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Toothless in Tehran

01.10.2007 10:18 | DISPATCHES

Two days before Christmas, sanctions against Iran were passed. Ambassadors to the UN Alejandro Wolff (US) and Emyr Jones Parry (UK), in conjunction with American Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, spun them as tough.

But Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin's statement that the sanctions were "intended to prod Iran to negotiate, not punish it" tells the story, which could be titled "Toothless in Tehran."

In the end, not only the US, but Russia and Iran each got the sanctions it wanted (or thinks it wanted). For Iran's part, its UN Ambassador, Javad Zarif summed it up: "The Security Council sanctions will not be able to stop the Iranian program."

As for Russia, Dimitry Peskov, First Deputy Press Secretary to President Putin, could be taken at his word when he said, "We are the last country in this world that would want to have a nuclear weapon at its southern borders."

Especially, writes Kaveh Afrasiabi in Asia Times Online, if said weapons belonged to a country whose standing in the Muslim world was immeasurably enhanced following the showing of its A-team, Hezbollah, in Lebanon. Russia, it seems, fears its disaffected Muslim population has gone to swooning over Iran.

Trotting out that diplomatic high-wire act at which they excel, the Russians managed to censure Iran without jeopardizing their mutual interests (arms deals, construction of a nuclear plant in Bushehr). Not only that, Russia, Afrasiabi conjectures, might have been the beneficiary of a US promise to either rubber-stamp its application to the World Trade Organization or stop throwing its human rights record in its face.

With its briar-patch -- as in "please don't throw me into" -- tactics (offering enticements to Russia to do exactly what it wanted) the US looks like it got played. But, according to Gareth Porter writing on Asia Times Online, Dick Cheney had been counting on a failure to sanction because "such a failure was a necessary prelude to. . . ratcheting up pressure on Bush" for an attack on Iran. Watered-down sanctions are the next best thing.

In fact, the prospect of an attack on Iran looms larger every day. Two more aircraft carriers have been sent to the Persian Gulf, while Israeli pilots zoom back and forth over the Mediterranean in obvious training for the long flight into Iran.

In his crucial, if technical, new book, Target Iran (Nation Books, 2006), Scott Ritter takes a hard look at the investigations into Iran's nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Constantly bullied by the administration -- like the CIA was before Iraq -- it also compromised itself by relying on intelligence supplied by Israel. At the risk of over-simplifying the IAEA's work, the main thrust of Iran's program can be called peaceful, but it seems to have enriched low-level uranium with an eye to weaponization one day.

If it's that important to us to scrub Iraq pure of its nuclear aspirations -- even to the point of fomenting a baby Armageddon to prevent a mama Armageddon -- heed Ritter.

"Every American businessman," he writes, "who needs to factor in the cost of oil in the bottom line. . . must understand that [in the event of an attack on Iran] they will face almost immediate financial ruin." The price of oil will skyrocket due to, not only withdrawal of Iranian oil from the West, but attacks by its navy on tankers in the Persian Gulf.

In other words, if we're willing to pay the price -- the end of life as we know it in America (not to mention the end of life, period, for tens of thousands of Iranians) -- then, by all means, bombs away.   



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