May 07, 2006

Tony Blair, Iran and the Alito Cloture Vote

Britain's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, publicly said that if the US wants to go into Iran, then it goes in without Britain. The will of the British people on this subject is hardly necessary to question, with the never-popular Iraq war dragging ever more heavily on Labour's political fortunes. So why has the British ambassador to the UN got such a heat on to get the potential use of force included in the Iran resolution that will go to a vote this coming week, maybe as early as Monday:

... The resolution, co-sponsored by Britain and France and backed by the U.S., would make mandatory the previous Security Council demands that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, plutonium reprocessing, and construction of a heavy-water nuclear reactor.

The draft states that the "proliferation risk" posed by Iran constitutes a threat to international peace and security, and the resolution would be adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can be enforced by sanctions or if necessary military action.

... [Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr] Jones Parry said he did not envision a resolution without Chapter 7. ...

Maybe because Jack Straw wasn't speaking for Blair. Straw has been demoted over his statements on Iran:

The key to the demotion of Jack Straw from foreign secretary is Iran. Mr Straw for more than a year, in his favourite outlet the BBC Today programme or at various press conferences, said repeatedly a military strike on Iran was inconceivable.

Politicians always try to avoid boxing themselves in, but Straw did on this issue: if a military strike had become a serious option, he would have been forced to resign.

... The problem for Mr Straw is that Tony Blair does not view Iran the same way. He regards the threat posed by Iran as the most serious in the world today, and is even more messianic on the issue than George Bush. That does not mean that a military strike will happen but Mr Blair, like Mr Bush, thinks it is a good idea to keep the option on the table, if only to keep Iran guessing. ...

I know I've been banging on about Iran a lot lately, but I think what we're witnessing right now is the equivalent of the cloture vote on the Alito nomination. The only chance for Democrats to prevent Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court was to maintain a filibuster, which required 40 votes against cloture of the filibuster. Or in common terms, they needed 40 votes to keep people talking.

There weren't 40 Democrats who would vote against closing debate. Still, when the final confirmation vote was taken, there were 41 Democrats and an Independent who voted against Alito's nomination. By then, however, it was too late. It was the vote for cloture that had mattered. After that, the people holding the most power got their way, the minority had lost their chance to meaningfully object.

As the first article points out, China and Russia have raised objections to the inclusion of the use of force as a possible sanction. Both countries have a veto, while the other three veto wielders, the US, UK and France are solidly behind what I believe they know is a de facto authorization of war in the event of Iranian non-compliance. Dick Cheney has already made unfavorable comments towards Russia, angering their press and transparently aimed at Russia's dissidence on this issue. Yet if those two countries really don't want a war, they should speak up now or forever hold their peace.

God knows I never in my life thought I'd find myself saying that Russia and China were the best hopes for diplomacy in any situation, ever. But these are strange and violent times where up is down, black is white, cats and dogs cohabitate and startled amphibians are sure to come raining down any day now. And that will be a shame, because amphibians are endangered and many are likely to be injured in such an event.

Indeed, China and Russia may be the only two countries on the world that can or might put a stop to this oncoming train wreck. Iran's parliament has said they will pull out of the non-proliferation treaty if they are forbidden from continuing their enrichment and nuclear energy program. Because you are unlikely to read this in many US news outlets without scare quotes around the word 'rights', this is the Iranian argument as reported in Xinhua:

The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has "no validity" if Iran's rights to carry out peaceful nuclear research were not accepted, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday.

"If the signature of a treaty threatens the rights of a nation, it has no validity for that nation," Ahmadinejad told a gathering of members of Iran's Basij militia, local media reported. Top Iranian officials have expressed on several occasions that Iran would reconsider its nuclear policy if its rights to nuclear technology research were not accepted. ...

If Iran is part of the NPT, they have to agree to inspections but are explicitly granted the right to pursue nuclear power generation. The treaty taketh away, but also specifically giveth. There's no evidence at present to suggest that they haven't cooperated with the IAEA in this matter once the program was brought to light, with Iran insisting that had they not developed the first stages in secret, they wouldn't have been allowed to develop the program at all. It's possible that they've got another program, it's also possible that they don't, but this is serious enough that there should be proof. If they pull out of the treaty, which they signed voluntarily, they'd be outside the system like neighboring Pakistan and India.

If the Bush administration had wanted to be really sure, though, if they'd wanted high quality inside information about the state of Iran's nuclear development, they shouldn't have outed the spy & network charged with monitoring it. Bush's intelligence claims record on Iraq was abysmal and has turned out to be untrue in virtually every particular. There's no reason to believe that the wild insistence that Iran must be hiding something is based on anything more than the iterative paranoia of this administration and their desire to find arguments of sufficient truthiness to justify what they wanted to do in the first place.

The time to speak up about this is now, as Cindy Sheehan recently said. Because minority voices might not matter for much longer. The tactical nuclear weapons testing has already got an official schedule.

Posted by natasha at May 7, 2006 04:56 AM | Iran | Technorati links |

If Iran is part of the NPT, they have to agree to inspections but are explicitly granted the right to pursue nuclear power generation. The treaty taketh away, but also specifically giveth.

And, as I have written (I'll skip the link), there's even more. The explicit guarantee of the NPT is that nuclear powers agree NOT to attack non-nuclear powers with nuclear weapons (not to mention they agree to start disarming!). Without that guarantee, why on earth would any nation sign the NPT in the first place? And that part of the NPT has been violated by the U.S. and France as well, threatening nuclear attacks against non-nuclear countries.

Posted by: Eli Stephens at May 8, 2006 04:39 PM