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Iran Nuclear Situation Needs Patience from All
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As expected, talks on the Iran nuclear issue involving five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany ended on Tuesday in New York with no consensus.

This result once again shows the difficulties and complications in resolving the Iranian nuclear standoff, and draws worldwide attention to the issue between parties concerned.

The five-plus-one meeting was convened under a proposal by Russia, in the hope of forming a "long-term strategy" on Iran's nuclear issue.

From the standpoint of US-Iranian relations, the nuclear issue can be considered an important moment for the United States to pursue a final settlement of the Iran issue.

Strategic equilibrium and balance of interests underlie Washington's great concern over Teheran.

Its feuds with the United States aside, Iran's geographical position has also enhanced US concerns and propelled it to seek a final settlement on the Iran issue.

Iran adjoins the Caspian Sea and Central Asia to the north, the European Continent to the west, and the Persian Gulf to the south. Little wonder the nation has long been called the "Eurasian Bridge."
Because of this, it has long been the center of fierce struggles between the world's major powers.

The birthplace of the Islamic Revolution, Iran also exerts important influence on the Islam world.

More important, the country is of great strategic significance in the world's energy landscape.

With 8.5 percent and 19 percent of the world's oil and gas reserves, ranking fifth and second largest respectively, Iran is indisputably an important energy resource base.

The United States is well aware of the vital importance of energy to the development of a nation in the 21st century. It also clearly realizes that whoever controls the world's energy will control the entire earth.

With the knowledge hammered home that in the future developing countries will become the main energy consumers, the United States feels greater urgency to control the world's energy supplies.

Iran's strategic importance has made itself a point of convergence of the interests of major powers. None of them will easily concede their interests there, and is willing to see developments by rivals as designed to deviate from their own intentions.

The scramble for benefits among world's big powers is expected to last long.

Besides caring about whether Iran will reverse its long-cherished policy of peaceful nuclear utilization under huge American pressure, the world is also concerned over whether Washington will resort to military means to solve its disputes with Teheran.

Iran's special geographical and energy positions will mean huge repercussions in other regions in the event of military action.

Warfare is expected to re-map the Middle East political landscape and inflict a dangerous blow on the world economy.

The United States has many times expressed its intention not to rule out military means to solve Iran's nuclear issue. Teheran has also offered no concessions by making active military preparations for a possible military strike.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, claimed on March 14 that any concessions on the nuclear issue will sabotage national independence and cause enormous losses to Iran.

In a speech on international anti-terrorism delivered on March 20 in Ohio, US President George W. Bush once again accused Iran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons, and said this was unacceptable. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadineijad counterattacked on the same day claiming no one can deprive his country of the right to nuclear technology.

His words are thought provoking, an explicit message that Iran is not only qualified for the right of peaceful nuclear use, but has also developed nuclear technologies.

Iran's declared control of nuclear technology is undoubtedly an important hint to the United States, who has long-suspected the country of clandestinely developing nuclear weapons under the cover of civilian projects, to come up with policies to solve the issue of Iran as soon as possible.

Now the United States has two options.

The first one is to use any necessary means to solve this issue to prevent Iran from becoming the next Democratic People's Republic of Korea, whose announcement of possession of nuclear weapons was almost equal to stripping the United States of choices other than sitting down around the negotiating table.

The second one is to use diplomacy to solve the Iran issue.

According to information mastered by the United States, Iran can make nuclear weapons at the earliest in 2010. At the same time, the country has so far been thought incapable of posing threats to American core national interests.

However, once it possesses nuclear weapons, Iran will theoretically pose a key threat to the US core strategic interest. Thus, the United States will by no means sit idle seeing a nation, branded by itself as a "failed nation" and the "largest realistic threat," enter the "nuclear club."

The Iran issue has plagued successive US presidents since the two countries ceased diplomatic relations 26 years ago. In the eyes of the United States, the former agent of its interests in the Gulf has now become its largest enemy in this region.

It successively launched military actions in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq, tightening its encirclement ring around Iran, the remaining strategic fortress in the Middle East that it expects to seize as early as possible.

Nevertheless, diplomacy has so far made no tangible progress.

Facing a defiant Iran, Washington has threatened on many occasions to use all necessary means for a settlement, but attack is still considered not to be the best option.

Despite a deadlock, all parties concerned are now trying to pursue viable ways to resolve the issue. In particular, Russia and China insist the nuclear issue be resolved within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) through peaceful means and are actively working to this end. The European Union also advocates settlement through diplomacy.

A peaceful solution seems in sight on the premise that parties concerned make due concessions and admit Iran's right for peaceful nuclear use and, in exchange, Iran promises not to apply nuclear technology to military fields and agrees to develop civilian nuclear technologies under the IAEA supervisions.

But this is not a prospect the United States looks forward to.

The exposed divergences of this issue among main players and its complicated nature suggest no instant solution can be found through a few rounds of talks.

The author is a researcher with Jiangsu Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.

(China Daily March 27, 2006)

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