The magnitude of the Iranian nuclear issue largely depends on the nature and the behaviour of the Islamic regime. Part of the international community supported the action of Germany, France and the United Kingdom aimed at putting an end to the unacceptable activities of a signatory country of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, the Iranian issue is completely manageable and developing a crisis is worthless.
Iran reactivated its nuclear programme in the 1980s to pressure Saddam Hussein, but after years of effort violating its international commitments, Iran reached to the conclusion that things were much more difficult, undoubtedly. When the clandestine programme was made public in 2002 it had only produced some milligrams of plutonium and some grams of uranium. Since then, no other significant progress has been achieved during the intensive ground inspection campaigns by the experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Teheran accepted the implementation of the additional control system of the agency on its territory. This control is still maintained, as well as the activities of Isfahan, even when they contravene the demands of the international community.
Such an achievement is important and it was the result of the actions of Germany, France and the United Kingdom. We must lean on it to achieve progress. Iran is a member of the NPT and it should remain so. If it joined the additional protocol of the IAEA, it should ratify it now. It should also guarantee that nuclear technologies won’t be use with military purposes. It’s here where negotiations come to a halt. The Europeans have asked Iran to relinquish the especially sensitive technology of uranium enrichment by the centrifuge process while they’ll guarantee the neceesary supply of oil. On its side, Iran fears that its energy sector will depend on European good will. Nobody wants to twist its arm.
However, there’s a posible convergence zone. Based on the NPT, the Iranians have the right to do research and to develop centrifugation. Such rights can be recognized by limiting them to a compromise of not enriching uranium beyond the enough and necessary 3 to 5% needed for oil stations, but not enough for nuclear weapons. If facilities were controlled by the IAEA, a few days will be needed to know if the contract is violated whereas much more time will be needed to have the nuclear material necessary for a bomb. If the IAEA believes it’s able of making the necessary controls, the the problem could be solved.
Those who oppose this agreement say that Iran could, based on the agreement, develop a clandestine programme. This could be completely true if Teheran affirms that it will put an end to its uranium enrichment programme. Hiding the activities of a dozen centrifuges is easy to achieve, but not the operation of thousands of them. It’s not easy to gather uranium secretly either. Such a security system should be built but we should remain mistrustful and our eyes should remain wide open. Let’s keep in mind that the worst thing to be there is an Iran abandoning the additional protocol, a sort of a NPT, due to unacceptable pressures or aggressions, as well as the denial of what it considers, right or wrong, as an imprescriptible right to have access to the technologies of the modern world.

Le Monde (France)

Pour sortir par le haut de la crise nucléaire iranienne”, by François Nicoullaud, Le Monde, September 18, 2005.