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March 12, 2006
Iran Turns Down Russian Enrichment

So much for the Russian initiative in the Iranian crisis. This morning, the Iranian Foreign Ministry declared that the Russian compromise to avert a Security Council showdown was no longer under consideration, delivering a slap in the face to Vladimir Putin and the naive Westerners who thought Iranian consideration of it sincere:

Iran said Sunday it had ruled out a proposal to move its uranium enrichment program to Russia, further complicating the international dispute over the country's nuclear program.

Russia has sought to persuade Iran to move its enrichment program to Russian territory to allow closer international monitoring. The U.S. and the European Union had backed the idea as a way to ensure Iran would not misuse the process to make nuclear weapons.

Iran had insisted that the plan was negotiable and reached basic agreement with Moscow, but details were never worked out.

"The Russian proposal is not on our agenda any more," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

The Russian proposal allowed Iran to stall for time, hoping to avoid the UNSC showdown and the imposition of sanctions for its nuclear ambitions. Now even the Russians have egg on their face, as their vaunted re-entry into superpower politics has come up empty for a second time. The Iranians have made Putin look foolish and impotent, following on the heels of the Hamas visit that resulted in absolutely no softening of the terrorists' hard line on Israel. Putin has discovered that a bankrupt former superpower that appears to be sliding backwards into autocracy and kleptocracy hold very little persuasive power in diplomacy, especially in the Middle East, where people are highly attuned to real power and the will to use it.

The Iranians, so far, have shown the will to use the power in their hands. They have explicitly threatened to choke off their oil supplies if the UNSC slaps them with economic sanctions. Iran controls the traffic through the Straits of Hormuz, a vital passage for a significant amount of the world's oil exports. If the Iranians shut down the strait, the price of oil could explode, shaking the world economy and perhaps even touching off trade wars and other conflicts.

By the way, the country that shares the sovereignty of the Straits of Hormuz is the United Arab Emirates. And one of the reasons why the US felt that Dubai is such a strong ally is because the UAE allows the US Navy to base its operations for the security of that passage in the UAE. That alliance may soon become critical in defending the flow of oil from other sources in the area; hopefully it will survive long enough for us to face down Iran in the Straits.

It should be clear to everyone, including Russia and China, that Iran will not give up its nuclear program, and that the program has nothing to do with domestic energy production. In fact, given its instransigence and the likely economic penalties it faces for it, Iran will shortly have all the oil it will ever need for its domestic energy supply. The world needs to show the will necessary to shut down Iranian ambitions for the bomb, and failing that, the West needs to act in its own best interests regardless of whether Russia or China wants to come along.

UPDATE: I typed Iraq where I meant Iran; thanks to Stankleberry who pointed out the error.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 12, 2006 8:54 AM

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