Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On Iran: More Carrot, Less Stick

The Washington Post is reporting that our European allies are taking a step back from the United Nations Security Council in order to craft a package of incentives meant to encourage Iran to cease enrichment. As the WP reports:

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told French reporters Monday night that it would offer an "ambitious package" of incentives, which would expand commercial ties to Iran, ensure Iran's energy needs were met and preserve Iran's right to develop nuclear energy. In exchange, Iran would be required to provide verifiable assurances that its energy program is not a cover for building atomic bombs.
I'm unimpressed by any incentive plan that includes an attempt to address "energy needs" and recognizes a "right to develop nuclear energy." Even if this defuses the short-term crisis, it seems guaranteed to make sure that Iran in 2010 will look a lot like North Korea in 2002: the owner of a nuclear capability that may or may not be weaponized. On one hand, it will be too much of a risk to confront them. On the other, there will be just enough doubt about their nuclear capabilities to keep international reaction from gathering against them.

The critical difference is that Iran's oil will make it impossible for the United States, and any other countries so inclined, to diplomatically isolate Iran the way it has North Korea.

Predictably this latest development seems to be the result of Russian and Chinese intransigence, at least according to the Washington Post.

The initiative announced Tuesday -- and the fact that it was backed by the United States -- reflected the Bush administration's inability to persuade Security Council members Russia and China to back a United Nations resolution that takes a tougher line with Iran, including an implicit threat of sanctions.

This seems a pretty good time to point out that the World Russian Forum 2006 is going to be held 16-18 May in Washington, DC. I haven't found much of a web presence for the Forum but the Russia House has posted their agenda and listed speakers. Events will be held at the Hart Senate Office Building on 16 May and the Capitol Building on 17 May. Ambassador Ushakov is slated to give the opening remarks and Representative Weldon (R-PA) is the keynote speaker. Now might not be a bad time to show up and point out how badly Russia is failing to meet the Forum's goal of moving Towards Economic, Political and Military Alliance.

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