Tuesday, January 17, 2006

More on Iran and Nukes

So, unsurprisingly, Russia and China are resisting referring Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program, arguing instead that more negotiations are needed. People are also starting to worry that in any attempt to impose sanctions or other punishments on Iran, Iran may choose to cease or restrict oil exports in an effort to damage the punishers and get the sanctions lifted. I'm not so worried about the latter problem. It may be true that the West is highly dependent on foreign oil, and that Iran is awash in petrodollars and can afford to curtail its oil sales for a bit. But, oil is pretty much the only thing that Iran exports and no country can survive for long without its primary source of income. Any such attempt would turn into a battle of wills: Who can hold out longer, Iran or the West? My money would be on the West. Let's not forget that in the 1973 oil crisis, the OPEC nations were forced to resume selling oil to the US as they could not afford to maintain the embargo. Furthermore, the crisis resulted in a huge jump in energy efficiency in the US. Everything from cars to dishwashers became more fuel efficient. While it may be painful for a while, I don't the embargo of Iranian oil as that dangerous (in fact, the threat of the cut-off may be more painful to the US and the West than a cut-off itself).

So, if the threat of an oil cut-off is overblown, and if Russia and China continue to block a referral of Iran to the UNSC (and would likely block any sanctions if the case ever got there anyway), what is going to happen? If Iran continues its intransigence, military strikes will most likely occur. Word over this past weekend is that Republican and Democratic senators alike are starting to get behind using force to destroy Iran's nuclear program. While any attack may be a ways away and depends on Iran continuing to stonewall, it's certainly possible.

The other alternative is that Iran will accept the proposal of Russia that any and all nuclear fuel be enriched in Russian nuclear plants and then shipped to Iran for use in the peaceful nuclear energy program. While this seems like a workable solution, if Iran has secret and functional nuclear weapons plants, they would be able to used the enriched uranium to build a weapon. However, despite that risk, this seems like the best option. There doesn't seem to be much stomach for taking Iran on, either militarily or diplomatically, and military force is a less than palatable option as well. This seems to be a situation akin to the Israel-Palestine peace process: Everyone knows what the end will be, but no one knows how to get there.

1 comment:

stefan moluf said...

Hmm. If Iran maintains a secret uranium enrichment program and develops a nuclear weapon anyway, how is an extranational fuel program a solution at all?