January 18, 2006
The Iran Charade, Part II
was what made this EU Three approach so successful. They (Britain,
France and Germany) stood together and they had one uniform position.''
Chancellor Angela Merkel, Jan. 13, 2006
-- Makes you want to weep. One day earlier, Britain, France and
Germany admitted that their two years of talks to stop Iran's
nuclear weapons program had collapsed. The Iranians had broken
the seals on their nuclear facilities and were resuming activity
in defiance of their pledges to the EU Three. This negotiating
exercise, designed as an alternative to the U.S. approach of sanctioning
Iran for its violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, had proved
entirely futile. If anything, the two-year hiatus gave Iran time
to harden its nuclear facilities against bombardment, acquire
new antiaircraft capacities and clandestinely advance its program.
this, the chancellor of Germany declares the exercise a success
because the allies stuck together! The last such success was Dunkirk.
Lots of solidarity there too.
was that this assessment comes from a genuinely good friend, the
new German chancellor, who, unlike her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder
(now a wholly owned Putin flunky working for Russia's state-run
oil monopoly), actually wants to do something about terrorism
and nuclear proliferation.
Instead of being years away from the point of no return for an
Iranian bomb, as we were before we allowed Europe to divert anti-proliferation
efforts into transparently useless talks, Iran is probably just
months away. And now, of course, Iran is run by an even more radical
government, led by a president who fervently believes in the imminence
of the apocalypse.
Having delayed two years, we now have to deal with a set of fanatical
Islamists that we know in advance will not be deterred from pursuing
nuclear weapons by any sanctions.
we could get real sanctions. Which we will not. The last remaining
months before Iran goes nuclear are about to be frittered away
in pursuit of this newest placebo.
Russia and China will threaten to veto any serious sanctions.
The Chinese in particular have secured in Iran a source of oil
and gas outside the American sphere to feed their growing economy
and are quite happy geopolitically to support a rogue power that
-- like North Korea -- threatens, distracts and diminishes the
power of China's chief global rival, the United States.
because the Europeans have no appetite for real sanctions either.
A travel ban on Iranian leaders would be a joke; they don't travel
anyway. A cutoff of investment and high-tech trade from Europe
would be a minor irritant to a country of 70 million people with
the second largest oil reserves in the world and with oil at $60
a barrel. North Korea tolerated 2 million dead from starvation
to get its nuclear weapons. Iran will tolerate a shortage of flat-screen
sanctions that might conceivably have any effect would be a boycott
of Iranian oil. No one is even talking about that because no one
can bear the thought of the oil shock that will instantly follow
taking 4.2 million barrels a day off the market.
the threat here works in reverse. It is the Iranians who have
the world over a barrel. On Jan. 15, Iran's economy minister warned
that Iran would retaliate for any sanctions by cutting
its exports to ``raise oil prices beyond levels the West expects.''
A full cutoff could bring $100 oil and plunge the world into economic
one of the reasons the Europeans are so mortified by the very
thought of a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
The problem is not just that they are spread out and hardened,
making them difficult to find and to damage sufficiently to seriously
set back Iran's program.
that mortifies the Europeans is what Iran might do after
such an attack -- not just cut off its own oil exports but shut
down the Strait of Hormuz (through which nearly half of the world's
export oil passes) by firing missiles at tankers or scuttling
its own vessels to make the strait impassable. It would require
an international armada led by the United States to break such
-- serious economic disruption and possible naval action -- are
something a cocooned, aging, post-historic Europe cannot even
contemplate. Which is why the Europeans have had their heads in
the sand for two years. And why they will spend the little time
remaining -- before a group of apocalyptic madmen go nuclear --
putting their heads back in the sand. And congratulating themselves
on allied solidarity as they do so in unison.
2006, Washington Post Writers Group