Iran’s decision this week to bar IAEA inspectors from visiting a military base where nuclear weapons testing allegedly took place may prove to be a turning point in the standoff over its nuclear program. Non-Western powers have been more accepting of Iran’s claims that it is developing only civilian nuclear technology. However, if Iran continues to obstruct inspectors, its isolation could deepen.

The Realist Prism: With Credibility Flagging, Iran Risks Further Isolation

By , , Column

Iran’s decision this week to bar International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from visiting the Parchin military base, which Tehran allegedly used to test components needed to create a nuclear weapon, may prove to be a turning point in the diplomatic standoff over the country’s nuclear program. Up to this point, the “rising democracies” -- especially Turkey, India and Brazil -- have been unwilling to support efforts by the United States and Europe to further isolate Iran, in part because they have a much narrower definition of what constitutes a “nuclear weapons capability,” which the U.S. says is an unacceptable red line. They essentially consider such a capability to mean possessing the actual components of a working nuclear weapon, as opposed to possessing the technological capacity to develop them, which is the standard embraced by Western countries.

Non-Western powers have generally been more prepared to accept Iran’s claims that it simply seeks to develop the full panoply of civilian nuclear technology that it is entitled to under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Along with other major powers like China and Russia, the emerging democracies have called for intensified dialogue and had welcomed Iran’s call last week to restart talks “at the earliest opportunity.” However, if Iran continues to obstruct inspectors, and if it does not come to the table with concrete proposals, but instead uses yet another round of talks as a delaying tactic, its isolation could deepen. Moreover, if evidence emerges that the inspectors were barred from Parchin because they were on the verge of finding a “smoking gun” disproving Iran’s consistent claim that it does not seek nuclear weapons, the willingness of the “rest” to contest the allegations of “the West” will be tested. ...

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