French President Nicolas Sarkozy used a speech in Morocco late Tuesday to buttress Western objections to Iran's nuclear program. Announcing an agreement to help his country's former colony develop civilian nuclear energy, Sarkozy said the deal "is a way of saying to Iran that cooperation is possible and we are not condemned to confrontation." Therein, of course, lays the problem: Cooperation is in fact mandatory under the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and Western countries, led by the United States, began their campaign against Iran's program by openly flouting their obligations and threatening confrontation.
This obtuse and patently illegal stance has since been attenuated by statements acknowledging Iran's right to nuclear energy under the NPT - but only if it gives up control of the fuel cycle, a condition nowhere to be found (and in fact specifically prohibited) in the document. To make matters worse, the Western commitment to even this begrudging and partial recognition of international law is highly suspect: Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert - whose country has neither signed nor obeyed the NPT - told a joint news conference with his British counterpart, Gordon Brown, in London this week that sanctions should be placed on Tehran until it ends its nuclear program altogether. Sarkozy, by his own admission, shares this hard-line stance: During Olmert's recent visit to France, Sarkozy said that he and the Israeli premier held "identical" views on the subject of Iran's nuclear program.
Given the shameless duplicity of the Western position, it is no wonder that Tehran has refused to bargain away its rights under the NPT: Apart from the pride issues at stake, there is also the likelihood that no compromise will suffice to silence the hypocritical objections of Israel and America. Perhaps the most dangerous possibility is that Iran will (understandably) interpret Western bullying as evidence that an attack is inevitable - and that the only way to deter one is to develop nuclear weapons. This is one of the destabilizing scenarios the NPT was designed to prevent, and no amount of propaganda can obscure the true sources of the crisis.