Kofi Annan on Iran

In response to the Iranian parliament voting to resume uranium enrichment, Kofi Annan has issued a warning—to the United States:
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned the Bush administration that the Security Council might deadlock if asked to punish Iran for its nuclear program… China and Russia, which have strong economic ties to Iran, might veto any push to sanction Iran, Annan suggested in interviews with USA TODAY. "Action or inaction will have a great impact on future cases and on our efforts to promote nuclear non-proliferation," Annan said. A deadlock on Iran, he said, could embolden North Korea and future North Koreas.
So instead of having a deadlock in the Security Council, which would encourage proliferation, Kofi wants us to avoid the issue entirely, which will impress would-be proliferators with our steely resolve and steadfast commitment. Huh?

Granted that the Security Council will veto any attempt to get tough on Iran. Given that, Kofi would rather preserve the tenuous illusion of international solidarity rather than display for all the world to see that major powers are willing to cover for rogue states. Unfortunately, everybody knows what is really going down, and the absence of an official diplomatic headcount will change nothing. Indeed, if it becomes clear that Russia and China intend to oppose the West over Iran, then we could drop the polite fictions we have been hamstrung by and get down to business.

That is certainly the result I would prefer. But it is more dangerous in the short-term than the Kofi approach; it is probable that Kofi and those of like mind hope that Russia and China will shift their positions over time, and realign with the West on nuclear proliferation and other issues. If we have an open confrontation, this scenario becomes much less likely; but so long as there is no need to draw lines in the sand, Russia and China retain the option of changing their stances without losing face.

There are two key flaws in this approach. First, it assumes that we have time to wait for Russia and China. Given the advanced stage of the Iranian weapons program, that assumption is questionable. Second, it assumes that Russia and China have compelling reasons to align with the West against Iran. If anything, the reverse is true. A nuclear Iran would create a huge impediment to the growth of American power, and also supplies oil to China and buys weapons from both. On the other hand, if the theocroligarchy were to fall, America would almost certainly become the new power broker; hence, American influence would blanket the entire Middle East.

Neither China nor Russia want that. China especially seems to be gearing up for a fight in the near future, and Russia is quickly moving past its Weimar phase and into its Fascist phase. I believe it better for us to confront them now than to let things continue to simmer, while Iran moves closer and closer to a functioning arsenal.

No comments: