Iran 'may refuse nuclear checks'

Iran seems determined. Even with the recent agreements with North Korea, Iran seems set on a collision course with the US and Britain. Where sanctions could lead is anyone’s guess. Referring Iran to the Security Council is the first step into dangerous territory.

Iran may stop allowing snap inspections of its nuclear facilities if it is referred to the UN Security Council, says the country’s top negotiator.

Ali Larijani said Tehran would also consider pulling out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) if the “language of force” continues.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, is discussing Tehran’s activities, which Iran insists are for peaceful purposes.

The US and the EU are calling for Iran to be referred to the Security Council.

And Russia and China have given some support to Iran:

Moscow and Beijing may block the plan, with Russia saying the current situation was “not irreversible”.

Defusing Iran’s Bomb

Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, has a lengthy piece in Policy Review on Iran. He argues that were Iran to attain Nuclear weapons capability there would be three major repurcussions:

Even more nuclear proliferation. Iran’s continued insistence that it acquired its nuclear capabilities legally under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (npt) would, if unchallenged, encourage its neighbors (including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Algeria) to develop nuclear options of their own and overtly declare possession or import weapons from elsewhere. Such announcements and efforts would likely undermine nuclear nonproliferation restraints internationally and strain American relations with most of its friends in the Middle East.

Dramatically higher oil prices. A nuclear-ready Iran could be emboldened to manipulate oil prices upward, either by threatening the freedom of the seas (by mining oil transit points as it did in the 1980s or by seeking to close the Straits of Hormuz) or by using terrorist proxies to threaten the destruction of Saudi and other Gulf state oil facilities and pipelines.

Increased terrorism geared to diminish U.S. influence. With a nuclear weapons option acting as a deterrent to U.S. and allied action against it, Iran would likely lend greater support to terrorists operating against Israel, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Europe, and the U.S.

He believes the two options currently proving popular, bribery or bombing, could be disastrous.

On bombing:

Targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities risks leaving other covert facilities and Iran’s cadre of nuclear technicians untouched. More important, any overt military attack would give Tehran a casus belli either to withdraw from the npt or to rally Islamic Jihadists to wage war against the U.S. and its allies more directly. Whatever might be gained by technically delaying the completion of Iran’s bomb option, then, would have to be weighed against what might be lost in Washington’s long-term effort to encourage more moderate Islamic rule in Iran and the Middle East, to synchronize allied policies against nuclear proliferation, and to deflate Iran’s rhetorical demonstrations against U.S. and allied hostility. Moreover, bluffing an attack against Iran — sometimes urged as a way around these difficulties — would only aggravate matters: The bluff would inevitably be exposed and further embolden Iran and weaken U.S. and allied credibility.

On bribing:

As for negotiating directly with Tehran to limit its declared nuclear program — an approach preferred by most of America’s European allies — this too seems self-defeating. First, any deal the Iranian regime would agree to would validate the claim that the npt legally allows its members to acquire all the capabilities Iran possesses. In other words, working supposedly within the terms of the npt, any state can get as far along as Tehran is now. Second, it would foster the view internationally that the only risk in violating required npt inspections would be getting caught at it — and that the consequence of getting caught would amount to being bribed to limit only those activities the inspectors managed to discover.

He then goes on to suggest a broad range of diplomatic alternatives – all of which are worth reading.

Blair Backs U.N. Intervention for Iran

Normally when I find interesting articles I bookmark them in Firefox for addition to my blog later. Last Saturday I added an article from the IHT titled “Blair backs possible UN action on Iran”. The said article appears to have disappeared. It is now titled “Iran court frees a top dissident“. A quick search for the original title on Google led me back to the same changed piece – but also to some other AP releases on the Guardian website.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday that Iran should be referred to the U.N. Security Council if it breaches its nuclear obligations, while Tehran vowed to resume some activities that can be part of the process of making nuclear weapons.

I can’t figure out why the frontpage story from the IHT was shifted.

Iran slams US over nuclear stance

Over at the UN, Iran is not too happy with the US – what’s new.

Iran has escalated its war of words with the US over Tehran’s nuclear programme, calling Washington’s arsenal a major threat to global peace. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi demanded assurances that the US would not launch a nuclear strike on Iran. And he rejected a call from President George Bush for non-nuclear nations to be denied access to nuclear technology. The US fears Iran is trying to build nuclear arms. Iran says its nuclear programme is for civilian use only. Mr Kharrazi told a UN conference it was unacceptable for an “exclusive club” of nations to deny nuclear technology to others “under the pretext of non-proliferation”.

And here is how the numbers stack up:

Cruise missile row rocks Ukraine

Just in case anyone missed this story, it didn’t figure that highly in the news at the time.

Ukrainian arms dealers smuggled 18 nuclear-capable cruise missiles to Iran and China in 1999-2001, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general has said. The Soviet-era Kh-55 missiles – also known as X-55s – have a maximum range of 2,500km (1,550 miles). They are launched by long-range bombers. Official Ukrainian state bodies were not involved in the sales, the prosecutor-general’s office said. It added that the missiles were not exported with nuclear warheads.

That would put Tel Aviv well in the range of Tehran.

Taking on Tehran

Also in Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Pollack, Director of Research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and Ray Takeyh, a Senior Fellow in Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations write about Iran. It’s quite a long piece, but here’s some of the introduction to get you hooked:

The hard part, of course, is making sure that Tehran never gets to that point. It appears to have made considerable progress in many aspects of its nuclear program, thanks to extensive assistance from Chinese, Germans, Pakistanis, Russians, and perhaps North Koreans. Iran’s clerical regime has also shown itself willing to endure considerable sacrifices to achieve its most important objectives.

Yet there is reason to believe that Tehran’s course can still be changed, if Washington takes advantage of the regime’s vulnerabilities. Although Iran’s hard-line leadership has maintained a remarkable unity of purpose in the face of reformist challengers, it is badly fragmented over key foreign policy issues, including the importance of nuclear weapons. At one end of the spectrum are the hardest of the hard-liners, who disparage economic and diplomatic considerations and put Iran’s security concerns ahead of all others. At the opposite end are pragmatists, who believe that fixing Iran’s failing economy must trump all else if the clerical regime is to retain power over the long term. In between these camps waver many of Iran’s most important power brokers, who would prefer not to have to choose between bombs and butter.

This split provides an opportunity for the United States, and its allies in Europe and Asia, to forge a new strategy to derail Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons. The West should use its economic clout to strengthen the hand of Iranian pragmatists, who could then argue for slowing, limiting, or shelving Tehran’s nuclear program in return for the trade, aid, and investment that Iran badly needs. Only if the mullahs recognize that they have a stark choice–they can have nuclear weapons or a healthy economy, but not both–might they give up their nuclear dreams. With concern over Iran’s nuclear aspirations growing, the United States and its allies now have a chance to present Iran with just such an ultimatum.