by Shaun Appleby, Tue Jun 02, 2009 at 03:49:24 PM EDT
Obama has articulated what a lot of people have been thinking for some time on the illogic of the US position vis à vis Iran's clear ambition for nuclear technology:
LONDON -- President Barack Obama reiterated that Iran may have some right to nuclear energy - provided it takes steps to prove its aspirations are peaceful.
In a BBC interview broadcast Tuesday, Obama also restated plans to pursue direct diplomacy with Tehran to encourage it to set aside any ambitions for nuclear weapons it might harbor.
Iran has insisted its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity. But the U.S. and other Western governments accuse Tehran of seeking atomic weapons.
"Without going into specifics, what I do believe is that Iran has legitimate energy concerns, legitimate aspirations. On the other hand, the international community has a very real interest in preventing a nuclear arms race in the region," Obama said.
The comments echo remarks Obama made in Prague last month in which he said his administration would "support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections" if Iran proves it is no longer a nuclear threat.
Nancy Zuckerbrod - Obama says Iran's energy concerns legitimate Washington Post (AP) 2 Jun 2009
This somewhat startling admission, contrary to the domestic media narrative, makes excellent sense and is aligned with growing conventional wisdom within the foreign policy establishment on the futility of portraying Iran's nuclear programme as an act of aggression in itself. The Israelis must not be very pleased, on the other hand Europeans, increasingly seeking access to abundant Iranian reserves to meet their natural gas needs in coming decades, are no doubt relieved. The speech in Prague was intended for a largely European audience.
Assuming Iran renews it's participation in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and accepts International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections there is little the US or Israel can do under international law to prevent them from developing a peaceful nuclear capability under Article IV of the NPT:
The treaty recognizes the inalienable right of sovereign states to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but restricts this right for NPT parties to be exercised "in conformity with Articles I and II" (the basic nonproliferation obligations that constitute the "first pillar" of the Treaty). As the commercially popular light water reactor nuclear power station uses enriched uranium fuel, it follows that states must be able either to enrich uranium or purchase it on an international market.
The tenor of House Minority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va) remarks that this policy is "dangerous" and "misguided" set the tone for this debate in domestic terms:
"I strongly disagree with President Obama's dangerous suggestion that Iran may have some right to nuclear energy." said Cantor in a statement provided to the Huffington Post. "Iran forfeited any right to nuclear energy when it made the decision to illicitly enrich uranium to levels that can be used for nuclear weapons."
Cantor: Obama Mid-East Policy "Dangerous" And "Misguided" Huffington Post 2 Jun 09
Under international law Cantor is clearly mistaken, though Iran now has 'pariah' status it is likely that it would be accepted back to the NPT, with considerable relief, by the international community. Obama is making a courageous stand domestically but not internationally, many of our allies have been reluctant to impose severe sanctions on Iran and alarmed at the aggressive rhetoric of the previous administration.