Monday, March 13, 2006

Dealing With Iran

"We are extremely disappointed with the way Iran is behaving in the course of these talks. Iran is absolutely no help to those who want to find peaceful ways to solve this problem." These are not the words of US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, US President Bush, or even British PM Tony Blair. Rather, this quote issues from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. In the wake of Iranian rejection of the proposed Russian compromise plan -- which would have allowed Iran to develop a nuclear program using uranium enriched in Russia -- Iran's staunchest ally, Russia, appears to be at the end of its rope.

However, such frustration only goes so far. Russia and China are still opposing UN Security Council action, including sanctions, on the issue. Russia wants the issue to stay under the aegis of the IAEA, which can negotiate but has no power to threaten or punish. In the absence of unanimity of the five veto-holding members, the Security Council is stymied and unable to act, so for now, the IAEA is the only possible option.

Now is the time for the US to capitalize on Russia's frustration with Iran, and begin trying to pry the two states apart from one another. The US needs to develop a package of "carrots" that Russia would accept to move the debate into the Security Council and allow sanctions to be placed on the table. Until the international community gets serious, Iran has no reason to even consider compliance.

No comments: