Thursday, January 12, 2006

Russia To Abstain on Iran

The US has secured Russia's assurance that they will not block an IAEA resolution to refer Iran to the UN Security Council. This agreement removes a major hurdle in moving the Iranian nuclear issue forward on the world stage, although no such agreement has yet been reached with China. (Washington Post: Russia Won't Block U.S. on Iran).

The agreement with Russia does not extend to any votes in the Security Council, however, indicating that a strongly worded resolution that invokes Chapter 7 (authorizing the use of force) would likely meet strong resistance. The current tact being taken by the US, France, Germany, and Great Britain is to transfer the issue from the IAEA to the Security Council and then to impose UN sanctions on Iran unless that nation halts all efforts to procure nuclear technology.

This now becomes a race between Iran's nuclear research, the ability to bring any meaningful resolution through the UN, the ability for economic sanctions to have any impact, and the ability to bring a use of force resolution through the council. If it were a horse race, my money would be on Iran's research far outpacing any of the other steps. This slow-motion crawl through the UN process most certainly works in Iran's favor.

Consider the amount of time Iraq resolutions took tow work their way through the security council. Economic sanctions had been in place for twelve years before any use of force resolution went through, and even after 1441 was approved (which authorized the use of force in Iraq) there was still debate as to whether additional resolutions should be imposed. The world cannot afford to wait for this process to play out with regards to Iran.

Nothing that is happening on the world stage right now will deter Iran. Russia's IAEA agreement is relatively meaningless since we technically do not need IAEA support to raise the Iranian issue in the Security Council. We also know that the real opposition will be there, not in the IAEA, and Russia has not agreed to step aside when the matter comes up there.

Russia clearly has its own interests at stake in this venture, too. Several times, Russia has floated propositions that would allow Iran to obtain enriched uranium from facilities operating on Russian soil. I seriously doubt Russia plans to donate those services. With a financial interest on the table, Russia is certainly going to do whatever it takes to steer the security council towards a resolution that would entice Iran to accept their proposal. They have absolutely no incentive to do any more than shuffle their feet and delay any meaningful resolutions that could surface at the UN.

Iran and the rest of the world need to learn that we are serious about preventing them from obtaining nuclear technology. Iran's uranium enrichment site in Isfahan is above ground and relatively isolated. Take it out. Now. That's the only way we're going to get their attention and potentially prevent an all-out war with Iran. It is also in our best interests to do this before Israel does. We don't have the luxury of waiting months for the process to be watered down in its slow crawl through the UN. Take action now, eliminate the above ground sites, and then put strict controls into preventing Iran from continuing their program elsewhere. It's time to prove that we're serious about preventing this proliferation.

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