The US and EU's bluff has been called by Iran, which is unsealing assets that could allow the development of nuclear weapons within a few short years. Timothy Garton Ash asks how the West should proceed:
The seemingly half-crazed new Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would probably regard a cost-benefit analysis as an invention of the Great Satan and a prime example of western secular decadence. Allah, he would say, is not an accountant. Yet if cooler heads in the regime behind him are making a cost-benefit analysis, they could still conclude that this is a risk worth taking. The mullahs are floating high on an ocean of oil revenue: an estimated $36bn last year. This money can be used to buy off material discontent at home.
Two essentials steps the West should be taking are progress towards global nuclear disarmament and a radical shift away from oil. Otherwise sufficient pressure cannot be put on regimes that join the existing nuclear powers in flouting the Non-Proliferation Treaty, funded by the most enormous flow of petrodollars to the Middle East. Yet Blair is pushing the UK towards a new generation of Trident missiles and nuclear power stations, while Bush tries desperately to avoid making any concessions to those scientists who argue that climate change is a greater threat to global security than terrorism.