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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Another nail in the Iranian sanctions coffin

Ten days ago, I reported that Israel's Foreign Ministry had accused the International Atomic Energy Agency of hiding incriminating material that would show that Iran was attempting to develop nuclear weapons. On Monday, France took the Israeli accusations a step further:
France went farther, alleging the existence of an unpublished annexe that addresses the evidence that Iran may be building an atom bomb.

Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, said that France had attended a technical briefing that covered the material, so was surprised to find it missing from the report.

“In the annexes there are specifically elements which enable us to ask about the reality of an atomic bomb,” he said “There are issues of warheads, of transport.”


Western intelligence agencies had given the IAEA material suggesting that Tehran secretly combined uranium processing, airborne high-explosive tests and efforts to revamp a missile cone in a way that would fit a nuclear warhead.

The agency described the material as compelling and insisted that Iran clarify the matter rather than reject it as fabricated evidence. It is likely, however, that it did not meet the standards of proof required for inclusion in the report.
The reason that the French - and the Germans - are suddenly becoming more vocal in their desire to stop Iran may be this report by Uzi Rubin, which I blogged here, which suggests that Iran may be targeting western Europe with its nuclear weapons, and not just Israel.

In the meantime, outgoing IAEA chairman Mohamed ElBaradei admitted on Monday that Iran was still enriching uranium and urged it to ''substantively re-engage'' with the IAEA and to 'respond positively' to a United States initiative for dialogue. As I noted on Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that there is nothing to discuss.

Meanwhile, Haaretz reported on Tuesday that Russia and China have rejected a proposal by the other members of the '5+1' group (the US, Britain, France and Germany - Germany being the only one of the six that is not a permanent, veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council) to impose harsher sanctions against Iran.
The two nations refused to discuss the possibility of further pressuring the Islamic Republic, according to the official, during high-level six power talks held last week in Germany.

Officials in Jerusalem are concerned by the failure of the meeting and the obstacles put up by Russia and China. Nevertheless, they believe the delay in action on Iran stems from the fact that the powers are waiting for Tehran's official response to the West's offer of dialogue, which it will apparently give this week.

The six powers met last Wednesday in the German city of Frankfurt, in a meeting at which all the countries' most senior officials dealing with the Iran nuclear issue were present.

"Nothing was agreed upon," the Israeli official said. "Russia and China avoided a serious discussion, presented an inflexible stance and set things back one year."
Ironically, Russia and China's intransigence makes war more likely, not less. And war makes it less likely, not more likely, that Iran will succeed in developing nuclear weapons.

For reasons I have noted, sanctions against Iran are very unlikely to be effective at this late date, even if an agreement can be reached on imposing them. On the other hand, war could be quite effective in delaying the Iranian program, or in putting a stop to it altogether.

Will the United States try to prevent Israel from stopping Iran? I don't believe President Obama will be given that opportunity.

But what seems clear is that the Russian and Chinese refusal to act is another nail in the coffin of international cooperation to stop Iran in a non-military fashion.


At 1:20 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The world should not be surprised when Israel acts. It has had plenty of time to get its house in order. Iran won't be stopped by peaceful methods. Israel will have to take the steps necessary to see that Iran does not acquire the means to destroy the Jewish State.


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