Thursday, April 1, 2010

Iran Sanctions Gain Momentum

The nuclear threat posed by Iran has proved to be nettlesome for the U.S.  The world community, given America's tendency toward interventionism, has viewed our hard line towards Iran with suspicion.  Especially worrisome has been the fear that the U.S. and/or Isreal would employ some sort of military strike against facilities in Iran, believed to be capable of producing nuclear weapons, which could be used to either strike Israel or threaten Iran's neighbors.

The world community has substantially shifted its stance.  With French President Nicolas Sarkovsky at his side, President Barack Obama stated Tuesday, that he hopes to have international sanctions against Iran in place "within weeks," not months, because of its continuing nuclear program.  However, the full support of the United Nations is not yet solidified.

For his part, Sarkozy told reporters, "Iran cannot continue its mad race" toward acquiring nuclear weapons.

On the U.N. Security Council, permanent members Russia and China, have previously expressed reservations toward a tougher set of sanctions, as have several of the rotating members who do not have veto powers.

However, recently, both China and Russia have signalled, overtly or covertly, marked shifts in their stances.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton predicted new sanctions would be forthcoming, hinting that skeptical nations, such as China and Russia, would eventually come along.  At the conclusion of an international meeting of 8 major powers in Canada, Clinton cited a growing alarm around the world about the consequences of a nuclear Iran.

According to diplomats in other countries, China has recently agreed to begin discussing specific sanctions against Iran, offering the first sign that Beijing may be willing to back a new round of United Nations measures.

Such a shift would be a major breakthrough for the U.S., which views China’s previous reluctance to back sanctions as the biggest obstacle to its intention of ratcheting up the pressure on Iran. Washington believes that if Beijing’s support is obtained, a security resolution would be a done deal.

The diplomats cautioned that difficult negotiations lie ahead over the scope of any sanctions.  Washington hopes they would be designed to thwart Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, punish the Revolutionary Guard and increase the country’s financial isolation.

Russia has already signalled its willingness to support sanctions on Iran, although like China, it favors less stringent measures than the U.S. and its allies.

American diplomats added that countries with temporary membership of the Security Council, such as Turkey and Brazil, whose votes are not necessary for passage, but who could help convey a message of international unity, are more likely to be secured if China is brought on board.

Assisting the U.S. in its attempt to pursuade the international community is the defection of a key Iranian nuclear scientist, Shahram Amiri to the United States.

According to the people briefed on the intelligence operation, Amiri's defection was part of a long-planned CIA operation.  The CIA reportedly approached the scientist in Iran through an intermediary, who made an offer of resettlement on behalf of the United States.

Using information gathered from Amiri and other sources, the CIA has produced a new report on Iran's nuclear capabilties.

The CIA report is the latest official study expressing concern over Iran's continuing nuclear activities.  The International Atomic Energy Agency recently issued a report warning that continuing nuclear activities in violation of U.N. resolutions raise "concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."

Isolating Iran, without military intervention represents a major international victory for the Obama Administration and lessens the liklihood, in the near-term of unilateal military action, which would be dangerous and de-stabilize the entire Middle East.  It would also, in all probability, cause a major disruption to oil supplies and deal a blow to global efforts to continue to engineer an economic recovery.

Marko's Take

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