Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Friday, January 13, 2006

No easy options does not mean no options

I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.

Ronald Reagan
First Inaugural Address
January 20, 1981

Today, Europe is beginning to wake up to the fact their feckless attempts to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions through diplomacy have, in essence, been the equivalent of doing nothing. And Europe's diplomats are looking for a way to avoid the ensuing fate, a belligerant Iran armed with nuclear weapons.

A crisis has an oddly refreshing way of infusing diplomatic conversations with the bracing clarity of plain language, as if in recognition that there is no time to obfuscate issues in fogs of demurring pleasantries.

Today nations are speaking in plain terms, in the wake of Iran resuming operations at the nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz. However, it is still Iran who is being the most specific about its intentions.

Iran threatened on Friday to block inspections of its nuclear sites if confronted by the U.N. Security Council over its atomic activities. The hard-line president reaffirmed his country's intention to produce nuclear energy.

France, Britain and Germany quickly responded that they were not demanding sanctions against Tehran just yet.

On Thursday the three countries, backed by the United States, said that nuclear talks with Iran had reached a dead end after more than two years of acrimonious negotiations and the issue should be referred to the Security Council.

However, they refrained from calling on the 15-nation council to impose sanctions and said they remained open to more talks.

For her part, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a "strong message" had to be sent to Tehran but said she was not ready to talk about what action should be taken to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Iran responded Friday by saying that if it were confronted by the council, it would have to stop cooperating with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

RegimeChangeIran links to an article where Iranian President Ahmadinejad is remarkably blunt.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran would forge ahead with its nuclear programmes and was not afraid of the uproar it had caused in the West. 'The Iranian government and nation has no fear of the Western ballyhoo and will continue its nuclear programmes with decisiveness and wisdom,' Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Bandar Abbas in southern Iran.

'Today we have started the nuclear research programme and, God willing, in the near future, this (nuclear) energy will be fully put at the disposal of the Iranian people,' Ahmadinejad added in the speech, carried live by Khabar news network.

Iran's boldness should not be surprising at this point. Their decision to break the UN seals was deliberate, and so reveals a willingness to accept the consequences, and it is a sign Iran believes they can weather any diplomatic storm.

European diplomats are still reluctant to threaten UN sanctions, and it may be because Russia and China are still in Iran's corner.

Iran, Russia and China all recognize the benefits in using each other as a counterweight against the US and its Western allies. Russia recently sold anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, certainly in anticipation of any future air attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities. Russia is helping Iran build its nuclear program, in fact.

I've posted a number of times here recently about Russia's strategy to use its energy resources as a foreign policy, and Russia certainly views Iran as a partner and customer in its energy goals.

For instance, from Transneft:

Project Russia - Kazakhstan - Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan - Iran. Envisages supply of Russian, Kazakh and Turkmen oils to Iran's refineries and a possibility of supplying oil via the Persian Gulf into Asian-Pacific countries. For this projects implementation it is planned to use not only the existing oil pipelines but to build new lines in the route Pavlodar - Chardzhou - Turkmenbashi - Neka - Tehran. The following oil pool is supposed: West-Siberian oil of first-type quality (light, low-sulfur), Kazakh oil (Kumkol) of first-type quality (light, low-sulfur), and Turkmen oil of second-type quality (sulfur). It will be possible to receive in this kind of pool first-type quality oils. However, this mixture quality may be affected by pumping or oil withdrawal in Iran's territory.

Project Russia - Kazakhstan - Turkmenistan - Iran. Envisages supply of Russian, Kazakh and Turkmen oils to the Persian Gulf region. This will require further development of Samara-Atyrau oil pipeline for Turkmenbashi - Neka - Tehran destination.

Today China indicated it is not willing to immediately align against Iran. China, too, sees Iran as a valuable partner for energy resources.

China cautioned today against taking the issue of Iran's nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council, saying that doing so might lead the Iranian government to end all cooperation with the UN's nuclear watchdog agency.

"Referring it to the Security Council might complicate the issue," Wang Guangya, China's ambassador to the UN told reporters in New York. "That might make some of the parties more tough on this issue. That is our concern."

Guyangya wouldn't say whether China would vote against referral to the Security Council when that question comes before the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Western Europe may be unwilling to test Russia and China on this, for their refusal to agree to sanctions would show the foolishness of wasting two or three years on diplomatic talks with Iran, given the reality of these regimes who make no secret of their desire to be an opposing pole to western power.

The United States should force the issue in the United Nations. It is for this kind of situation that President Bush wanted John Bolton as our UN ambassador. Make Russia and China commit one way or the other. If they vote to hinder Western efforts to block Iran's nuclear ambitions, then we can stop pretending that these nations are truly partners, and we deal openly with them as potential rivals.

The indispensable Victor Davis Hanson has a column today at NRO where he outlines the box the West is in.

And Iran can threaten to do all this under the aegis of a crazed Islamist regime more eager for the paradise of the next world than for the material present so dear to the affluent and decadent West. If Iran can play brinkmanship now on just the promise of nuclear weapons, imagine its roguery to come when it is replete with them.

When a supposedly unhinged Mr. Ahmadinejad threatens the destruction of Israel and then summarily proceeds to violate international protocols aimed at monitoring Iranís nuclear industry, we all take note. Any country that burns off some of its natural gas at the wellhead while claiming that it needs nuclear power for domestic energy is simply lying. Terrorism, vast petroleum reserves, nuclear weapons, and boasts of wiping neighboring nations off the map are a bad combination.

So we all agree on the extent of the crisis, but not on the solutions, which can be summarized by four general options.

Among the four options is one Hanson desribes as "inevitable", a US air strike.

Steve Schipper has another nice roundup at ThreatsWatch, and he closes his post with a dose of cold medicine for Europe.

The EU would be well advised to stand firm and stand united, matching Iranís will with equal European will.

Europe must show itself to be as resolute as Iran, because if Europe does nothing, Iran will decide their fate for them.


  • At Fri Jan 13, 07:49:00 PM, Christi said…

    Wow, great post. I really like your site because you actually give your opinion about what is going on instead of just linking to news. Iíve been following Ahmadinejad and he is dangerous nut but Iíve noticed lately, at least in our news in America, both the liberal and the conservatives seem to agree that it may have to come to a military strike to at least slow him down.

  • At Fri Jan 13, 10:58:00 PM, Jeff said…

    Thanks, Christi. It is unnerving to see someone like Ahmadinejad who has so little discipline in his public statements. Such people as heads of state tend to be rather dangerous.


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