North Korea’s agreement to give up its military nuclear programme was a huge success for the international community. Admittedly, the country’s dire economic condition and its urgent need for energy made the agreement venal in a way. But North Korea’s decision nonetheless demonstrated the virtues and efficacy of diplomacy, which brings us once again to the case of Iran.
French President Jacques Chirac recently implied that we should not overestimate the seriousness of Iran’s possessing nuclear weapons. I disagree. It is true that possessing does not mean using; that for 15 years the world has had eight nuclear powers; and that nuclear force has not been used since 1945. But it is also true that Iran’s emergence as the ninth nuclear power would provoke a regional and global upheaval, dangerously aggravate fears and suspicions, and confront the international community with a profound crisis of vision and policy.
So, what can we do? First, resorting to force is simply not realistic. A nuclear strike would have incalculable consequences, and the Muslim world would in this case stand together. Nor is a conventional attack possible, as Israel has no common border with Iran and most of the American army is tied down in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Exploring diplomatic avenues is therefore absolutely necessary. Success would be guaranteed if the international community, especially the United States, clearly understands and admits its necessity, and supports it firmly and completely. For example, economic sanctions, to which Iran is very sensitive, could be tightened, with a commitment not to resort to military force facilitating Russian and Chinese approval.