Saturday, February 24, 2007


UNITED NATIONS - /, UN/-- Will the U.S. use armed force against Iran? Hardly any foreign policy issue is hotter right now.

American planes are reported to be patrolling along the border between Iraq and Iran and American forces have been authorized to kill Iranian agents in Iraq.

In a show to media in Iraq anonymous US military experts have demonstrated munitions that they claimed has been delivered by Iran.

Two American air-craft carriers are in the Persian Gulf and missile defenses have been installed in Gulf states.

Since no one imagines that Iran might launch an attack the conclusion must be drawn that the military build-up is either to scare Iran or to prepare for American attacks on Iran.

Many remember that there was a US military build-up in the Persian Gulf during the autumn of 2002 and the first months of 2003 and that the US attack on Iraq followed in March.

Is something similar under way now?

Most commentators note that a large part of the American people feel their country was tricked into the war in Iraq and would disapprove more military adventures.

Yet, many worry that the Bush administration might be tempted to play up Iran's activities as an important reason for the anarchy in Iraq and to reduce the attention to the debacle in Iraq by opening a new front through bombings in Iran.

Many governments in the world share the conviction of the Bush administration that the aim of Iran's program for the enrichment of uranium is to give the government at least the ability to make a nuclear weapon in a few years time.

They support the demand of the UN Security Council that Iran stop the program and believe that economic sanctions that prohibit the delivery of material and equipment for the program may influence Iran.

However, practically all are of the view that a military attack would be disastrous.

Although it might delay the program of enrichment a few years it would, at the same time, probably lead to full national acceptance of the program, to increased Iranian support for terrorism and perhaps a crisis in the supply and delivery of oil.

Iran's response to the action of the Security Council has so far been to reduce IAEA inspectors’ access to Iranian nuclear installations and at the same time declaring a readiness for talks – provided that the Council drop the demand that the program for enrichment must be suspended before talks are opened.

Iran is thus on collision course with the resolution adopted by the Council.

While Washington declares that diplomacy rather than military action is on the agenda the administration evidently believes that naval demonstrations may have an impact.

A recent op-ed in Washington Times suggested an even more explicit demonstration: the launching of a missile on the former US embassy in Teheran – now used by the Iranian revolutionary guards.

In Europe and elsewhere in the world people are worried that mistakes or miscalculations might lead to an armed conflict or to an Iranian withdrawal from the Non Proliferation Treaty or refusal of inspection by the IAEA.

So, what can be done?

In the case of North Korea the US seems able to sit down for talks without demanding that the production of plutonium be stopped prior to the talks and even to indicate that an agreement could comprise the opening of diplomatic relations and guarantees against attacks in return for denuclearization.

It is difficult to understand why in the case of Iran the suspension of the program for enrichment of uranium has been made a precondition for any talks in which such suspension is the main subject.

It is not long ago that an American commission led by former Secretary of State Baker and former Congressman Hamilton declared that the United States ought to engage in talks with Iraq's neighbours Iran and Syria.

Yet, despite the dire situation in Iraq the Bush administration prefers to talk to Iran and Syria through public statements and military threats.

It is a little like the boss who said that he liked to have exchanges of views with his subordinates: they should come in to present their views and walk out with his views. A somewhat less humiliating approach might give better results.

Such approach is now being tested in the case of North Korea . Why not in Iran, too?

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