Posted 9/11/2005 8:51 PM
Iran's strength is becoming bigger problem for U.S.
By Barbara Slavin, USA TODAY
Iran, one of two remaining members of President Bush's "axis of evil," is gaining strength and confounding U.S. attempts to curb its growing influence, several experts on Iran say.
Higher oil prices and political progress by Shiite Muslim groups in Iraq and Lebanon are empowering a country that is developing nuclear technology and supporting groups the United States regards as terrorist. As a result, Iran is better able to cause problems for the United States and its allies.
In an interview last week, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Iran is becoming more isolated because of its resumption last month of efforts to produce nuclear fuel. Burns predicted that the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, would refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council when the board meets Sept. 19. "This is an issue of credibility for the entire international community," he said.
Recent developments may give Iran some advantages:
• The price of oil has hit new highs, enriching a nation that sits on the second-largest known oil reserves after Saudi Arabia.
• Iran resumed a nuclear fuel program last month but has faced no punishment apart from a mild rebuke from the IAEA. Despite Burn's comments, Russia on Sept. 5 joined China in rejecting punishment of Iran by the U.N. Security Council. Both have veto power on the council. On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in Tehran, "There is no legal or legitimate reason ... that Iran be referred" to the council." (Related story: Iran warns against U.N. referral)
• Hezbollah, a Shiite party Iran organized in the early 1980s, won a record 14 seats in Lebanon's 128-member parliament in June and its first Cabinet post, in charge of electricity. The United States has branded Hezbollah a terrorist group.
• Iraqis have drafted a new constitution that lays the groundwork for an autonomous Shiite state in Iraq's oil-laden south.
U.S. actions since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have improved Iran's strategic position, says Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism chief in the Bush and Clinton administrations.
He says Iran has achieved its goals from the 1980s: the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, who invaded Iran in 1980; political rights for Iraq's Shiite majority and free access to Shiite holy sites in the Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala.
Iran still faces adversaries in Iraq, including a nationalistic young Shiite leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, and long-term domestic challenges that require Western investment, particularly in its oil industry, says Kenneth Katzman, an Iran expert at the Congressional Research Service.
Clifford Kupchan, an Iran expert at the Eurasia Group, a New York-based research body, says there is a danger that Iran's leaders "will become overconfident and trip."
But U.S. options may be diminishing. "I'm not hopeful that Iran will give much away," says Vali Nasr, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
The top U.S. option — talks between Iran and Britain, France and Germany — has collapsed. Iran last month rejected a European proposal for enhanced economic and political ties in return for giving up efforts to make nuclear fuel.
Other options for dealing with Iran are also problematic:
•Sanctions by Europeans. In return for U.S. backing for their negotiating effort, Germany, France and Britain promised the Bush administration to get tough if Iran resumed its nuclear fuel program. But despite strong rhetoric from France in particular, European governments may balk for fear of further inflating world oil prices. Iran last year produced an average of 4.1 million barrels a day, nearly 5% of the world's total, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
"I think the Europeans will cave but it will be a slow-motion cave," says Ray Takeyh, an Iran scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think tank.
•Military action. While Bush has said he prefers a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions, he has refused to rule out attacking Iran's nuclear installations. Even Iranians opposed to the Islamic regime believe their country has a right to peaceful nuclear technology.
Any attack would push Iran to increase its support of anti-U.S. groups in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, Clarke says.
Iranian media have also pointed to U.S. government disarray over Hurricane Katrina.
"Katrina proved that America cannot solve its internal problems and is incapable of facing these kinds of natural disasters, so it cannot bring peace and democracy to other parts of the world," wrote an Iranian newspaper, Siyasat-e Ruz, last week.
• Direct negotiations. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and possible candidate for president in 2008, has suggested that the administration offer talks with the new Iranian president, who is due in New York City for a U.N. summit this week.
Nasr says such talks would be popular with the Iranian public and could bolster the new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose conservative faction thwarted efforts by Iranian reformers to improve ties. However, neither side has requested a meeting. Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to see the Iranian this week.
There will be no military action against Iran. It's not in the national will. Bush has done a poor job in educating the American public as to why we are in Iraq. He'll never be able to get anyone to go along with military action in Iran, barring an immeadiate, direct threat.
Expect no help from the EU on this either. Why were they so set against military action in Iraq? Because Russia, Germany, and France were the largest customers of Iraqi oil. They had a vested interest in the UN inspections working. If the UN Inspections worked, and sanctions were lifted, they'd have access to Iraqi oil. Iraq was willing to sell barrels in Euros, not Dollars. They had everything to gain from stopping us. The US wanted regime change. The success of UN inspections would not allow that. That may be one reason the invasion was somewhat "hurried".
Iran is now offering to sell barrels in Euros instead of Dollars. That means countries doing business with Iran for oil wouldn't need to buy dollars, that are being devalued, and just use Euros. www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/GH26Dj01.html
Iran is going after China and India as customers for oil. They're playing along, because they can. If you remember the US suffered a big political set-back, somewhat engineered by the Chinese in the very same region as this: www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/GI10Ak01.html
Politically, after blocking Europe's cheap oil from Iraq, there would be an even harder road to take to block Europe's only other option for cheap oil, Iran. Europe needs oil just like everyone else. The EU cried alot about Iraq, but really didn't make any real effort to stop it. They probably figured a quick take-over would work out just as well for them if we succeeded. Remember no one was predicting the insurgency. With Iraq messed up oil production wise, they have no choice but to go with Iran. They would actively oppose any US moves, and we don't have the strength to do it unilaterally while still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Our best option would be for a political move. One that is a long-term, planned and executed campaign. Unfortunately, I don't think the US has the diplomatic talent for it.
Yeah, Richard Clarke is a independent thinking, non partisan kind of guy. Right.
By actively, I meant politically. The EU politically sat on the sidelines with Iraq in real terms. We could ignore them, of course and go it completely alone.
Your idea that Iran is a pushover is the same argument people used for Iraq. Take a few key places and everyone will run into our arms happy to be liberated. We had bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as well to hit them from. It would be a repetition of the same mistakes we made in Iraq. I would hope we'd learn from the past.
Iran's military hasn't been degraded like Iraq's had. They've been strengthening with Russian and Chinese help. There aren't effective sanctions in place against Iran, like Iraq had. They have acess to the latest anti-aircraft and anti-tank technology. They haven't had to rebuild after getting their ass kicked in the Gulf War like Iraq. The haven't had a NO-fly zone over two thrids of their country for a decade that we could use to shape the battlefield and degrade most of their resources before the real war started. Unlike the Iraqis, the Iranians are selling oil to many countries. Countries that would be happy to help against us.
The Iraqis were isolated in every way, we already had air superiority over the country, we already degraded their air defense and command and control. We had plenty of people here saying the same thing about how the Iraqis would rise up and take over and everything would be hunky dory.
Sure, we could whip the Iranians. There is no changing the physics of combat power, but warfare is also political, and we aren't in a winning postion for that.
Then there's always that "national will" thing where in a democracy the people have to at least be somewhat behind a war. Do you really think the people of the USA would think this is a good idea?
Barring them actually attacking us directly, invading Iran isn't in the cards.
While Iran appears to be a problem for the US on the surface, we will neve have to deal directly with Iran. There is absolutely no way Isreal is going to allow Iran to dominate the Middle East or develope WMDs. They will take them out long before the US has to dirty their hands with these boys. We may have to play peacekeepers in the Mid East, but Isreal will KICK ASS on Iran long before the US can make a case for intervention with the American people.
I hope the Democraps and our Left is willing to step up and take credit for their part in contributing to the perpetuation of war and conflict.
Even if Israel were to bomb them, Iran now has sufficient UF6 feedstock for their centrifuges to make enough enriched uranium for a bomb. It is now assured that they will have at least one bomb.
Read here: www.ar15.com/forums/topic.html?b=1&f=5&t=386045
Now the question is, how many will they be allowed to have. The more feedstock they can stockpile, the more bombs they can make.
It's too late to prevent them from getting the bomb now. We should have blown up their Uranium Conversion Facility a long time ago if we wanted to prevent them from getting the bomb. Now it is just a matter of time before they cross the threshold.