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Iran suddenly finds itself alone in the diplomatic world as the United States and Europe convinced Russia and China to refer the Iranian IAEA file to the UN Security Council late yesterday. The surprise decision by Iran's two Asian allies effectively isolates the mullahcracy and sets up a March reckoning for potentially crippling economic sanctions:
Key powers have agreed to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme at a UN nuclear watchdog board meeting on Thursday.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced the decision after a meeting of the five permanent council members and Germany in London.
Talks with Iran earlier in the day failed to produce a breakthrough.
President George W Bush earlier said the US and its allies would remain united in their dealings with Iran.
The permanent five - the UK, US, France, China and Russia - plus Germany, met in London on Monday night to co-ordinate their position ahead of an emergency board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Thursday.
The Iranians are not taking this quietly. They hope to influence the IAEA board to disregard the input of the six nations with whom the Iranians have negotiated for adherence to the non-proliferation agreements, chiefly by belligerent threats. They have already threatened to completely break loose from all diplomatic restraints on their nuclear program if referred to the UNSC:
"Reporting Iran's dossier to the U.N. Security Council will be unconstructive and the end of diplomacy," said Iran's leading nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. State television quoted him as sayiny Iran still believes the issue can be resolved peacefully.
Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also runs Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said it was difficult to predict how the IAEA meeting on Thursday would develop, the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency reported.
"The biggest problem for the West is that they can't find any (legal) justification to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council," ISNA quoted him as saying. ... "Europeans should pay more attention. Iran has called for dialogue and is moving in the direction of reaching an agreement through peaceful means," Larijani said.
Breaking the seals on their facility turned out to be a bad move on Teheran's part. The mullahs apparently thought that Russia and China would never follow the EU and the US on a UNSC referral for political reasons. They underestimated the reluctance of any nation to allow Islamists access to nuclear weapons, a thought which has an apparently sobering effect on political calculations, even in Moscow and Beijing. Neither are likely to give any support to a military strike on nuclear sites in Iraq, but at least it gets the ball rolling by imposing some penalties for Iranian intransigence.
Economic sanctions, if not undercut by other nations, may prove more effective than military action anyway. Iran's restive population has much more ability to rise up against the mullahcracy than the Iraqis did against Saddam Hussein, in part -- and ironically -- because in some ways, the Iranians have a more open system than pre-liberation Iraq. A tough sanctions regime will hurt the people of Iran before it hurts the mullahs, and that might serve to finally rouse enough resentment to topple the Islamist power structure. With luck and some effort by the West, that could happen before the mullahs get their hands on a nuke and either fire it themselves or give it to like-minded terrorists for detonation elsewhere.
As Michael Ledeen says ... faster, please.Sphere It View blog reactions
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