The UN nuclear watchdog has said it believes Iran is still withholding information on its nuclear programme. In a report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Tehran's alleged weapons development studies remain a matter of serious concern. It adds that Iran is operating 3,500 centrifuges, the machines used to enrich uranium, at its plant at Natanz.
I commented the other day that the famed US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear programme explicitly did not consider the question of uranium enrichment. That's some caveat.
The enrichment facility at Natanz was established secretly. We know about it only because, as the BBC notes, Iranian dissidents revealed its existence in 2002. It is not necessary for a civil nuclear programme. Even so, the EU-3 have proposed a compromise (which the Bush administration has accepted) whereby Iran would be able to enrich uranium on the territory of a third party, Russia. Yet the mullahs carry on dissembling and evading UN requirements.
The history of Iran's tergiversations on this issue suggests that the regime will respond to international demands, but only under pressure. If the UN is to be an effective agent of disarmament and the diplomatic resolution of disputes, then it's essential that the members of the Security Council show solidarity and gumption on this. The issue can't be left just to the US and the UK to deal with, as happened with Saddam Hussein's serial flouting of UNSC resolutions. I'm sure those who condemned the American-led intervention in Iraq on the grounds that it lacked explicit authority from the UN Security Council would be the first to agree.