Day By Day

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Next Big Thing -- Iran

Tony Blankley has a nice short summary of the current situation regarding Iran.
[T]he world's diplomats... speak out with increasing stridency and urgency in the face of Iran's intent to recommence nuclear research and testing that might lead to their development of nuclear weapons.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier responded to Iranian words of intent to break the seals and restart the nuclear program: "This marks a breach of Tehran's commitments. [Iran is sending ] very, very disastrous signals. It cannot remain without consequences... We have had two very, very grave signals from the Iranian government over the past weekend."

French Foreign Minster Philippe Douste-Blazy warned: "We urge Iran to immediately and unconditionally reverse its decision — [It]is a reason for very serious concern." The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, warned that the situation is "serious." Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he is "losing his patience" with Iran and that they were approaching "a red line for the international community."

These statements follow actions last Saturday by all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (China, Russia, France, Britain and the United States).

Each country separately sent a demarche (a formal diplomatic communique) to Iran warning Iran it could face Security Council censure and sanctions.

When cautious and circumspect European diplomats use words like "serious," "grave," "disastrous," "red line for international community," "urge Iran to immediately and unconditionally reverse its decision," the rest of us should take these phrases as unambiguous evidence that an international crisis of the first water is fast building.

The event that may precipitate formal diplomatic action will occur in March, when IAEA head Mr. ElBaradei will file his next report to the United Nations on the nuclear program status of Iran.

The question remains whether all this diplomatic agitation will lead to effective international action. It is generally recognized among leading American and European statesmen that the period of negotiating with Iran is about at an end. We are now entering a period of what is being called coercive diplomacy.

But what kind of coercion is being contemplated? And what are the calculations that are going into selecting the means of coercion? As Dr. Henry Kissinger once wrote, the advantage that historians have over statesmen is that historians know all the facts and have years to assess them. Statesmen must act without knowing all the facts and without having enough time.

The spectrum of actions range from mere criticism, to censure, to diplomatic isolation, to economic sanctions as punishment, to specific barring of importation into Iran of products and services critical to nuclear weapons production, to military actions intended to physically destroy Iran's nuclear capacity.

All the possible actions short of the ultimate military one, rely on assumptions that are not fully verifiable.

Every action has its risks and costs. Prompt American military action unsanctioned by the United Nations would have very high diplomatic, geopolitical, world image and domestic partisan division costs, but would assure a non-nuclear Iran for a period of years.

Relying on embargo and sanction comes cheap — if it works. But as we can't know Iran's full internal capacity, the likelihood of a leak-free embargo, nor the will of the Iranian regime, the contingent price we would pay for failure would be a fait accompli nuclear Iran. Also, this plan relies on Israel forbearing from taking its own military action — which it might or might not take, and which might or might not be effective.
Read it here.

Tony's right. Unlike Saddam, Iran's current regime of nutjobs has not taken the precaution of bribing key EU officials and so they are free to take a hard line on the growing threat. Instituting sanctions, as Blankley notes, is the quick and easy approach, certain to be preferred by many diplomats, but the risks of its failure would be unacceptable.

This time there is no question that the WMD threat is real and imminent. Within a matter of months Iran could have nuclear weapons capable of striking Europe. Can that, finally, concentrate the attention of the EUrocrats? From recent statements that's a distinct possibility.

Russia and China will block any serious UN resolutions or action so that option is out, but remember back in the 1990's Clinton's Balkan war legitimized the idea that NATO action is fully acceptable. A US EU coalition to bring about regime change in Iraq is a distinct possibility.


Europeans are just beginning to realize that Iran is not business as usual. Der Spiegel reports:
The latest twist in the spat has created a major test for European diplomats who, for the past year, have taken the lead on negotiating a peaceful settlement with Tehran. With each new snub from Iranian leaders -- and they seem to be coming daily now -- concerns that those diplomatic efforts have failed grow.
Do tell!
Politicians in Berlin are divided over the best way is to handle Iran -- should talks be suspended or broken off completely?
Are those the only options? Think hard now.

And here's what's at stake.
A mullah-republic in possession of a nuclear bomb would radically change the power structure in the region and spark a nuclear arms race between Iran, the Arab countries, Israel and possibly Turkey.
At the least.

Read it here.

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