Commentary: Western sanctions fail to curb Iran's nuke program but dim prospects for talks

2013-02-01 07:12:14 GMT2013-02-01 15:12:14(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

VIENNA, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- A newly-released document by the international nuclear watchdog IAEA showed that Iran plans to install more advanced centrifuges at a main enrichment facility near the central town of Natanz.

The planned equipment upgrade, the latest counter-strike against tough Western sanctions by a defiant Iran, highlights the fact that penalties have so far failed to curb Iran's nuclear program but pushed Iran further away from the negotiation table.

Western countries have imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on Iran since last year to thwart what they say Iran's ambition to become a nuclear power. By doing so, they believe Iran would finally surrender and give up its nuclear program that arguably has a military dimension.

Such sanctions have indeed made it more difficult for Iran to acquire nuclear materials or technologies from aboard, but have also served to effectively unite Iran's different political sectors over the issue.

Iran's conservative and reformist elite policymakers, despite their marked differences over both domestic and foreign policies, see eye to eye on upholding Iran's nuclear rights.

As a result, a vicious circle seems to be taking shape over Iran's nuclear program: tougher Western sanctions have aroused Tehran's stronger desire to push forward its uranium enrichment program, which in turn prompts the West to mull further punishment.

The negative spiral has made the resumption of Iranian nuclear talks a more distant dream. Weeks ago, Iran expressed willingness to resume negotiations with the so-called P5+1, which groups the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

The Iran-P5+1 negotiation is considered crucial to averting a new potential Middle East War, as Israel has threatened to launch military strikes on Iran if diplomatic efforts fail to halt Tehran's nuclear ambition.

It is clear that as Tehran moves further to enhance its nuclear capabilities amid increasing Western sanctions, it is less likely for the international community to come up with a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear conundrum.

Instead of playing the game of chicken, decision-makers in Tehran and those in Western countries should ponder the ramifications of such risky policies and take concrete actions to breathe new life into their long-stalled talks.

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