Only cool heads can resolve Iran standoff

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 July, 2008, 12:00am

Iran's missile tests over the past two days have prompted fighting words from Israel and its ally, the US. The tests follow military exercises by the allied nations, stepped-up sanctions by Washington, and talks between Tehran and the European Union over Iran's nuclear programme are in the offing. Tensions are high, but war cannot be an option; more assertive efforts have to be taken to broker a diplomatic solution. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, both bordering Iran, should serve as a reminder that nothing other than loss of life, regional instability and expense will result from military options. Ordinary Iranians, an innocent party to any conflict, are the ones most hurt by sanctions. The only viable solution lies in self-restraint on all sides while a push for greater dialogue is made.

It is in our interests that this happens. Iran's tests and the angry international response they have evoked has increased uncertainty about oil stocks and prices. One-fourth of the world's oil comes from Iran and any interruption to supplies will push prices higher.

Mediation also taps directly into bringing peace to the Middle East. Iran's anti-semitic regime has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction. That it has again tested a missile claimed to be capable of hitting the Jewish state and is purported to be developing nuclear weapons are matters that have to be laid to rest once and for all.

Iran says that its nuclear programme is to produce electricity, not bombs. Given its possession of the world's second-largest oil reserves and that it is considered the biggest threat to Israel, such assurances cannot be taken seriously. Transparency is lacking and negotiations with the UN's atomic watchdog and the EU have dragged on for six years.

Senior Iranian officials have said Iran will adopt a more conciliatory line on the nuclear issue. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will meet Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili later this month. Words must be backed by actions.

The US also must be more conciliatory and try to directly engage Iran. European nations must step up dialogue. Only through cool heads and reasoned discussion can there be hope of resolution.