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March 22, 2006
Britain Hardening Its Line On Iran

The UK has decided that military action will be necessary to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons and has now calculated its foreign policy to prepare a diplomatic and legal case for that option, the London Times reports today. It reveals a letter in which British diplomats plan to win Russian and Chinese support for a Security Council resolution demanding an end to Iranian nuclear efforts, which will allow for military response if not heeded:

BRITAIN is pressing for a United Nations resolution that would open the way for punitive sanctions and even the use of force if Iran were to refuse to halt its controversial nuclear programme.

In a confidential letter obtained by The Times, a leading British diplomat outlines a strategy for winning Russian and Chinese support by early summer for a so-called Chapter VII resolution demanding that Iran cease its nuclear activities.

If the Government in Tehran refused to comply with such a resolution, the UN Security Council would be legally compelled to enforce it.

The strategy marks a significant hardening of the Government’s position. It contrasts with public statements by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, this month. On March 13 he insisted that military action was “inconceivable” and that the dispute with Iran “has to be resolved by peaceful democratic means”.

The confidential letter was written only three days later by John Sawers, the political director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and sent to his American, French and German counterparts.

“They (the Iranians) will need to know that more serious measures are likely,” wrote Mr Sawers, in a letter first leaked to the Associated Press. “This means putting the Iran dossier on to a Chapter VII basis.”

The British, at least, have recognized the folly of further diplomacy with Iran and now have focused those efforts on Russia and China. It seems a bit of folly to think that the UK could convince either nation to agree to a resolution that could provide a "legal" basis for military action against Iran, however. Russia has already balked at any language that could allow even economic sanctions to be imposed against the mullahcracy. Expecting an opening for force just leaves one open to disappointment, or worse.

The British government hopes in this manner to preserve something that never existed -- a UN Security Council willing to act in a significant manner against Islamofascist terror. The UNSC has rarely acted on a security threat with force in the past, and only agreed in the case of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait because the invasion so clearly intended to destabilize world oil markets and Saddam's occupation was so immediately brutal. Otherwise, the UNSC does nothing more than provide a debating society among nations with interests so at odds with one another that any useful proposal is guaranteed at least two vetoes.

The Iraqi quagmire of 1991-2003 proved the uselessness of the UNSC. All they did was issue resolution after resolution, averaging more than one a year, demanding compliance with the cease-fire and earlier resolutions, all the while clearly signaling that at least two permanent members would never allow for enforcement past the point of economic sanctions -- and three of them wound up undermining even those for their own profit. After the US and UK decided to take the resolutions seriously and enforce them militarily, the UNSC won't ever go that far again.

We have reached the point where the Western nations looking to defend themselves from Islamofascist threats need to band together instead of working through a dead process at Turtle Bay. The UN does not preserve peace; it preserves the status quo, and unfortunately that allows rogue nations like Iran the breathing room they need to make those developing threats a reality. We need to recognize that and act on it. The US and the UK are not required to commit suicide in the cause of upholding the credibility of international organizations that have already demonstrated themselves as hopelessly corrupt and demonstrably inert.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 22, 2006 6:33 AM

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