There seems to be a lot of flipping of the bird going around these days. Iran has, effectively, flipped the Gang of Six the bird on their incentives plan for the cessation of Iran’s domestic nuclear enrichment program:
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has inaugurated a new phase of a heavy water reactor project despite Western fears about its nuclear programme.
He said Iran posed no threat to other states, not even its “enemy” Israel.
Heavy water made at Arak will be used to cool a reactor being built that will create a plutonium by-product that could be used to make atomic warheads.
Observers say Iran’s move aims to send a signal of defiance days ahead of a UN deadline to halt uranium enrichment.
The US says Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, while Iran says it is building a reactor to supply the country with nuclear power.
Russia is playing the helpful, constructive role we’ve come to expect:
MOSCOW, Aug. 25 — Russia’s defense minister said Friday that it was premature to consider punitive actions against Iran despite its refusal so far to suspend its efforts to enrich uranium as the United Nations Security Council has demanded.
Although Russia agreed to the Security Council’s resolution on July 31, Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov’s remarks made it clear that Russia would not support taking the next step that the United States and Britain have called for: imposing sanctions against Iran or its leaders over its nuclear programs. The Council set Aug. 31 as the deadline for Iran to respond to its demand.
Russia has repeatedly expressed opposition to punitive steps, even as President Vladimir V. Putin and others have called on Iran to cooperate with international inspectors and suspend its enrichment activity.
But on Friday Mr. Ivanov went further, saying the issue was not “so urgent” that the Security Council should consider sanctions and expressing doubt that they would work in any case.
I have some confidence in guaranteeing that unimposed sanctions will do very little.
There are reports that the U. S. will propose a sanctions regime directly solely against the Iranian leadership:
The most immediate sanctions will be directed at the Iranian administration, and will not, at this stage, hurt the Iranian people. The American proposal will include a prohibition on the Iranian leadership from traveling outside their country, and a freezing of Iranian leadership’s assets outside of Iran. This comes on the heels of attempted sanctions on Iraq, which hurt the Iranian [ed. presumably the Iraqi] people, but not Saddam Hussein.
It’s beginning to sound as though any sanctions imposed will be so minor in extent and so late in the game that the likelihood of their having any effect is minor. And, despite the saber-rattling from some of the usual suspects (I won’t bother to link—they’re easy enough to find), I don’t believe that either the United States or Israel or the United States and Israel will attack Iran to prevent its acquisition of nuclear weapons.
So, we’ll need to accustom ourselves to a nuclear-armed Iran. That’s the conclusion of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s George Perkovich:
It’s now time for the U.S. to quietly rally defense and foreign ministries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia to develop operational plans for containing and deterring a nuclear-armed Iran. Far from throwing in the towel or abandoning diplomacy in favor of warfare, devising a deterrence and containment strategy now would allay international fears that Washington uses U.N. diplomacy as a prelude to military-delivered regime change. Building international capabilities to contain a nuclear-armed Iran would have the double benefit of putting muscle into the Security Council’s effort to dissuade Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability in the first place.
The first step is to convince Iran’s leaders that their sovereignty and security will not be threatened if they desist from supporting or conducting violence outside their borders. Iran’s leaders — odious or not — must know that they do not need nuclear weapons or proxy war for their survival; the regime’s survival is best guaranteed by not fighting. The incentive package that France, Germany, the U.K., the U.S., Russia and China have recently offered to negotiate contains most of what is necessary to show Iran it will live better without producing fissile materials. What it lacks is a clear U.S. commitment to live with the government in Tehran, even as we compete with it politically and morally.
If Washington will forswear regime change and the Iranian government still refuses to negotiate terms for conducting an exclusively civilian nuclear program, then Tehran must be convinced it will suffer greatly for threatening its neighbors and Israel, directly or by proxy. The message must be: “The United States and other major powers will work more closely than ever with your neighbors to monitor your activities and establish capabilities to respond forcefully and immediately to any scale of terrorism, subversion or war that you visit on others. If you have nuclear weapons, we won’t tolerate your export of violence.”
Hat tip: the formerly ubiquitous praktike.
I’ve written about deterring the Iranians before. I don’t think “won’t tolerate” is sufficiently strong. For a credible deterrent the Iranians (and I mean all the Iranians) must realize that if Iran pursues nuclear weapons and if the U. S. or U. S. interests are attacked using such a weapon Tehran will cease to exist regardless of whether we’re certain of where the weapon originated or not. We won’t be in a mood to take any chances.
BTW I think the commenters to praktike’s post are giving the Russians and Chinese far too much credit. If the Iranians had seized a Russian or Chinese embassy or if the Iranians had threatened the shipping of needed oil to Russia or China or their allies, I think they’d be singing a different tune. The Russians and Chinese are free riders from a standpoint of world security and they’re quite content to let us bear the costs while they reap the benefits and stir up a little discontent along the way.