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Nadeem Walayat Financial Markets Analysiis and Trend Forecasts

Iran's nuclear program prompts UN sanctions, as Israel threatens military strikes

Politics / Iran Dec 22, 2006 - 08:09 PM GMT

By: Nadeem_Walayat

Politics

Iran, seemingly on course to become the next state to acquire nuclear weapons, due to perceived security risks from the USA and Israel, just as before India went nuclear because of China, and Pakistan because of India. Israel is believed to have gone nuclear during the late 1970's as a result of a joint nuclear programme with the South African Apartheid regime, as a deterrence against the Arab states. And the last state to go nuclear, North Korea as a consequence of threats from the USA and UN sanctions.


Iran began its nuclear program in the late 1980's as a consequence of the long war with Iraq and the fact that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was working on a nuclear weapons program. But with Iraq no longer posing a threat, Iran's continuation of the nuclear program following the fall of Saddam is more a consequence of perceived weakness in the International Community due to key strategic mistakes made by the United States, which include declaring Iran as a member of the Axis of Evil, and then failing to deter North Korea from becoming a nuclear power, and the chaos following the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The positions in favour of Iran becoming a nuclear power are -

  • United States invasion of Iraq and threats against Iran.
  • North Korea achieving nuclear statehood.
  • Growing iranian influence in the region in terms of economic and political power.
  • A nuclear Israel, which is estimated to have some 200 nuclear weapons that the Iranians are fully aware of.
  • Threat of UN sanctions, as they failed to prevent North Korea from going nuclear.

The positions that may avoid Iran going nuclear -

  • Lack of technological know how, the iranian programme is beset by technical difficulties and is likely still some 10 years away from being achieved (according to the CIA).
  • Iraq no longer a threat to Iran and the development of a sympathetic buffer state on Iran's western border.
  • Constructive Negotiations with the International Community i.e. United States, UN, Europe, as an example of the negotiations between Libya and the United States which resulted in Libya abandoning its nuclear weapons program,
  • A progression to a peace settlement between the Israeli's and Palestinians.

The UN is increasingly moving towards implementation of serious sanctions against Iran, including threats of military strikes against iran by the Israelis in dealing with Iran's nuclear standoff. Unfortunately, if history has anything to go by, sanctions have FAILED to prevent a state from going nuclear, if anything once sanctions have been put in place, then Iran would seem even more determined to achieve nuclear statehood in its isolation, as so to speak, they had already paid the price.

Likewise threats of military action also sends the wrong message, as in the examples cited at the start of this article, states develop nuclear programme's as a consequence of perceived threats of military attack. When the President of the United States steps forward and declares an Axis of Evil, that needs to be confronted, then those states inevitably would develop a deterrence against that threat. Similarly Israeli threats of attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities will have the exact opposite effect !

The way forward -
Given that the world community has upto 10 years to diffuse the situation, with Iran, the clear way forward is in diplomacy with iran, to build bridges with the Iranian state, to reduce the perceived risks such as the United States committing to not attack iran if they suspend their nuclear research program for enrichment and possibly negotiate a similar declaration between Israel and Iran.

To further reduce the risks and threats, there must be movement on the palestinian problem, as well as movement towards a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the middle east which would include israel's nuclear arsenal. Off course given the current situation today, this seems highly unlikely but given 10 years of diplomacy and concerted effort it is achievable. The consequence of a nuclear iran would destabilize the region further, by igniting a nuclear arms race, as other states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia would embark on nuclear programs as a nuclear iran started to flex its muscles in the region.

But as things stand, the current frenzy of threats of sanctions and attacks against Iran, given that the Iranians even after some 20 years, are still nowhere near achieving nuclear status, is thus an error in judgment. Especially the UN conditional offer of talks after Iran has suspended its nuclear program.

The resolution is in the process of being agreed upon as the Russians pressed for amendments to ensure that Moscow can conduct legitimate nuclear activities in Iran .Russia is building Iran's first atomic power plant at Bushehr, which is expected to go on line in late 2007. A reference to Bushehr in the original draft was removed earlier — as Russia demanded. The vote on the resolution is scheduled for Saturday 23rd December 06.

 


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