Europe's initiative to prevent a military confrontation between the United States and Iran represents a new coming of age in world affairs for a Europe often described as an economic giant but a geo-political dwarf. Nowhere is this more true than in Germany.
The European initiative, led by Germany, France, and Britain, would give Iran major economic benefits in exchange for the Iranians giving up their aspirations to become a nuclear power. Specifically, Tehran would get membership in the World Trade Organization, trade deals, security guarantees, and nuclear fuel for peaceful uses such as nuclear power generation.
A preliminary agreement in mid-November produced an Iranian commitment to suspend work on uranium enrichment, but a follow-up agreement is still to be negotiated, and nobody here expects a final deal until after the Iranian presidential election next year, since none of the candidates can afford politically to appear weak.
Any deal would need US approval, and Washington's view of the European initiative thus far has ranged from skeptical to contemptuous. The Bush administration believes, with good reason, that the Iranians have been lying about their nuclear program. Officials consider the Europeans naive. The more hawkish officials in the administration want "regime change" or a "surgical strike" against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Both options, however, will be far more difficult than in Iraq, since Iranian nuclear facilities are both dispersed and hardened, and since President Bush has just about run out of US ground troops in the Iraq occupation.
surplus to political requirements
2 years ago