As the Europeans and the Americans have rejected the last proposals by the Islamic Republic to resume negotiations “without preconditions” and insists that there is no question of stopping nuclear activities, including uranium conversion and research and development, a veteran “Iran watcher” says “intelligent sanctions” against Tehran could be “a solution that could more or less satisfy everyone”.
Bellow is the article of Mr. Ahmad Rafat in the Italian private news service “AKI”, published on 16 January 2006.
The real problem is not the referral itself but what the Security Council will be able to do to halt Iran's nuclear race.
Representatives of the five members of the UN Security Council met behind closed doors in London on Monday 16 January to consider action against Iran over its lack of cooperation on the nuclear issue. It was an attempt to focus on how things may play out if as expected Iran's nuclear intransigence sees it referred to the UN's top decision-making body.
A decision on referring Iran to the UN Security Council, a move endorsed by the EU negotiating troika of France, Germany and Britain last week, will not be formalised until the governors of the UN's atomic watchdog meet in Vienna on 2 and 3 February.
The real problem is not the referral itself but what the Security Council will be able to do to halt Iran's nuclear race. After initial enthusiasm, the European camp, which until recently has pushed for a negotiated approach, is now realising that they are not keen either on economic sanctions or obviously on Washington's idea of using force.
What happens in the Security Council will also depend in part by possible Iranian reactions. The government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could implement the Iranian parliament's recent decision to suspend its cooperation with the IAEA immediately once the Security Council begins discussing the case. Such action would inevitably lead to an escalation of the crisis.
The Iranian refusal to cooperate with the IAEA and any decision to prevent inspectors visiting its nuclear sites could push the Security Council to adopt a motion which authorises the use of force against the Islamic Republic. The withdrawal of Iran from the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would accelerate this.
Once referred to the Security Council, Tehran could also play a game of brinkmanship and delaying tactics to prevent approval of motions which could have economic consequence for the country, for example by collaborating intermittently with the IAEA. In this case the Security Council could ask the Islamic Republic to give up the enrichment of uranium at its sites. This motion would involve a commitment on behalf of Tehran - renouncing part of its nuclear programme - that it could not accept.
Over the past two years, Tehran has made uranium enrichment a question of principle, a point of honour, which they cannot abandon. Giving up on centrifuges and enrichment means a loss of face for the government of Tehran not just on a national scale but also regionally.
“intelligent sanctions”, or a partial blockade of Iran is a solution that could more or less satisfy everyone.
If the intervention of the Security Council is not something the Iranian government would wish, it is met with similar reluctance by member countries, except for the United States which since 1979 has had no diplomatic ties with Tehran. China and Russia have too many economic and political interests in Iran to vote, unless under serious pressure, in favour of economic sanctions. China has recently signed billion dollar petrol deals with Iran. But even for Europe, applying economic sanctions will not be painless, especially for Italy and Germany who are Iran's biggest trade partners.
There has been some talk of “intelligent sanctions”, a solution that could more or less satisfy everyone. This proposal involves a motion declaring a partial embargo against Iran, that excludes both food and other essential supplies and - most importantly of all for the West - that excludes oil and gas. Boycotting Iranian crude oil would mean reducing 65 million people in Iran to a worrying and potentially dangerous level of poverty, with unpredictable consequences. Iran supplies more than five per cent of the world's oil, so withdrawing that would have catastrophic effects on already soaring prices.
A partial block of trade, according to supporters of this compromise option, would squeeze the Iranian commercial bourgeoisie, the famous “bazari”, considered the real custodians of power in Ahmadinejad's Iran. The policy of “intelligent sanctions”, according to Iranian experts, would cause serious problems for the current government which came to power on promises of boosting employment and economic wellbeing. The flight of capital out of Iran since his election, inflation and unemployment could put the radicals up against the wall and favour the rise to power of more pragmatic political leaders. ENDS IRAN NUCLEAR 19106
Editor’s note: A former Middle East and Balkan Senior Correspondent for the influential Spanish weekly “El Tiempo”, Mr. Rafat is a veteran Iranian-Italian journalist based in Rome.
Highlights are from IPS