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Defiant Iran Says ‘Let the Ball Roll’, Threatens 'Harm and Pain'

At the IAEA meetings in Vienna, Iran and the United States exchanged blows through written statements. On the heels of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying, “The United States has been very clear: the enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian soil is unacceptable,” and Vice President Dick Cheney’s stark warning to Iran of “meaningful consequences”, a written American statement declared that it was time for the UN Security Council to take up the issue in earnest.

In the letter, the United States demanded that Iran begin to cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors and reiterated that “Iran will face consequences if it does not meet its obligations.” The statement also read that “the time has now come for the Council to act.” US dlegate to the IAEA Gregory Schulte added, “Iran has still not come clean.”

Iran’s response was defiant and bold, reading, “The United States may have the power to cause harm and pain but it is also susceptible to harm and pain. So if the United States wishes to choose that path, let the ball roll.”

On this, many in the West agree with Iran. Let’s do let the ball roll already. The fruitless efforts of a hesitant international community and a powerless, unenforceable IAEA have run their course. There has been three years of reasoned negotiation and unreasonable Iranian actions and maintained secrecy and deception.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called for the US to tone down its rhetoric in light of Cheney’s straight-forward warning to Iran. When asked about Vice President Cheney’s remarks warning Iran of ‘meaningful consequences, Annan replied, “We should all try to lower the rhetoric and allow for calm, serious discussion on this issue. But the Iranians will also have to understand what the world expects of them. They have to find a way of convincing the world they are not going to go the nuclear route.”

At some point, Annan and ElBaredei must recognize that Iran cannot “convince world they are not going to go the nuclear route” while they are actually squarely on that route. Kofi Annan should reconsider his words within the context of the recent remarks by former Iranian nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani, who revealed the true nature of the Iranian position when he said, “When we were negotiating with the Europeans in Tehran we were still installing some of the equipment at the Isfahan site … In reality, by creating a tame situation, we could finish Isfahan.”

At some point, the clock must stop on talking and consequences in various forms be allowed to take form, much less merely be spoken of…and criticized for their utterance.

The IAEA itself has said that Iran has failed to live up to its obligations and has itself already voted to refer them to the UN Security Council for review. Yet, over one month later, the debate continues on a vote already taken.

The Iranian response has not been one of reason, but one of defiance, broken IAEA seals, removed cameras, the clearing of contaminated trees and the resumption of uranium enrichment, all amid the backdrop of Iranian rhetoric that included a call by Iran’s own president to have Israel ‘wiped off the map’.

Vice President Cheney made no such rhetorical display. A statement that there will be “meaningful consequences” for continued Iranian defiance should be made by the UN Secretary General, not criticized by the same.