With the IAEA's Governing Board 40-day ultimatum to Iran in its September-12th resolution, Iran's nuclear ambitions seem to have plunged into a serious crisis. The IAEA demands that Iran sign the additional protocol of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which includes authorizing IAEA snap inspection requests with a 24-hour notice to replace the current one-week requirement. The course of events that led to the ultimatum showed, once again, how immature and impractical Islamic Republic's foreign policy can get. Most importantly is the fact that Europe, which usually takes a more lenient stance on issues related to Iran and has traditionally had extensive trade relations with the Islamic government, took full part in making the decision.
The European alignemnt with the ultimatum came about after the Islamic Republic (IR) refused the terms of a letter by Britain, Germany and France that promised technological aids if Iran signed the NPT additional protocol. The IR essentially passed up its last chance to benefit from the only powerful enough player on the international politics game board they had left for themselves. Now, if Iran fails to act favourably by the October-31st deadline, the IAEA may refer the issue to the UN security council for further action on charges of material breach of its resolutions. The US has already threatened to implement sanctions on Iran's oil sales that could have catastrophic consequences for the country's oil-based economy.
The IR officials' response to the ultimatum resolution has been so far confused. On the one hand, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's representative in the IAEA, walked out of the session that approved the resolution and later implied, in an interview reported by the hardline Tehran daily Kayhan and hardliner-controlled National TV, that while Iran would continue to work with the IAEA, it may reduce its level of cooperation with the agency. [Persian: Kayhan, English: Reuters; Al-Jazeera] On the other hand, the Foriegn Minister Kamal Kharrazi insisted that Iran is going to fully cooperate with the IAEA. Mr. Salehi had to take back his comments, saying that they were misinterpreted. The confusion shows in part that the IR apparantly did not expect the deadline and is bewildered by the decision. However, it might as well be a tactical play, to underline any future compliance with the resolution.
Inside the country too, there has been a spectrum of responses, with reformists being more inclined towards accepting the resolution and conservatives towards refusing it. An important question that would most likely remain unanswered is, of course, what the reaction of the ordinary people is to the resolution and the way the IR has handled the whole situation.
From the outset, however, the development has been a big step backward for the IR foreign diplomacy, as they seem to have lost their position in their courtship relationship with the EU. The cost the IR might be paying as a result is not only limited to the seemingly undisputable fact that their nuclear ambitions seem farther from being realised than any time before, but that the whole power structure of the Islamic regime might shake in the months to come. To whose benefit all this will turn out to be is for time to show, and for us to decide.
IAEA: IAEA & Iran
Economist: It's all gone dreadfully wrong
Mohamed El Baradei: on The Connection show of National Public Radio in the U.S.