brahma is of the opinion that iran is not as irrational as the yanks believe them to be; nor are they going to be as easy pickings as the yanks thought the iraqis would be (though even they have turned out to be a hard nut to crack).
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Brahma Chellaney < firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Jan 23, 2006 2:50 AM
Subject: Don't play into Iran's hands--ET.doc
Economic Times, January 23, 2006
Don't play into Iran's hands
Short-sighted penal steps against Iran will prove counterproductive, strengthening the mullah regime there and provoking it to use its oil weapon and walk out of the NPT regime, cautions Brahma Chellaney
The United States and European Union have taken the lead to frame a robust international response to a series of provocative actions by Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The wise way to tackle a renegade Iran, however, is not through punitive action but through sustained international pressure.
Any penalizing steps against a theocratic state that has already faced assorted sanctions for more than a quarter-century would only play into the hands of the Iranian mullahs and their political deputies led by Ahmadinejad. Since coming to office last August, Ahmadinejad has adopted fiery rhetoric reminiscent of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who led the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
New sanctions could constrict the already-tight world oil supplies and further drive up prices, affecting global economic outlook. A diplomatic or military confrontation with Iran could actually have a greater impact on world oil supplies and prices than what happened with the U.S. invasion of Iraq. That is because, unlike in 2003, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other oil producers do not the spare capacity to make up any supply deficit.
Sanctions will also demoralize and undercut the large, growing constituency of moderate Iranians that are opposed to the clergy's political role. Any major punitive action, moreover, is likely to provoke Tehran to play its energy and nuclear cards in a way the West might regret.
All told, the United States, Britain, Germany and France — the four states most actively seeking to discipline Iran — do not have a credible plan of action that could help tame the clerical regime in Tehran. Rather their present approach could prove counterproductive, adding to the list of America's Iran blunders, including the 1952 CIA-scripted overthrow of nationalist Mohammed Mossadeq and the 1980 U.S.-encouraged Iraqi aggression under Saddam Hussein against post-revolution Iran.
If one accepts that Ahmadinejad's actions are premeditated, with the intent to needle and provoke the West, it follows logically that the United States, Europe and democracies like Japan, Israel and India should not walk into his trap. Pushed against the wall by growing Western pressures, Ahmadinejad's regime has calculated that Iran has little to lose if it hit back.
Nothing will please Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs more than to be handed a freshly chiselled sanctions tool to whip up nationalism at home and tighten their vice-like grip on power at a time of waning revolutionary spirit in the country. The international effort should be to undermine, not strengthen, the mullah hold over Iran.
Rather than be incited into imposing sanctions by the Iranian president's wacky actions — from breaking nuclear-facility seals to announcing a conference that would call into question evidence that the Nazis conducted a mass murder of European Jews during World War II — it will be more prudent to find quiet ways to choke Iran's nuclear ambitions and internationally isolate Ahmadinejad. It is possible to achieve both.
A sober, able international response, however, has been made harder to shape because reaction to Ahmadinejad's incendiary rhetoric and irresponsible actions in some circles has veered toward the extreme, as exemplified by public calls for exemplary punishment and even a military option against Iran. With such calls has come exaggeration, with Iran portrayed as a pressing proliferation threat.
Iran is years away from acquiring the capability to build a nuclear weapon. And it is unlikely to attain such capability as long as the International Atomic Energy Agency is tightly monitoring its nuclear programme, as it has been ever since it discovered undeclared Iranian nuclear activity. The only way Iran will be able to build nuclear military capability would be if it exercised its right to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and kicked out IAEA inspectors — the route North Korea chose. That is exactly what coercive action or sanctions against Iran will invite.
Ahmadinejad has sprung a nasty surprise by abruptly ending a two-year Iranian moratorium on nuclear research activity. But by daring the IAEA and Security Council to declare Iran in breach of its legal obligations, there is method to his madness. He is directly challenging the implicit U.S.-led effort to divide non-nuclear states in two categories — those that can or cannot pursue nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities. By forcing America's hand so as to bring out in the open that states armed or shielded with nuclear weapons are changing the rules, he is seeking to bring matters to a head in the crisis-torn NPT regime.
The challenges that confront the non-proliferation regime go far beyond the Iran case. Those challenges are symbolized by the nine-year impasse at the UN's disarmament negotiating forum in Geneva; the lack of any reference to disarmament or non-proliferation in the final document of the World Summit at the UN last September; the bleak prospects of bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force; and the stunning failure of the 2005 NPT review conference to produce any consensus.
Defusing the NPT crisis demands greater attention to find ways to resolve international differences on three core areas — disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful applications of nuclear energy. Misplaced, one-dimensional zealotry on non-proliferation that seeks to portray Iran as a central challenge to the NPT not only misses the wood for the trees but also risks doing what Ahmadinejad wants — exacerbate the regime's problems.
At issue are Iran's intentions, not capabilities. They can be effectively monitored and checkmated through stepped-up IAEA inspections, including of the resumed Iranian research activity, and greater multilateral cooperation on export controls to ensure that no sensitive items or designs reach Iran, especially from China, Russia and Pakistan.
As a country wedged between five nuclear-weapons states — Israel, Russia, China, Pakistan and India — and part of U.S. President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" and regime-change approach, Iran has an entrenched proclivity to play nuclear politics. But the international effort should be to blunt rather than sharpen the very card that helped bring Ahmadinejad to power — nuclear nationalism.