Transatlantic Tensions Over Iran May Be Increasing

Transatlantic Tensions Over Iran May Be Increasing

BERLIN -- The Iranian nuclear issue was a major topic of discussion during this week's EU-U.S. summit in Washington. The current Western strategy of combining increasingly severe sanctions on Iran with offers of civil nuclear and other assistance has not succeeded in limiting Iran's progress towards achieving the capacity to manufacture a nuclear bomb. Although European Commission President José Manuel Barroso warned Iranian leaders against trying to divide Europe and the United States, this week's meeting in Washington suggests that EU and U.S. leaders disagree over the appropriate next steps toward Tehran.

Despite years of negotiations and sanctions, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials continue to develop a domestic capacity to manufacture nuclear fuel through uranium enrichment, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons. Parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) such as Iran are allowed to research and develop nuclear energy, but are legally prohibited from pursuing nuclear weapons. Iranian officials insist their nuclear program has entirely peaceful aims. Other governments and many nongovernmental experts, however, suspect that Tehran seeks the capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons through uranium enrichment.

On Dec. 23, 2006, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1737 (pdf file) instructing U.N. member states to freeze the foreign assets of 12 individuals and 10 companies with alleged ties to Iran's nuclear industry. It also prohibits member states from transferring materials and technology that could assist Iran's uranium-enrichment program. UNSC Resolution 1747 (pdf file), adopted on March 24, 2007, expands these sanctions to cover additional Iranian officials and organizations. The resolution also limits members' economic interactions with Iran -- prohibiting certain arms sales, for example -- and threatens further sanctions if Iran fails to comply within 60 days.

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