The first day in a new job can sometimes be difficult, but spare a thought for Yukiya Amano – the IAEA’s new Director General. On Tuesday he officially succeeded Mohamed ElBaradei as the top boss at the UN’s nuclear watchdog, and it’s been a baptism of fire.
He inherits a crisis that has been rumbling on for seven years: Iran’s nuclear aspirations. But it looks like his job may be over before he’s started … that’s according to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Speaking in Tehran on Tuesday evening, Ahmadinejad made a bullish speech on state TV. The hardline leader said they would be holding no talks (with major powers) over this issue. He went onto say that world powers would not succeed in isolating Iran over its nuclear programme and dismissed any possibility of military action against the Islamic republic.
This week Iran faced a growing international chorus of condemnation of its nuclear ambitions. On Friday, the IAEA officially rebuked Iran for concealing its nuclear reactor at Qom, and passed a resolution demanding that Iran put an immediate stop to all enrichment activities.
That resolution appears to have soured relations between Iran and its longtime nuclear partner, Russia. Tehran is unhappy at Russia’s yes vote on that censure motion. On Monday, Tehran responded by announcing plans to build 10 more nuclear sites.
So is a hardline approach the best way to deal with a hardline government in Iran? Is this the right course of action? China is unsure – its called for diplomacy, not sanctions to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, “we should properly resolve this issue through dialogue. All parties should step up diplomatic efforts.”
Last month hopes were high when it was though that the ongoing problem might be resolved when negotiated agreement to export Iran’s enriched uranium to France and Russia was seriously considered. But now it looks like we’re back at square one.
So, what should the world community do? Should we engage with Iran? Or should we isolate it so that it has no choice but to fall into line?