President Obama is pressing for new United Nations Security Council sanctions within weeks. Although Russia and China oppose ‘crippling’ sanctions such as cutting off Iran’s access to imported gasoline, they may agree to the watered-down US plan of imposing restrictions on companies owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (a major economic force in Iran). China is said by Reuters to be weakening in its opposition to new Iran sanctions, but perhaps this is only because it would not be affected by Western measures narrowly targeting the Revolutionary Guards.
On the other hand, the Reuters piece, which appears to be based on interviews with US officials, may be overly optimistic. Russian President Medvedev said just a few days ago that increased sanctions on Iran are “not optimal.” I.e. he does not rule them out but they aren’t his first choice. And China is even more opposed than Russia. Obama still has a hard path ahead.
Iran sanctions are in any case merely symbolic. The regime cannot be forced to change course in this way. Indeed, this regime likes being isolated.
This Reuters article also misinterprets the stance of the International Atomic Energy Agency of the UN, which continues to certify that none of Iran’s nuclear material, being enriched for civilian purposes, has been diverted to military uses. The IAEA has all along said it cannot give 100% assurance that Iran has no weapons program, because it is not being given complete access. But nagging doubt is not the same as an affirmation. We should learn a lesson from the Iraq debacle.
Meanwhile, ABC News’s Brian Ross got the scoop on the defection to the US of Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri. US intelligence continues to maintain that Iran has not committed to having a nuclear weapons program. Presumably this information came from Amiri and is fresh and solid, since he is a consummate insider.
Yet you get headlines like, “Iran moves closer to nukes.”
Somehow American hawks can’t seem to get their minds around the obvious conclusion from the CIA diction, which is that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program at the moment. It can’t move closer to nukes if it doesn’t have a weapons program! Moreover, that it does not have such a program is no longer a considered opinion or educated guess, but is based on the best kind of intelligence. It is the conclusion that the 16 US intelligence agencies came to in 2007, and there is apparently still no evidence that Iran has changed its mind about the undesirability and even evil of nuclear warheads (though there are no doubt hard liners who disagree with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s fatwas against nukes as un-Islamic.)
As long as the US does not object to the actual nuclear weapons of Israel, India and Pakistan (none of which signed the NPT), its obsession with Iran’s civilian energy program will strike people in the region as unfair.
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