As long as other countries are willing to give Iran's nuclear program the benefit of the doubt, meaningful countermeasures will be elusive. But Iran is quickly removing all doubt with its provocative actions, as well as with its president's belligerent and unhinged statements about Israel. So when multilateral talks begin Thursday in Geneva, it will be Iran against the world.
Iran has strained credulity for years with assurances that its nuclear ambitions were peaceful. The recent disputed elections, and the brutality of the crackdown on protesters, furthered distrust in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the ruling clerics.
The tension ratcheted up last week with the revelation by the Obama administration, France and Britain that Iran had a secret underground uranium enrichment facility in the works. Then came Iran's several tests of missiles capable of striking Israel, parts of Europe and U.S. military bases in the Middle East.
Diplomacy may not defuse the situation. But engagement must be tried in order to work. And it will be easier to build and sustain a global coalition against Iran if its leaders are given every opportunity to stave off tough economic sanctions or other action.
The global debate was somewhat encouraging last week, with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signaling for the first time that his country might support tougher sanctions on Iran. Though China is less open to the idea of cracking down on its key trading partner, the Chinese at least will be at the table for this week's talks.
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