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Monday, January 16, 2006

The Multilateral Moment?

At National Review, Victor Davis Hanson tries to put the Iranian problem in perspective:

The Multilateral Moment?

"Multilateralism good; preemption and unilateralism bad.”

For four years we have heard these Orwellian commandments as if they were inscribed above the door of Farmer Jones’s big barn. Now we will learn their real currency, since the Americans are doing everything imaginable — drawing in the Europeans, coaxing the Russians and Chinese to be helpful at the U.N., working with international monitoring agencies, restraining Israel, talking to the Arabs, keeping our jets in their hangars — to avoid precipitous steps against Iran.

Its theocracy poses a danger to civilization even greater than a nuclear North Korea for a variety of peculiar circumstances. Iran is free of a patron like China that might in theory exert moderate influence or even insist on occasional restraint. North Korea, for an increasingly wealthy and capitalist China, is as much a headache and an economic liability as a socialist comrade.

In contrast, Iran is a cash cow for Russia (and China) and apparently a source of opportunistic delight in its tweaking of the West. Iranian petro-wealth has probably already earned Tehran at least one, and probably two, favorable votes at the Security Council.

Of course, Tehran’s oil revenues allow it access to weapons markets, and overt blackmail, both of which are impossible for a starving North Korea. And Iran’s nuclear facilities are located at the heart of the world’s petroleum reserves, where even the semblance of instability can drive up global oil prices, costing the importing world billions in revenues.

No one is flocking to Communism, much less Pyongyang’s unrepentant, ossified Stalinist brand. Islamic radicalism, on the other hand, has declared war on Western society and tens of thousands of jihdadists, whether Shiia or Sunnis, count on Iran for money, sanctuary, and support. Al Qaeda members travel the country that is the spiritual godhead of Hezbollah, and a donor of arms and money to radical Palestinian terrorists.

North Korea can threaten Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and the western United States, and so poses a real danger. But the opportunities for havoc are even richer for a nuclear Iran. With nukes and an earned reputation for madness, it can dictate to the surrounding Arab world the proper policy of petroleum exportation; it can shakedown Europeans whose capitals are in easy missile range; it can take out Israel with a nuke or two; or it can bully the nascent democracies of the Middle East while targeting tens of thousands of US soldiers based from Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf.

And Iran can threaten to do all this under the aegis of a crazed Islamist regime more eager for the paradise of the next world than for the material present so dear to the affluent and decadent West. If Iran can play brinkmanship now on just the promise of nuclear weapons, imagine its roguery to come when it is replete with them.

When a supposedly unhinged Mr. Ahmadinejad threatens the destruction of Israel and then summarily proceeds to violate international protocols aimed at monitoring Iran’s nuclear industry, we all take note. Any country that burns off some of its natural gas at the wellhead while claiming that it needs nuclear power for domestic energy is simply lying. Terrorism, vast petroleum reserves, nuclear weapons, and boasts of wiping neighboring nations off the map are a bad combination.

Read it all.


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