The U.S. must soften its tactics in dealing with Iran over its nuclear program if it wants the Islamic Republic to make concessions on uranium-enrichment work, said the former head of the United Nations atomic agency.
“There has been too much of a reliance on the whip rather than the carrot in the case of Iran,” Hans Blix, the Swede who led the International Atomic Energy Agency for 16 years until 1997, said in an interview yesterday in Geneva. “It’s a U.S. attitude but very often, incentives are better than disincentives.”
The U.S. and Israel accuse Iran of covertly seeking atomic-weapons capabilities through activities including uranium enrichment, while the Persian Gulf nation says its work is intended only to generate nuclear power. The U.S. and the European Union have imposed dozens of sanctions on energy, trade, banking and shipping to induce Iran to suspend aspects of its atomic program.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the sanctions amount to a “full-scale, hidden psychological war” and that his government is studying ways to sidestep them. The restrictions have damaged Iran’s economy and led to difficulties in selling oil and transferring money, he told state television on Sept. 5 before traveling to New York to attend the UN General Assembly meeting.
Iran maintained its output of enriched uranium and doubled enrichment capacity at its mountainside Fordo facility, the Vienna-based IAEA reported on Aug. 30. About 175 kilograms (386 pounds) of 20 percent enriched uranium, or 630 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, if further purified, could yield the quantity of weapons-grade uranium needed to produce a bomb, according to the London-based Verification Research, Training and Information Center, a non-governmental observer to the IAEA that’s funded by European governments.
While the EU has tried to coax Iran into abandoning enrichment by offering to help it develop its civilian atomic-power industry, join the World Trade Organization and attract investment -- proposals Blix called “intelligent, but not enough” -- the U.S. has used a heavier hand, he said in the interview in Geneva, where he was participating in a conference on nuclear proliferation and disarmament.
“The threat of punishments is less effective, especially if you have a very proud party on the other side, like Iran or North Korea,” he said. “That has been a failure from the very outset.”
Nations including Japan, South Africa and Brazil enrich uranium as allowed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Iran’s position is ‘Why then single us out and say that we cannot do it?’ ” Blix said. “ ‘Here is a right that we have as a nation, and in order to induce us not to exercise this right, then offer something more.’ The way in which the inducement has been there has not been sufficient,” he said.