Monday, September 04, 2006

Why is Iran given so much leeway?

Die Welt--United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has just been to Tehran, with its Holocaust cartoon exhibition and proposed Holocaust denial conference. Regarding the uranium enrichment programme, he told Iran they now have two more weeks tacked on to the deadline.

Like Russia and China during the Cold War, Iran is being allowed to develop its nuclear capacity because war is not an option. No country is ready to challenge Iran effectively. Take a look at the published letters from President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad: the letters to President George Bush and to Chancellor Angela Merkel. At best, these are embarrassing, even humorous. But actually they're rather worrying. Their combination of sycophantic flattery, tendentious argument and idiosyncratic construction shows the work of a cunning yet unbalanced mind, an autodictat lost in a fantasy world of unconstrained ambition and hatred.

Yet the credible threat of war is the stick that must accompany the carrot of peace if diplomacy is to work. The way Solana and Kofi Annan openly recoil from the use of force makes it impossible to present Iran with a robust response to their defiance on nuclear enrichment. Ahmadinijad knows he can continue with impunity. The European Union and the United Nations are natural havens for appeasers. Anything but war. Today's European ethos is to maintain peace through employment and economic opportunity. The Iranians understand this.

  • The Times--Iran Impasses: Mr Ahmadinejad is a shameless showman. If he can turn this saga into a circus for his own benefit, then that is what he will do. This circus strategy will work if the EU and the United States can be divided. Their responses to Tehran’s latest stance will have been well received by Iranian hardliners.

  • The Times--Israel Plans for War with Iran and Syria: Threatened by a potentially nuclear-armed Tehran, Israel is preparing for a possible war with both Iran and Syria, according to Israeli political and military sources. The conflict with Hezbollah has led to a strategic rethink in Israel. A key conclusion is that too much attention has been paid to Palestinian militants in Gaza and the West Bank instead of the two biggest state sponsors of terrorism in the region, who pose a far greater danger to Israel’s existence, defence insiders say...In Washington, the military hawks believe that an airstrike against Iranian nuclear bunkers remains a more straightforward, if risky, operation than chasing Hezbollah fighters and their mobile rocket launchers in Lebanon. “Fixed targets are hopelessly vulnerable to precision bombing, and with stealth bombers even a robust air defence system doesn’t make much difference,” said Richard Perle, a leading neoconservative. The option of an eventual attack remains on the table after President George Bush warned on Friday that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

  • The Times--Russia Faces Humiliation at the Hands of Tehran: Moscow is kidding itself if it thinks it has much leverage with Tehran. The Russians offered to carry out uranium enrichment sufficient for the Iranians’ peaceable needs. President Ahmadinejad strung them along, just as he did negotiators representing the European Union. Reinvigorated by the success of his proxy in Lebanon, there is no reason why Ahmadinejad should engage with Moscow any more seriously now. Putin may be enjoying his present opportunity to thwart the Americans. But before too long he too may face humiliation at the hands of the Iranians.