Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Time for climbdowns

NOTWITHSTANDING the diplomatic action that the US and allied European countries are following in order to pre-empt an Iranian nuclear bomb, there is little the world community could actually do to prevent Tehran from going ahead with its plans.
There is little doubt that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would report Iran to the UN Security Council as asked for by the US-led coalition. This could be followed by Security Council sanctions against Iran, but only after IAEA Director-General Mohammed Al Baradei presents his final report in March.
In the meantime, the only prospect of a compromise is contained in a Russian proposal under which Tehran would be allowed the use of nuclear energy to produce power on condition that the spent weapon-grade fuel would be taken away to another country.
Iran seem to keeping that option open and has said it has found the Russian compromise interesting.
Failure to work out a solution has far-reaching consequences, including the worry that oil prices could shoot up immediately in the event of UN sanctions against Iran.
However, these concerns move to the secondary slot in the broader perspective of failure of diplomacy and the US and its ally Israel choosing to exercise the "military option."
The world could not and brush aside the steady flow of reports from various quarters that the US and Israel have already decided to launch military action against Iran. Israel is said to have set a March date for unilateral action against Iran, with or without the US going along with it. However, it would be the US which would bear the brunt of Iranian retaliation just as the US military is waging an Israeli war in Iraq.
The key to solving the crisis lies in acceptance of certain realities on both sides. There is little prospect of the US and Iran becoming good friends. The Americans do not trust the Iranians and vice-versa. Period.
At the same time, Iran is not posing a military threat to the US, and Washington should also realise that Tehran is only rattling its sabres when it issues warnings to Israel.
Instead of allowing the crisis to fester through a continued war of words, all sides involved in the crisis should come up with something beyond the Russian proposal — a common ground where the genuine concerns of the key parties could be addressed. It requires heavy climbdowns from the high horses that they occupy and an acceptance of the reality that while Israel and Iran could not be expected to send each other Christmas cakes or new year flowers, they could be persuaded not to go for each other's jugular at the first given opportunity. That responsibility rests with the US and European powers.