With tensions between the West and Iran increasing daily, the US and European Union (EU) have imposed further sanctions on Iran and called for a new round of talks. Is the new US-European Union sanctions on Iran keeping the talks going? The answer depends on whether or not the EU is truly serious about isolating Iran and doing everything in their power to make them accept terms of negotiations acceptable to the international community. Currently the EU seems more focused on trying to contain Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, rather than trying to bring the Iranian nuclear program to a close. This leaves the United States with a weak hand in negotiating with the Iranian regime.
“The United Nations and its leading member states are determined to isolate Iran at any cost, particularly through economic pressure, in efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities,” said John Kerry, the secretary of state. “The Russians understand this very well and, therefore, are preparing for a military intervention against Iran in the near future,” said Russia’s Foreign Minister Dimitri Simes. However, the prospect of an invasion by the Russian military into Iran does not seem to be high on the agenda of the current round of talks in Geneva. Iran has neither confirmed nor denied the reports of Russian troops being stationed in Iran. So where does that leave the US in negotiating a deal with the Russians to put off the UN Security Council from passing another resolution condemning Iran’s recent ballistic launches?
The Russians have offered to broker peace in the Middle East and make way for the UN to work with the P5+1 group of countries, including the US and European Union, on inspecting and monitoring Iran’s nuclear program. Russia would also like to see sanctions against Iran’s oil exports banned. However, Russia’s offer sounds like a concession rather than an unconditional commitment to end sanctions against Iran. The US is not backing off of its demands for Iran to halt enriching Uranium or give up its nuclear weapons program. Secretary Rice has made it clear that the administration is open to an unconditional agreement between the P5+1 and Iran.
With Russian support, the P5+1 may be able to push through sanctions against Iran and get the sanctions passed through both houses of Congress. A UN Security Council resolution is not expected before the end of this year. Iran is also working on a long-range missile that could go beyond Israel’s Air Defense. Israel is worried that Iran will use this weapon to strike targets inside Israel. In fact, the US and its Arab allies are worried that Iran will use this technology to send its Scud missiles into Israel. Iran has no intention of using this technology to attack the United States or anyone else.
In addition, Russia is involved in supplying its military with sophisticated anti-aircraft systems, including Pantsats, which are quite capable of shooting down aerial aircraft. Russia has very advanced Pantsats and they are also using these against American and British jets. Iran is supporting proxy groups and terrorist organizations inside Chechnya, so it is not clear whether or not Iran has the necessary technical skills to manufacture a nuclear weapon. One thing is certain, if Iran does get a nuclear weapon, it will use it to shoot down air-defense systems and then use them against civilian populations in a terrorist attack.
The United States is concerned that Iran will use its stockpile of enriched Uranium in conjunction with its nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons capabilities. It has already agreed to sign on to IAEA safeguards, but it will take time for the agency to verify its end of the deal. Iran has yet to prove that it has all of the nuclear services and equipment it says it has. Inspectors from the UN, IAEA, and US Department of Energy have been unable to find any enrichment facility. There is also a question as to how much enriched Uranium will be supplied to Iran once sanctions are imposed.
As President Bush signs this bill into law, Iran is celebrating and hoping that the new restrictions will cripple the US from pursuing its case at the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran was the world’s leading supplier of nuclear arms until Iraq became disenchanted with the deal. But now with the UN imposing new measures and the IAEA becoming more strict, Iran is trying to win friends and cover its own shortcomings. The IAEA wants to verify that Iran is not trying to design a nuclear weapon. If it fails, it will be a very big headache for the US and its European allies.
The Europeans have long supported a negotiated settlement between Iran and the six world powers (the UN is still uninterested). For now, they will simply look to make tough economic measures against Iran. For the moment, the UN and the US are focused on implementing the ban on enrichment of Uranium to ensure that Iran cannot make nuclear weapons.