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Iran threatened to walk away from a potential deal with Russia that would have supposedly kept Teheran from enriching its own uranium if the EU and the US force the IAEA to refer its case to the UN. However, it does not appear that the latest Iranian gambit will have much play with the IAEA board, which looks to overwhelmingly support the referral:
Javad Vaeidi, the deputy head of Iran's National Security Council, said "there will be no way we can continue with the Russian proposal" if the Security Council becomes involved.
Mr Vaeidi acknowledged that referral seemed unavoidable, telling reporters: "This is an adopted draft. It means that the US and the EU-3 [Britain, France and Germany] are intending to kill two issues: first to stop diplomacy and second to kill the Russian proposal," he said.
Iranian officials are due in Moscow on 16 February for talks on the Kremlin's proposal to enrich uranium for Iran's nuclear programme on Russian soil. The offer, backed by the United States and the EU, is intended to make it more difficult for Tehran to develop weapons. Iran has welcomed the proposal but says it needs work, leading to suspicions that it is stalling.
Mr Vaeidi also reiterated earlier threats that Iran will resume full-scale work on uranium enrichment and stop honouring an agreement giving IAEA inspectors broad powers to conduct short-notice inspections of his country's nuclear programme if there is a referral to the Security Council.
China also did its best to undermine the effort to contain Iran, announcing that it will oppose economic sanctions against Iran "on principal". No one really expected an oil-hungry China to go the distance on containing Iran, but this early exit from the unified front exposes their lack of farsightedness on the threat that Iranian nuclear power constitutes. Iran doesn't just threaten the West, nor does it just threaten Israel; it threatens the entire region, including southern Russia, and therefore threatens the entire Southwest Asian oil supply and its exportation to all oil-hungry nations, including China.
The bigger news is that almost all of the rest of the IAEA board has thrown their lot in against Iran. Only the incorrigibles still hold out in opposition to a referral: Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria appear to lead the small contingent that wants to leave Iran to its own devices. The Western alliance that wants the referral asked for a one-day extension to get more of the board members to vote "yes" rather than abstain on the motion, but its passage looks like a lock at this point.
Will the Security Council do anything significant to stop Iran -- impose economic sanctions at least? China would probably use its veto to stop it. However, the exercise might give Tony Blair and George Bush enough political cover to justify other action against the Iranians, especially a stepped-up covert campaign to push Iranian democracy activists to rise up against the mullahs. The presence of the Coalition forces in Iraq will shortly start declining, and with them will go a significant amount of Anglo-American leverage. If such action will take place, it should do so very quickly, while we have the necessary elements for pressure at hand.
Tomorrow we will discuss this topic with Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute on the Northern Alliance Radio Network. He will be on between 2 and 3 pm, the last hour of our four-hour show, which begins at 11 am CT on AM 1280 The Patriot. If you're not in the Twin Cities, you can listen on the web stream at the link, and join the conversation with Michael and all of us by calling 651-289-4488.Sphere It View blog reactions
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