doesn't restart.

On Monday, a US National Intelligence Estimate stated that Iran halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003 as a result of international pressure and has yet to resume it. The report contradicted and reversed a 2005 assessment that held that Iran was "determined to develop nuclear weapons."

On Tuesday, President Bush welcomed the report and the -- still undisclosed -- "great discovery" the report is based on. At the same time, he warned that Iran remained a threat, saying at a press conference: "Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous, if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Adhmadinejad voiced his feelings of vindication, telling reporters: "This is a declaration of victory for the Iranian nation against the world powers over the nuclear issue." In response, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at a gathering for reporters in Ethiopia, urged the international community and the UN Security Council to keep the pressure on Iran because it remains "a problematic and dangerous regime."

The timing of this report's release appears to be complicating the Bush administration's maneuvering regarding Iran. Later this week, Condoleezza Rice will be in Brussels for a NATO meeting where she will be pushing for another round of international sanctions against Iran that the Bush administration is hoping to win from the UN Security Council later this month. In particular, she will try to convince them that diplomatic pressure needs to be kept high in order to prevent Iran from continuing in its efforts to enrich and reprocess uranium. "We know that pressure has worked in the past and it caused them to do something very important …. Now let's use our collective efforts to cause them to take the next important step," Rice said Wednesday.

In Germany, Eckart von Klaeden a foreign policy expert with the governing Christian Democrats (CDU) expressed support for keeping the pressure on Iran. In an interview with Berliner Zeitung, he said: "Iran is still building a missile delivery system, it still doesn't fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and it supports international terror organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah."

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a member of the CDU's junior coalition partner the Social Democrats, told the paper that the report opened up an opportunity for more dialogue and that it must not be followed with a "phase of no talking." He added, though, that the international community was still responsible for keeping nuclear weapons out of the Middle East. Jürgern Tritten, of the Green Party, however, told the paper that negotiations -- and not more sanctions -- were called for.

For the most part, Germany's largest papers seemed relieved but not relaxed. They are relieved that the drums of war that so recently echoed loudly from the White House have died down. But they seem to be unanimous in the feeling that while more carrots are good, it's still too early to drop the stick:

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"In reality, America's intelligence services had not been keen to publish their intelligence estimates once again. But they're deviating from that stance just weeks after announcing it. It's obvious that they're afraid of being used once again -- as they were in the case of Iraq -- as a tool in the government's escalation strategy for which there is no factual support. That's why they're scrapping the intelligence estimate they made for Iran just two years ago. The fact that this 180-degree turn is publicized hints at the degree to which some part -- and a tough and powerful part -- of the Bush administration is fighting for an escalation. In this case, it appears to be Vice President Dick Chaney against the rest of the administration."

"The effects that this turn-around will have on domestic politics cannot be estimated. The strong faith that Americans had in their president and the Republicans has already been shaken to the core. They were less and less convinced that the government was making what was ultimately the correct decision for the safety of the US. This lack of trust will now only grow stronger and help the Democrats. In terms of Democratic internal politics, moreover, the still presumed favorite Hillary Clinton will be further weakened since she always had the hardest anti-Iran rhetoric of all the candidates. That's not going to help her much now. In publishing their report, the intelligence services had that in mind, too."

The conservative Die Welt writes:

"(As a result of intelligence failures regarding Iraq), the US intelligence services are more defensive than their European counterparts, who aren't yet completely convinced that Iran put a freeze on its atomic weapons program in 2003. But at least this can be said: If the US intelligence services don't come up with any reliable information about an Iranian bomb in the next few months, the Mullahs won't be attacked militarily under this US president."

"The 16 American intelligence services apparently did not want to open themselves up to the accusation that they were being manipulated by the White House. But this distancing, though welcome, comes at a price because it will now be even more difficult for the international community to put pressure on Tehran. Iran claims that it will retain its options to obtain the bomb and will perfect the know-how that could be used for building a bomb. By sometime between 2010 and 2015, Iran might have enough material to make an atomic warhead. That's really not that far from now, when you think about it and when you consider that it's already been four years since Iran's nuclear program was discovered. While the diplomatic efforts plod endlessly forward without accomplishing much, there's no reason to sit back and relax now."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"Pressure works! In other words, the leadership in Tehran is not as immune to external influence as it claims to be. The right mix of sticks and carrots might also succeed in extending this moratorium for an indefinite period of time. For this reason, the new and decisive sanctions have not lost their usefulness but still remain important for persuading Iran to completely disclose its nuclear program. Moreover, the intelligence services are confident that the Iranian leadership wants to keep its military options open and retain the required capacities for such a case. This is not a final all clear. But it is clear that the discussion about the threat emanating from Iran no longer inhabits the same environment. And the regional climate has been affected, too. Those who were skeptical of American allegations, such as Russia's President Putin, now feel themselves vindicated -- and by Bush's own people. There's a first time for everything."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"The (US intelligence) report is no cause for sounding the all clear. A civil nuclear program can quickly be repurposed for military uses. The new finding that Iran already had a military nuclear program is more troubling than the finding that it halted it a few years ago, and all the more so because the program … was halted during the tenure of the more moderate President Mohammad Khatami. That really says very little about the intentions of his successor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a well-known hardliner."

"Iran must be denied the possibility of making a nuclear bomb. Therefore, it shouldn't be allowed to enrich uranium for either civil or military uses. The issue is nuclear conflict, and that is what the resolutions of the UN Security Council are aimed at. The intelligence report doesn't change that at all. But it does confirm the fact that the resolutions can be implemented best by means of international pressure, with both sticks and carrots."

"The US government is now going to have a tougher time getting the international community to toughen its sanctions in mid-December, especially Russia and China. Of course, they'll demand fewer sticks for Iran, but the intelligence report would be the wrong argument for that."

-- Josh Ward, 2:30 p.m. CET

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