More proof that the goal of Iran's nuclear program is megatons not kilowatts, came last weekend. On Sunday, all 247 legislators present in the Iranian parliament voted to resume their country's uranium enrichment activities, in violation of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) restrictions. As if to confirm suspicions regarding their intentions, some deputies shouted "Death to America."
The vote followed a decision last month by the ayatollahs to flatly turn down an Anglo-French-German proposal to provide the Islamic republic with the uranium it needed for an extensive civilian electricity program, in return for Iran giving up its nuclear research and shutting its centrifuges.
It has always strained credulity that a country with the world's fifth largest oil reserves -- and no environmentalists to worry about -- would consider large-scale nuclear power production at seven to 10 times the cost per kilowatt-hour of generating electricity from oil-fired plants. But this is the limit: The IAEA and the European Union must now remove their blinkers. Iran's public pronouncements are clearly eyewash concealing a hunt for The Bomb. The nation has been negotiating in bad faith -- appearing open to compromise, while continuing its weapons program in underground laboratories.
The best-case explanation for Iran's stubborn retention of its nuke program is that it desires to immunize itself against regional and international interference in its internal affairs. That's plausible, since the ayatollahs' hold on power is increasingly tenuous. But just as likely is the desire of Iranian hardliners to carry their fading Islamic revolution to other nations.
Before 9/11, the U.S. State Department routinely ranked Iran as the world's top supplier, trainer and bankroller of terrorism. And in a prominent sermon in 2001, former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani looked forward to the day when "the world of Islam comes to possess [nuclear"> weapons." A bomb used against Israel, Rafsanjani exulted, "would leave nothing on the ground" and rid the world of "extraneous matter."
An invasion of Iran at this point is an impossibility given the Americans' overextension in Iraq. But at the very least, Iran's violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and of current IAEA restrictions, along with its repeated failure to comply with IAEA inspectors, must be referred to the UN Security Council when the agency's board convenes later this month. And if the Security Council is to retrieve any of the credibility it lost over Iraq, it must swiftly impose sanctions -- and make them stick.
At the very least, the Security Council must impose a total ban on all nuclear trade with Iran, especially with its suspected suppliers in South Africa, Brazil, Pakistan and Russia. Failing this, more direct action to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power may become necessary.