While the International Atomic Energy Agency meets for a two-day emergency session to discuss Iran's nuclear program, Germany is optimistic that Tehran will reconsider its uranium enrichment activities.
IAEA's Director General Mohamed ElBaradei will hear Iran's case
There is a sense of cautious optimism in Germany that an emergency meeting of the IAEA board of directors in Vienna on Thursday will be able to apply the necessary pressure on Iran to cooperate with the West and resolve the conflict over its nuclear program.
Iran, which broke with the international community over its aims to resume uranium enrichment activities earlier this month, insists that its nuclear program is strictly civilian in purpose. Europe and the United States, in particular, fear Tehran could be using research into the development of nuclear power plants as a disguise for a dangerous weapons program.
The meeting of the UN's nuclear watchdog was called into session by the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) and members of the UN Security Council. A draft resolution agreed to Wednesday reportedly requests the IAEA board of governors to refer Iran to the Security Council, which has the power to impose economic sanctions.
Germany appeals for diplomatic solution
Ahead of the Vienna session, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a strong appeal to Iran to resolve the conflict in a constructive manner. "I can only warn Iran against refusing to cooperate with the international community and the IAEA," she said. "Germany is not willing to just stand by and accept such a position," she added referring to Iran's insistence on continuing with enrichment-related activities.
Merkel is not alone in her appeals. Across party lines, politicians are calling for a resolute stance on Iran. Opposition Greens party member and former environment minister Jürgen Tritten said the moment of truth has come for the international community to demonstrate unity. If the IAEA decides to report Iran to the UN Security Council, sanctions may not be far away, he said.
Former environment minister Jürgen Trittin
But Trittin, like many in the Greens, is hopeful, that the leadership in Iran will change tack before any drastic measures have to be taken. "I believe that there’s no alternative to a peaceful solution to the Iran conflict." he said.
"The West must know that other options such as economic sanctions would hurt all sides. Germany would be gravely affected, considering its huge machinery exports to Iran. I think that at present we’re seeing a lot of saber rattling from Tehran. A more sober look at things will lead to a more moderate stance, all the more so since the international community has shown it’s not willing to let Tehran go ahead with its uranium enrichment program.”
Sanctions not the solution
Oliver Meier, a German expert on Iran, doesn’t believe that the threatened economic sanctions serve any useful purpose and argues there’s little the international community can do to frighten the Iran's leadership.
“If sanctions were to be imposed, it would be done in staggered phases," Meier explained. "First, there’s the option of prohibiting certain Iranian leaders from entering countries in the West." Economic sanctions would come last, he said. But Meier doubts whether the show of unity now would be displayed by the permanent members of the UN Security Council would remain intact for a longer period.
German business leaders are categorically opposed to economic sanctions, fearing a loss in export revenues. In the view of the president of the Association of German Chambers of Trade, Ludwig-Georg Braun, "economic sanctions normally only result in a greater feeling of solidarity and togetherness between ordinary people and the leadership." This, he says, cannot be in the interest of the IAEA or the UN Security Council.