The following editorial appeared in The Miami Herald on Thursday, March 2, 2006.

Lately, Iran’s leaders have expressed interest in a Russian offer to provide the components that Iran needs to run its own nuclear-energy plants. That would eliminate the danger of allowing a nation considered a state sponsor of terrorism to process uranium that could be diverted to make nuclear weapons. This sounds too good to be true – and it probably is.

A long trail of deception suggests Iran is using the Russian gambit to play for time while its scientists race against the clock to gain nuclear-weapons capability. The latest, eye-opening report of the International Atomic Energy Agency deepens this suspicion.

The nuclear-watchdog body has been doggedly and patiently – too patient, some would say – making the case that Iran’s insistence on enriching its own uranium for peaceful purposes is not as innocent as the Iranians would have the world believe.

The report stops short of making a final judgment on Iran’s intentions, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Iran is determined to join the nuclear-weapons club. It makes clear that Iran is still defying international demands to disclose all aspects of its nuclear activities. Iran refused repeated requests to turn over documents and information that could clarify important aspects of the country’s nuclear program. This is wholly in keeping with a three-year-long pattern designed to thwart the IAEA’s intensive verification program.

Iran once again refused to be forthcoming about its work with centrifuges, the devices that enrich uranium. As usual, there were discrepancies over critical issues, such as research on plutonium. Even more worrisome is a dispute over documents obtained by U.S. intelligence indicating a link between Iran’s uranium-processing activities and missile-warhead design.

The Iranians – knowing the credibility of U.S. intelligence on nuclear weapons in the Middle East suffers from the debacle over WMD in Iraq – challenged the authenticity of the documents, despite earlier pledges to disclose more information on the matter.

None of this seems to bother Iran. Wednesday, its top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, rebuffed calls for Iran to suspend uranium-enrichment work. But it should bother the international community. When the IAEA’s board of governors meets, it should waste no time going ahead with the process that leads to punishment of Iran by the U.N. Security Council, which has the authority to impose sanctions.

Surely it must be clear by now that Iran’s attempt to transform itself into a nuclear power – even as it loudly proclaims peaceful intentions – offers a classic example of that old saying: Watch what they do, not what they say.

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