Saturday, January 14, 2006

Economist special report: Iran's nuclear ambitions

Economist (via Iran va Jahan) - Will the Europeans, America, Russia and others call Iran to account, or will they have their own bluff called instead?

...Getting to the council is one thing; getting action from it is another. A presidential statement urging Iran to comply with inspectors' requests, and even assigning the IAEA wider investigative powers, might get through, since the point would be to strengthen the inspectors' hands, not take Iran's case away from them. Beyond that, other steps could include political sanctions, such as denial of visas for sporting teams or for members of Iran's regime (similar actions are thought to have helped in the past in dealing with the recalcitrant Serb government, for example).

...A likelier alternative might be to launch an attritional campaign by attacking Natanz and Bushehr, recognising that the resulting damage would at best delay Iran's nuclear progress...To attack Iran this way would make sense only if it were thought likely that a friendlier Iranian regime would then emerge. But Iran has no obvious, friendly government-in-waiting. And Iran could strike back—by closing the oil chokepoint of the Strait of Hormuz or hitting American or Israeli interests via proxies in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon and the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Israel is well within range of Iranian missiles. Diplomacy has not stopped Iran so far. But military action is by no means an attractive alternative.