Thursday, August 24, 2006

Iran and Security Council : from scratch ? (E)

Now that Iran’s answer to the international community regarding its nuclear activities gradually reveals itself to be another masterfully labyrinthine tactical move, it is time to ask where we stand. Has anything changed since last June, when the world found a Security Council divided over the matter of sanctions against Iran and indecisive enough to suspend further debate ?

Yes and no.

No, because we seem to have come around in a circle to the initial problem : Russia and China remain vague at best about their intentions to support a Security Council resolution that will tighten the screws on Iran. Much will depend on how tight exactly, and where precisely the world was thinking of applying the screw. If it’s energy, chances are slim that Russia, China, and even some European countries will oblige, given business interests and financial implications for the energy market worldwide. In fact, one could argue that the greater the irrelevance of the resolution’s restrictions, the wider the support for the text will be.
Furthermore, any indication – however whispery – from the part of Iran that the country is ready to negotiate, will further placate those who are already in dubio about playing tough. Although little has leaked from Iran’s 21-page offical document released on Tuesday August 22nd, the words ‘serious talks’ have been splashed large over the front pages of the international press. Somehow, it looks as if Iran is allowed to repeat itself over and over again without having to act on its promises ! Au contraire, summer developments in the Middle East have etched out the increasingly narrower lines within which such ‘serious talks’ will have to take place. And it’s definitely not the West doing the reckoning there...

So yes, much has changed since June. On top of the old problems, at least three new ones have been stacked. One regards the almost surreal outcome of the latest Lebanon war, with Israel dazed and confused, Europe reluctant to help out, the US in denial and Hizbullah riding a tsunami of sympathy across the Levant. Iran must be wringing its hands. Because pair the Lebanon debacle to the near-civil war in Iraq, and you see Iran gain enormous leverage in its negotiations with the west, and unprecedented power to deflect attention away from its nuclear program towards the more pressing security situation from Lebanon to the Gulf. And lest we forget, close-by Afghanistan too seems to have pulled a screeching u-turn on improving itself...
The relations between Sunni and Shia islam pose a second problem. Now that Shi’ites seem to take the leading part in global and political islam, with the recent rise to prominence of Hizbullah, Iran supported Hamas, Shi’ite militias in Iraq, and Iran itself, the future of the war on terror looks bleak indeed. Despite suggestions left and right that Hizbullah’s resistance and effectiveness actually may have helped bridge gaps between the two dominant versions of islam, with the populace rallying behind the overarching theme of occupation/liberation, it is imaginable that Sunni Al Qaeda would prefer to see less of Nasrallah cum sui on the evening news, and more of their own. If the intensifying unrest in Iraq is any indicator, Al Qaeda is surely eating its heart out right now, hard at work plotting moves bigger and louder than 9/11, that will put them back in the driver’s seat of the global islamic reconquista.
That said, the inflating uncertainties regarding the region and the strategies to solve its problems will crack the brittle unison between Europe and the US. And that’s a third new layer in this staggering tower of confusion. Well-known differences with regard to invading Iraq may have been plastered over somewhat, but the growing risk of violence and mayhem spiraling out of control may drive Europe and the US apart again easily. Chances for a unified response to Iran’s shrewd manipulations grow dimmer every day. The US appear to be oiling the war-machine (by calling up marine reservists amongst other things), while the EU is again in the process of failing to stand up to its task as mediator, judging from the slow and hesitant commitment of troops to an international force for Southern Lebanon.

So Iran is setting the terms of the debate. Is that good or bad ? We should not let injured pride rule our dealings with that country and its leaders. Ratio should suffice to see that a government willing to dump on the shoulders of an international community the burden of internal problems of poverty, population growth, oil dependency and economic standstill, executes nothing but an agenda of lies. We should not be dictated by them.

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