RFE/RL: The international community has threatened to take Iran's case [over its nuclear program] to the [United Nations] Security Council. [It] looks as if this is the last card for the international community to play and -- if they lose their hand this time -- there will be very little else for them to do since a military option is far too drastic and costly in every sense of the word; [isn't the international community] taking a great risk?
Mark Fitzpatrick: I would put it this way. For two and a half years the international community has been patient trying to pursue negotiations, led by the Europeans; all the rationale and the legal requirement actually to report Iran's transgressions to the Security Council were...documented in November 2003. But the report to the Security Council was put off so negotiations could be pursued. Now Iran has taken steps to put an end to those negotiations. So the next logical step is to send a report to the Security Council. But that does not mean the end of diplomacy or the last card. There will be many stages when this issue is discussed at the Security Council for the permanent members and the other members of the Security Council to discuss what steps to take. They can start with small steps: reinforcing the call on Iran to suspend its enrichment; targeted political sanctions; or other measures [that are] far short of military options. So, no, it's not the last card at all.
"Iran is in a dangerous, unstable part of the world. Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons [is] likely to spark some more of its neighbors to acquire nuclear weapons."
RFE/RL: But the very fact that a nation, a country, a government is being taken to the Security Council would mean that this country, this government...would feel isolated in the international club.
Fitzpatrick: Well I think it may feel isolated, and that might be what the objective is -- to demonstrate to the Iranian people that they are isolated in the entire world. That this is not an issue between American and Britain against Iran, this is the world calling on Iran not to give up its right to nuclear energy but to forgo the enrichment technology that could also lead to a nuclear weapon. It's a matter of Iran restoring...confidence [in the eyes of the world community], the confidence that it lost by pursuing nuclear programs without reporting them -- in violation of its safeguards agreements.
RFE/RL: Now the classic question. I'm a layman, you understand...but why can't the world accept Iran as a nuclear power? After all, so many countries, including Iran's neighbor, Pakistan, have it.
Fitzpatrick: I think that at each stage in the development of nuclear weapons spreading -- starting with the United States and the United Kingdom, and France, and Russia, and China, India, Pakistan, Israel -- at each stage along that way the world would have been better off if an additional country did not develop nuclear weapons. Iran is the one knocking at the door right now and the international community is united in saying "we have to stop the spread of this technology before every region of the world is threatened." Iran is in a dangerous, unstable part of the world. Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons [is] likely to spark some more of its neighbors to acquire nuclear weapons. And the further spread of this technology is not helpful to the world's security or peace.
THE COMPLETE PICTURE: RFE/RL's complete coverage of controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
An annotated timeline
of Iran's nuclear program.