Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Nuclear Crisis is not over

Iran’s Nuclear Crisis is not over!

Ali Asghar Kazemi
December 6, 2007

Despite recent report of the American National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) regarding the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities, as we shall see here, the crisis is far from being over. The contention entails two different views projected from the military and political perspectives.

In political analysis, we usually examine the perception and intention of adversaries and the environment in which certain strategy may be carried out along with the cost and benefit involved in various scenarios. In military planning however, we assume that if our opponent has a capability (actual or potential), it will use it against us and therefore we should neutralize this capacity or be prepared for it.

Perhaps in ordinary speaking the two views would lead to the same conclusion. But, this is a false impression at least in military strategic planning. That is to say, while in politics we take risks in our decisions and actions towards the opponent through brinksmanship and tact, in military we are not allowed to run into the business of risk calculation and other academic exercises.

Now this being said, let us examine first the key assessments of the NIE about Iran’s nuclear undertaking. The declassified summary of the report, which draws together information from 16 American intelligence agencies, says with "high confidence" that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003 "in response to international pressure". The assessment also says with "moderate confidence" that the program has not restarted. However, the report claims that Iran was keeping its options open on developing nuclear weapons.

A senior advisor to President Bush while considering the report as "positive" believed that the risk of a nuclear Iran remained "serious". In the same line, US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said the report's findings confirmed the US was "right to be worried" about Iran's nuclear ambitions and that President George W. Bush had "the right strategy". This statement clearly conveys the message that the White House is in no way prepared to back down its earlier position on Iran.

In the words of US President, the NIE report was a "warning signal" and his view that a nuclear Iran would be a danger "hasn't changed". Bush stressed that Iran was still trying to enrich uranium and could restart its weapons program. In his view the report was "an opportunity for us to rally the international community" to pressure the Iranian regime to suspend its efforts to enrich uranium. Since, in his judgment “they had the program, they halted it and they could restart it.”

Despite the fact that Mr. Bush is not a military man, it seems that his views clearly reflect that of military minded Neo-Cons in Washington. Analysts say the latest intelligence report will make it harder for proponents of military action against Iran to argue their case. However, when asked if military action was a possibility, Mr. Bush said: "The best diplomacy - effective diplomacy - is one in which all options are on the table." In his view, Iran remains a threat to the world despite new intelligence saying the country may not be building nuclear weapons.

Now let’s look to the case from a legal point of view. Despite all recent development that might be considered good news if not a national victory for Iran, the question of UN Security Council resolutions still remain unresolved. This means that disregard of the legal ground and political circumstances which brought Iran’s nuclear case to the Security Council, so far the Islamic regime has abstained from obeying the Council demand for cessation of nuclear enrichment. Given that the Security Council has acted under Chapter VII of the Charter and its demands are mandatory to all UN members, Iran’s defiance could create serious problem of credibility for this important world organization.

Notwithstanding certain cleavage between permanent members of the Security Council on Iran’s nuclear Issue, there seems to be little difference among them as regards to the credibility of this major world body. Therefore, the question of sanctions remains an active one because Iran is still defying the UN Security Council over its enrichment of uranium. So in all possibility, the debate among Security Council members will be reaching decisive point in the coming weeks.

Thus far the United States, France and the UK have urged much tougher economic measures, including boycotts of Iran's oil and gas industry which remain the main source of its income. But Russian and Chinese reluctance to go that far may be an obstacle to the scheme. These latter may even harden their position in the light of NIE report in relative favor of Iran. Specialists believe that if the Security Council fails to reach a consensus, France and Britain will eventually act through the EU to follow the US in taking unilateral measures against Iran.

This whole development and facts lead to the conclusion that Iran’s nuclear crisis is far from being over for good, as some high officials in Tehran wished that way. In other words, despite the untimely report of the NIE about the benign intention of the Islamic regime’s nuclear project, if Iran continues to disregard the Security Council resolution on nuclear enrichment, we should expect a crisis escalation in the days to come./

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