March 14, 2006

Iran's Almost Allies

It'll be interesting to see what Bush does to twist the arms of Russia and China, neither of whom want to see a UN resolution against Iran's enrichment activities:

China and Russia are blocking agreement on a U.S.-backed statement by the United Nations Security Council that Iran must suspend uranium enrichment activities, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said.

Envoys from China, France, Russia, the U.K. and U.S., the council's five permanent members, ended a third round of talks today on a draft statement that also asks the UN's nuclear watchdog agency to report on Iran's response to the suspension demand. ...

In the above article, Iran reaffirms its right to enrich uranium for use in its light water reactors. This guest editorial at Informed Comment explains the difference between light water reactors and heavy water reactors, mainly that light water reactors don't generate weapons grade plutonium and would have to be completely shut down to remove the low-grade plutonium they do produce, which itself would have to be extensively processed for weaponization. The editorial notes that there's no evidence presently of any Iranian program to produce nuclear weapons, nor is there evidence of non-compliance with their treaty obligations. And there's definitely no evidence that the current Iranian president, for all that he sounds more like the clerics that run the country, has any more power over policy than the last president, who represented what passes for secular humanism in Iran.

The case of the American side of this argument boils down to 'they're looking at us funny, we don't care what the law says.' The case of everyone not presently in America's pocket is that you can't punish someone for a crime they haven't committed. Not even if you strongly suspect that they're thinking about committing it. Or might like to commit it. Or might someday have the capability to commit it.

This article more fully airs the Russian position, which is that they would like to resolve the situation diplomatically and are unclear how bringing the UN in at this time fits with working for a resolution through the IAEA. The end of the article notes that the British have also declared an interest in an incremental and diplomatic process, though they're siding with Bush on the resolution language:

... [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] said the primary issue for the world was to determine with certainty whether or not Iran’s civilian nuclear energy programme also posed a threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, as charged by the US which accuses Tehran of trying secretly to build nuclear weapons. “That is the most important question. We want to find the answer to it,” he said.

However, “we do not agree with those who, as we see it, are trying through their actions to use the situation around Iran in order to achieve some political ends in their relations with the regime currently in power in Tehran,” Lavrov added. ...

There's been a great deal of talk about Bush's commitment to 'promote democracy in Iran' as an alternative form of regime change, one that presumably spares our infantry divisions and would at least in theory put a friendly government in charge of Iran's nuclear program. Instead of being a wishy-washy political ally of the country, like the governments of Russia and China, Bush would like to be the bestest buddy of the Iranian people. The Princess Diana, if you will, of democracy building. The 'President of people's hearts.' How's that working so far, you wonder? Not so hot:

Prominent activists inside Iran say President Bush's plan to spend tens of millions of dollars to promote democracy here is the kind of help they don't need, warning that mere announcement of the U.S. program endangers human rights advocates by tainting them as American agents.

In a case that advocates fear is directly linked to Bush's announcement, the government has jailed two Iranians who traveled outside the country to attend what was billed as a series of workshops on human rights. Two others who attended were interrogated for three days.

The workshops, conducted by groups based in the United States, were held last April, but Iranian investigators did not summon the participants until last month, about the time the Bush administration announced plans to spend $85 million "to support the cause of freedom in Iran this year."

"We are under pressure here both from hard-liners in the judiciary and that stupid George Bush," human rights activist Emad Baghi said as he waited anxiously for his wife and daughter to emerge from interrogation last week. "When he says he wants to promote democracy in Iran, he gives money to these outside groups and we're in here suffering."

... "It seems to me the United States is not studying the history of Iran very carefully," Pourostad said. "Whenever they came and supported an idea publicly, the public has done the opposite." ...

At present, Iran seems like a country that, if it had any more friends and a little less Sharia law, might contemplate drowning its sorrows in drink. Tea, of course. I mean tea. Like, you know, about an ounce of tea. The sticky kind. I've been told it can make you paranoid, by a friend, but under their present circumstances its hard to imagine that a little extra paranoia would be of consequence.

Posted by natasha at March 14, 2006 01:57 AM | International | Technorati links |