Morning Report: January 19, 2006

Iran roundup. "Permanent 5 Unity Short Lived" is the theme of several articles cited at Regime Change Iran. Go to the post for links, including some reporters who are waking up to the "under-reported option". But Iran Focus reports: 'The United States and the European Union rejected on Wednesday an Iranian offer to conduct a fresh round of talks between the EU-3 – Britain, France, and Germany – and the Islamic Republic over the latter’s suspected nuclear weapons program. ... “The EU has made quite clear that the Iranians have crossed an important threshold, that it is now important for the IAEA Board of Governors to act so that Iran knows that the international community will not tolerate its continued acting with impunity against the interest of the international community”, Rice told reporters. ... “It is the Iranians who walked away from the negotiations, who broke the moratorium and, as that condition exists, I am sensing from the Europeans that there's not much to talk about”, Rice said. The EU foreign policy chief concurred. “We are now replying that it doesn't make much sense to have another meeting if there's nothing new in what they are going to put on the table. So I think the position now is and actually we have said and the Secretary has said today, which is to have the decision: (a) to call for an extraordinary meeting of Vienna -- of the agency; and then to refer [Iran] to the Security Council.' Also via Iran Focus, this Washington Times editorial says that 'In technical terms, the U.S. military has the ability to inflict major damage to Iran's nuclear weapons program, potentially setting it back for years. That's the general view of military strategists in the United States and Israel', but adds, 'Given that Iran's nuclear program is believed to be widely dispersed among dozens or more sites, some of them easily concealed and unknown to foreign intelligence agencies, it's not likely that military action short of overthrowing the current regime could eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat.' Meanwhile, the Iranian regime is shoring up relations with its ally Syria, according to news reports: 'Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began a visit to Syria Thursday to consolidate an old alliance made increasingly crucial as both countries face mounting U.S. pressure and the threat of international sanctions. Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad were expected to talk about Iran's standoff with the West over its nuclear program and the threat to refer it to the U.N. Security Council, as well as Syria's own troubles over a U.N. investigation that implicated it in the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister. ... Syria sits on the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency board, which meets on Feb. 2 for a vote on whether to refer Tehran to the Security Council.' And Ha'Aretz reports: 'Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter said Thursday that Israel should let the international community act to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons but, if pushed to the wall, should act against Iran. Avi Dichter told Army Radio that Israel was currently satisfied with the international community's efforts to stop Iran from enriching uranium but must act if it faces the real danger of Iran possessing nuclear weapons.' (various)

US to shift diplomats from Europe. The EU Observer reports on the US State Department's decision to move many of its diplomatic personnel to new locations in Africa and Asia: 'Washington is planning to move hundreds of its diplomats from Europe to the Middle East and the Asian superpowers, such as China or India. "America must begin to reposition our diplomatic forces around the world," the US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice said in a speech to students at Georgetown University on Wednesday (18 January), the BBC reported. She pointed out that it is not normal to have as many diplomats in Germany, with 82 million people, as in India with 1 billion people. Adding that there are still almost 200 world cities of over a million inhabitants without any US presence - despite its 7,440-strong diplomatic corps abroad - Ms Rice indicated "This is where the action is today, and this is where we must be." he US foreign minister explained the move as part of the administration's plan to build up a "transformational diplomacy," which attempts "to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."' (EU Observer)