What if Iran Says No? (Part 2)
By: Greg C. Reeson
Almost two months ago, when European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana presented an incentives package to Iran to encourage the Islamic Republic to curb its nuclear activities, I wrote a column questioning what, if anything, the world community would do in the event that Iran rejected the proposal. In that column, I argued that Iran, in responding that the package of incentives required further study, was probably stalling for time while it continued its program without international oversight.
Responding to the August 22nd date put forth by the Iranian government for a formal reply to the package, many countries, including the United States and Great Britain, declared the date unacceptable, citing a maximum period of weeks, rather than months, for Iran to agree to suspend the enrichment of uranium and join in multilateral talks about its nuclear future.
However, the international community, in the form of the United Nations, has been unable to reach an agreement on the course of action to be pursued in order to press Iran on its nuclear ambitions. We are now at the end of July and the only thing that has been accomplished to date is a draft resolution requiring Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities by the end of August or face possible sanctions. Iranian state radio is already reporting that such a resolution will be rejected and Iran will not be subject to international demands.
In setting a deadline, the members of the Security Council are seeking to send the message that they are united and they are serious. But as history has repeatedly shown us, rarely are the five permanent members of the Council anything close to resembling united, or serious.
Time and again, the United States, Great Britain, China, France and Russia find themselves at odds over competing economic and security interests. Just the threat of a veto can stall action and prevent a matter from ever coming to a vote before the Council. Consensus on serious matters is seldom achieved, and I expect more of the same with regard to the Iranian nuclear program.
There is little reason to expect the Iranian regime to accept the proposal to stop their nuclear agenda. The leadership in Tehran knows what everyone else knows, that there is little likelihood of any meaningful sanctions coming out of the Security Council, and there is absolutely no possibility of a resolution authorizing military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Which brings us back to the original question. What if Iran rejects the package of incentives and continues its uranium enrichment program, effectively telling the rest of the world to mind its own business and stop infringing on Iranâ€™s national rights?
The United Nations will inevitably bog down in its own incompetence and no significant agreement among the permanent members will be reached. A nuclear-armed Iranian regime is a threat to the entire region, a threat that Israel cannot ignore. Will Prime Minister Olmert authorize a strike similar to the Israeli attack on Iraqi nuclear facilities at Osirak in 1981? Even if he wanted to, he would probably be restrained by the United States government in the interest of preventing further destabilization in the area.
Will the United States and Great Britain take matters into their own hands, either through sanctions or military action? Independently enforced sanctions are probably a safe bet, but direct military action is not likely. The Anglo-American alliance is working diligently with the Iranians in an attempt to quell the violence in Iraq by putting pressure on the Shiite militias that are engaging in the recent surge in sectarian fighting.
While the United States and England are certainly capable of executing a military strike against Iranian targets, despite concerns about their commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq, such a use of force would do more to increase tensions in the Middle East than it would to alleviate those tensions. A military strike would only add to the anti-American and anti-British sentiment in a region already torn apart by hatred and violence.
The end result is likely to be some form of accommodation on the nuclear program, with a promise of additional influence on Iraqi Shiites from the Iranian regime, along with some form of international monitoring of Iranian nuclear progress. In exchange, western nations will fulfill their pledges in the incentives package, including easing current sanctions, assisting with WTO membership, and upgrading the Iranian air fleet.
That will set the stage for more negotiations and more concessions from both sides. But in the end, I fear that we will see a radical regime dedicated to the destruction of Israel and a sworn enemy of the United States in possession of nuclear weapons. As long as the international community lacks the will to come together in the face of real threats, we should all be concerned about what happens if Iran says no.
Greg Reeson is a freelance writer living in Fort Lee, VA. His columns have appeared in The New Media Journal, The Land of the Free, The Veteranâ€™s Voice, The Washington Times, The American Daily, The American Chronicle, Associated Content, and Opinion Editorials.com.