Saturday, January 14, 2006

European Nerve

Publius Pundit discovers what passes for Europeans' Spine:
The EU3 has referred Iran to the IAEA with the express intent of taking the issue to the Security Council.
Britain, France and Germany tonight took the first step towards seeking international sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear fuel programme.

Following crisis talks with his counterparts in Berlin, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said that they had agreed to request an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board with a view to referring Tehran to the UN Security Council.

The move follows the announcement earlier this week that the Iranians were to resume work at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, in breach of earlier assurances.

Although the Iranians insist that they only intend to carry out research at Natanz, the Europeans and the United States fear Tehran is using its civil power programme as a cover for developing a nuclear bomb.

Condoleezza Rice called on the United Nations today to confront Iran’s “defiance” and demand that Tehran halted its nuclear programme.

The United States Secretary of State, at a news conference, declined to say whether the United States has the necessary votes at the U.N. Security Council to punish Iran, or would even try to do so at this stage,

Ms Rice said impatience with Iran was growing and that Tehran was out of step with advances in democracy in the region. She repeated that she believes there are enough votes for the IAEA to refer the issue to the Security Council.

Nicholas Burns, number 3 in the US State Department, will visit Europe next week to discuss the next step in the international strategy.

Earlier today the British Foreign Secretary said that efforts by the EU3 - France, Germany and Britain - to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis had now reached a deadlock after two years of delicate negotiations.

“It is a matter of very great regret … Iran has decided to turn its back and these negotiations have reached an impasse,” he said.

“In that situation I think we have no alternative but for the decision which we have reached to call for an emergency meeting of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency with a view to the involvement then of the Security Council.”
He also offers the following cogent analysis:
Has the diplomatic consensus worked? This is a good sign for the West’s unity on this issue. The Europeans are almost always ambivalent toward aggressive measures proposed by the United States, so the sit-back-and-watch approach is still ongoing as America continues to take the high road and call for a diplomatic solution. Meanwhile, I’m sure Karl Rove is sitting in a dark room somewhere making menacing finger gestures. We’ll know if the past two years of diplomatic consensus have worked at unifying the West on more aggressive action if and only if a nuclear bomb doesn’t go off. According to our intelligence services, it should be a while before Iran can make one, so we can afford to carry on the charade up until the very last moment.

The problem is that while the West is unifying on the issue, two members of the Security Council that hold veto power may not be with us. China is ultimately playing a game of wait-and-see approach. They have said that they are concerned with the prospect of a referral to the UNSC, but will go along with the consensus to do so if that occurs. No telling what will happen once it does reach it, though. Ultimaitely, it will be balancing its international reputation with its energy interests when the prospect of international action finally happens.

Russia is a complicated issue. Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov is playing the KGB two face. Not a particularly settling dance. He has hinted at Russian approval of a move to refer Iran to the UNSC, but at the same time has said there will be no change to a deal giving Iran short-range missiles that could be used with developed nuclear warheads. Again, they’ll follow their national interests, which will be in terms of its international place in the world and its energy interests with Iran. The problem is that it might not be in line with the West, as a nuclear Iran probably poses little threat to Russia. And China, for that matter. You don’t here them shouting, “Death to Russia!” do you?

Of course, the only real sanctions that will matter is an oil embargo, and that will never happen. The entire world depends too much on it, and there’s a chance that Iran’s recently developing friendships with other anti-West energy providers like Venezuela may lead to an “axis of energy” that puts the West into a headlock by refusing to sell its resources. In essense, our continued dependence on oil has put the West in a situation where we cannot effectively deal with the Iranian nuclear issue without weaning ourselves off of it.
Russia and China do not constitute a threat to Iran's national intersts--yet. That will change once the Great Satan has been put down. Then a formally atheistic China--whose regime has persecuted muslims--and culturally dynamic Russia--itself in constant war with Chechyan islamofacists--will become their next obstacle. Too bad Putin and the Chinese Communist party leadership believe they can handle Iran.

Meanwhile, Iran appears to be provoking the US. They understand well that the Europeans almost certainly would oppose any military intervention--at least without UN sanction. Chance that will happen with China and Russia holding vetos on the SC. So far, the US hasn't taken the bait. That may change when the Mullahs at last produce weapons grade plutonium.

The pundit's point about the West's dependence on oil is well taken. If the US wisely applied national security considerations to her domestic energy policy, she'd drill in Anwar and tax-incentive to death alternative fule engines up the wazoo. We Americans are tough-talking petro-junkies until then. How seriously would any OPEC nation take us?

The US, Great Britain and Israel may need to launch some kind of military intervention should Iran obstruct UN inspections and the UNSC fail to respond. While an invasion is unrealistic and premature, a decisive strike against a known target should send the message. When the rest of Europe wears the same target on their back that the US does, they can complain about it.

I sincerely hope that Iran will respond to strong diplomatic measures from responsible parties in the West. Should that fail, however, then the West must not fail to act. Even if the West is only a coalition of threee willing.