Meddlesome Iran


As President Bush was prodding Iran to swiftly accept a U.S.-backed package of incentives to give up its nuclear ambitions, America's top military leader in Iraq was blaming Tehran for an increase in insurgent attacks that target Americans and Iraqis. The report last week by Gen. George W. Casey Jr. was a sobering reminder of Iran's duplicitous dealings with the West and another reason why the nuclear standoff with Tehran must be settled.

While initially upbeat about the incentive package, Iran has yet to formally respond. The proposal, unveiled in late May, represents a determined effort by European leaders, China, Russia and the United States to peacefully resolve their differences with Tehran on its nuclear program. The Bush administration's commitment to join multiparty talks with Iran - a break from past policy - underscored the seriousness of the offer. It deserved a timely response.

The U.S. and its allies have been locked in an ongoing struggle with Iran over its right to develop nuclear power. The Iranians insist their interests are entirely peaceful. But they carried out clandestine research and operations for 18 years, deceiving international atomic energy inspectors until they were found out several years ago. The U.S. and its allies have strongly opposed Iran's nuclear efforts, and for good reason - Tehran's support of terrorist groups.

General Casey's report last week underscored the havoc that Iran can cause and echoed previous complaints from the Bush administration, which is pressing Iran to halt its nuclear program. In a Pentagon briefing, General Casey said Iran's support of Islamic insurgents in Iraq has steadily increased over the past six months. He was explicit about Tehran's link, saying it approved training of insurgents by Iranian security forces and surrogates such as the Lebanon-based group Hezbollah. General Casey cited the use of more sophisticated weaponry to hit U.S. and Iraqi targets.

Iran's dangerous meddling in Iraq should concern more than the United States. Russia and China, which have strong business ties to Iran, should persuade Tehran to respond to the nuclear incentive package by mid-July when the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations meet in St. Petersburg. Tehran should recognize the opportunity at hand and the benefit of reconciling with the international community. The alternative would further isolate Iran and leave it to its menacing ways.

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