Tehran plays its nuclear card

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s letter to US President George W. Bush with «new solutions» on how to resolve the current nuclear dispute shows that Tehran wishes to keep the diplomatic door open. The fact that Russia and China continue to object to international action – as highlighted during the meeting Monday in New York with foreign ministers from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US – broadens Iran’s maneuvering room. Washington will likely either negotiate with Russia and China or take unilateral action together with a coalition of the willing. The international community has an obligation to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons – notwithstanding its more tolerant stand toward other countries such as Israel, India, and Pakistan, which has resulted in an undesired proliferation. On the other hand, the international community must respect the national dignity of Iranians and, most importantly, acknowledge their justified concerns that they could be next on the US list of targets. Barring its rhetorical excesses, Iran has so far steered clear of opportunistic actions. It was never involved in al-Qaida-style Islamic terrorism and actually backed the western military campaign against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. That did not stop Washington from including Iran in the so-called axis of evil and warn it that it will go the way of Iraq. American threats contributed to the defeat of Iran’s moderates. Tehran believes the only way to avert a US strike is to flash the nuclear card. However, the most likely scenario – also helped by soaring oil prices – is that Iran will negotiate a non-attack pledge from Washington.