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Wedge Formation: Iran Exploiting Cracks

By Steve Schippert | August 30, 2006

Since Iran announced their nuanced ‘multifaceted response’ on August 22 to the P5+1 nuclear proposal and the UN Security Council’s cessation demands, and with the UNSC’s August 31 deadline for the cessation of Iran’s enrichment activities approaching, the Tehran regime has been successfully exploiting cracks in the presumed unity among the Security Council’s ‘Permanent 5’ and other Western nations.

That Iran's 'multifaceted response' flat out called the UN Security Council resolution "illegal" is, of course, not to be misinterpreted simply as a "No." After all, lead Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani offered a “new formula” and declared that Iran “is prepared as of Aug. 23rd to enter serious negotiations.”

Yet, just one day prior, Iran had refused UN inspectors at the Natanz enrichment facility, apparently too busy preparing for the coming “serious negotiations.”

It is precisely this use of ‘multifaceted’ nuance that is a concern, enabling Iran to exploit what appear more like deep chasms rather than cracks in ‘Western’ unity. And it has worked beautifully.

Following Iran’s announcement last week, Russia without delay offered to extend talks with its nuclear client, which would effectively nullify the meaning of the agreed-to UNSC deadline of August 31. "It is very important to understand the nuances and grasp constructive elements, if in fact they exist, and work out how to work further with Tehran on the basis of known proposals of the six countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said following Iran’s ‘multifaceted response.’

And with that Russia had taken the bait. For Larijani sought to cement the wedge between Washington and Moscow by saying in his original August 22nd statement on Iran’s response, "Despite other parties' breach of commitments, the Islamic Republic of Iran has proposed a constructive course."

At an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers that followed, EU foreign policy head Javier Solana resolved to extend talks with Iran to "work to understand properly." This again was precisely Iran’s expectation.

Despite the diplomatically nuanced Iranian response, Iran's answer to calls for cessation of enrichment activities remains resoundingly “No.” Ali Larijani said plainly, "The road that we have taken is irreversible. Iran intends to produce the nuclear fuel that it is going to use." Given Iran's determination that the entire resolution is 'illegal', this should surprise no one.

Days after the emergency EU ministers’ meeting that made the determination to extend talks (and therefore any UN ‘deadline’), the French and German foreign ministers again expressed a renewed desire to keep open the 'possibility of dialogue' with Iran. While the foreign ministers “agreed that the 'resolve and unity of the international community' were key elements with the next phase of the conflict,” the continued calls for more talks – ongoing for over three years now – fly in the face of the unity that resolved to set the firm deadline of August 31 for Iran to cease enrichment.

Reminding the world of their threat and potential to shut down the Strait of Hormuz oil shipping channels, Iran test fired a new submarine-to-surface missile as it extended its 'Blow of Zolfaghar' military exercises into the Persian Gulf.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov declared that, just days ahead of the Security Council’s approaching deadline, "talk about sanctions is premature." Not sanctions days from the so-called UNSC deadline, but mere “talk about sanctions.”

Sensing yet another wedge forming, the United States in turn announced that it would seek sanctions outside an indecisive UN Security Council if it comes to that. American Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said, “You don't need Security Council authority to impose sanctions, just as we have [in the past].”

In a clear attempt to exploit an opportunity to further pry America from other members of the Security Council, Iranian spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said in response, "These remarks are an obvious insult to the Security Council. These remarks are just bullying and baseless remarks and show that they [the US] are not competent to be a member of the Security Council."

The US Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Stuart Levey, said of Iran, "They are the central banker of terror. It is a country that has terrorism as a line item in its budget."

Remaining defiant, Ahmadinejad demanded that UN secretary-general Kofi Annan “move within the framework of international regulations.” It should apparently be disregarded that much of Iran’s nuclear hardware and technology has been gained through the illicit AQ Kahn global nuclear proliferation network distinctly not “within the framework of international regulations” nor, specifically, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Ironically (and repeatedly), Iran threatens to withdraw from the NPT. This threat is about as meaningful as Pete Rose threatening to no longer abide by Major League Baseball’s gambling by-laws.

But rest assured Kofi Annan himself is expected to pay a personal visit to Tehran on Saturday, presumably bringing to bear the full weight of the United Nations’ ‘demands’ upon the recalcitrant Iranian regime. At the end of the day, between shutter clicks and press conferences, Jesse Jackson's public relations tour / negotiations with Syrian President Bahsar Assad and Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal will shamefully have netted more tangible results than will Annan’s public parade through Tehran.

To pry apart what unity may remain, Iran issued an ultimatum Tuesday to the Japanese on developing an Iranian oilfield within 17 days or face losing the contract to either of Iran's Security Council protectorates - Russia or China - further seeking to pressure the resource dependent US ally to either break with American wishes or resume their energy deals with the state sponsor of terrorism. The implications here are significant as once again economic interests are plied to weaken international criticism of Iran and drive a wedge between resource-dependent Japan and the US, while also courting Japanese rival China in a game of energy brinksmanship.

Given the likelihood that Iran's 17-day deadline for Japan will be firmly held, it is ironic that the body of nations that oppose Iran are likely to witness a determination and conviction in opposition from the theocratic regime that will prove to far exceed the level of resolve those aligned nations are likely to muster for themselves.

Iran requires no deftly managed, delicate consensus in order to be effective. Also unlike the West and the various United Nations gatherings, Iran is not conflict averse.

Whether measured by hurling Hizballah violently at Israel as a global diversion from an original July 12 deadline or by heaving mounds of ‘multifaceted’ and nuanced paper at the process-obsessed United Nations, Iran is winning.

Iran is winning neither because they are more in the right nor because they have more effective arrows in their quiver. They are winning because they are not afraid to use them.

It is simply a matter of will. The West lacks the will to engage Iran in the coordinated war that has been declared upon us all.

We flounder at our own peril as Ahmadinejad’s Iran races towards attaining nuclear weapons in the quest to “pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam.”

There are just no palatable options left. This must be recognized.

Iran's resolve - whether driven by religious fervor, jihadist anti-Western ideologies or political gamesmanship - is to be doubted at great risk. So long as the world shows a lack of willingness to sacrifice and stand firm against Iran, Iran will firmly stand against the World.

And our foes in the War against the jihadi will surely note our weakness.

2 Comments

China to start filling strategic oil preserve

Japanese Reserves 171 days of consumption

Time is a two-edged sword.

With more than 2 Billion barrels already pumped into various SPRs, Irans 2 million barrel a day capacity is slowly losing its power to persuade.

IMHO - the biggest concern will be Iran's ability to close the straits of hormuz temporarily.

It is hard to imagine worse international timing for Israel's lack of success in Lebanon. Israel's inability to neutralize Hezbollah contributed significantly to the atmosphere of powerlessness that has reigned in the international community over the Iranian nuclear issue. If, at the start of the summer, this issue was seen as a challenge for international diplomacy, today, it is considered an unadulterated headache. The results of the fighting in Lebanon greatly complicated the handling of this issue and significantly strengthened Iran's balance of deterrence with the West.

In Iran's eyes, Hezbollah's success reinforced the ethos that entrenchment, stubbornness and motivation are capable of overcoming military superiority. If a small military organization such as Hezbollah could survive a massive onslaught by the Israel Air Force, then this is all the more true for a strong country such as Iran. The story of the Al-Manar television station, which the IAF was unable to put out of operation despite numerous attempts, is, from Iran's standpoint, a parable for the survival of its nuclear program.

In recent years, the Iranian government has turned the issue of nuclear development, and especially its uranium enrichment program, into a symbol of sovereignty and national honor. Iran claims it has an unassailable right, both by treaty and by international law, to produce every element of the nuclear fuel cycle, even as it stresses that its goal is nuclear fuel and not nuclear weapons.

The Iranian rejection of the Security Council's demand that it freeze its enrichment program as a condition for negotiations left no doubts about Tehran's determination. Today, even more than in the past - and Hezbollah's success merely bolstered this attitude - Iran is refusing to make concessions on the nuclear issue. True, it is not interested in sanctions, but it will not allow fear of sanctions to damage the core of its nuclear program (no pun intended).

As Iran's determination grows, the West's resolution weakens. It is not just that today, the Western public, especially in the United States, has no interest in talk about exercising the military option against Iran: The Israeli experience in Lebanon weakened belief in the ability of aerial bombing to achieve diplomatic goals. Rather, it seems there is a fear of any confrontation with Iran.