Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What To Do in Iran

There are two very interesting articles on what the US should do about Iran. In USA Today, Amitai Etzioni writes that it's time for the US to make a deal with Iran; specifically, that the US should "offer Iran a bargain: No Iranian nukes, no American-induced regime change. The United States would need to commit to not attacking Iran unless Iran attacked the United States or a U.S. ally. In addition, the Bush administration would not seek to undermine the regime by arming or financing opposition groups (whose legitimacy in Iran is undercut by American support anyway)." Etzioni indicates that this seems to be what the mullahs in Iran really want, writing that "Selig Harrison, director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy in Washington, is among those who has written that Tehran asked European Union representatives to obtain security commitments from Washington in exchange for Iran restraining its nuclear arms — but to no avail." If he's right, such a guarantee would, in fact, be a relatively small price to pay for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. But if he's wrong, Etzioni, in this article at least, makes no suggestions as to what the US, the EU, or the international community should do if Iran keeps moving towards nuclear status.

In a piece over at the New York Times, Roger Cohen addresses this scenario, and asks the $64,000,000 question: "What's worse — a nuclear-armed Iran or American military action against Iran to prevent that happening?" Cohen begins by quoting Ghassan Salam, an adviser to Kofi Annan, who says "I wake up one day thinking American airstrikes would be the worst outcome, and the next thinking a nuclear Iran may be even more terrible," but moves on to say that "he chances that diplomacy will stop Iran's quest for nuclear weapons look remote. There are three reasons: Russian oil, Iranian nationalism and the Iraq legacy." Ultimately, Cohen concludes that "to allow a country that shelters some Qaeda operatives and has links to terrorist groups -— including Islamic Jihad - access to nuclear weapons is unacceptable."

So, what to do? To be honest, I don't know. And nobody else seems to know either. As Cohen makes abundantly clear in his article, military options are poor at best, and also carry huge risks, such as "enflaming Muslim sentiment against the West, intensifying exponentially the conflict in Iraq, increasing the threat of terrorism against the United States, sending oil prices spiraling, raising the possibility of Iranian military reprisals in neighboring countries including Israel, and hardening global anti-American sentiments." Etzioni puts his hope in the likelihood that Iran would sacrifice much for a no-attack pledge from the US; I'm skeptical that that is the primary motivation for Iranian proliferation. The offer should be explored, but if it goes nowhere, we're right back where we started. I'm willing to allow negotiations to continue, for now.


Natalie Dillon said...

I just think that the world needs a fresh approach to dealing with nuclear weapons to prevent nuclear conflict in the future.

The main problem is that America, Russia, China, England, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel already have nuclear weapons and enjoy power and immunity from invasion by other countries as a result. It is obvious that under these circumstances countries like Iran will also covet nuclear weapons.

I don't think that Iran should have any nuclear weapons. However I don't think that any other country should either. Some of the countries that currently have nuclear weapons appear to be less of a threat than Iran but nobody can forsee what will happen in the future.

We have to start thinking up new solutions. One idea might be to keep a store of nuclear weapons under international control while all other nuclear weapons were destroyed. Regular international inspections could police a nuclear free world while a state that subsequently developed nuclear weapons would face swift retaliation from the international community.

How a scheme of this type could be negotiated I don't know. However a nuclear free world would be in everyones self interest and five out of the seven current nuclear powers are democracies. It must be possible!

RickTaylor said...

It's not at all established that Iraq is even pursuing nuclear weapons. They may be, they may not be. Certainly, ever since the lead in to the Iraq war where anyone who questioned whether Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction was denounced as a fool or a Frenchman, there's been no reason to take the administartions word on anything. I haven't seen any evidence made public that establishes Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and I have no doubt if the administration did have firm evidence, it would release it pronto (which was pretty much the situation before the Iraq war).

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice. . .

--Rick Taylor