Sunday, November 29, 2009

Iranian Defiance

I realize that this is a horse that has been beaten to a pulp, but I need to get some licks in. Iran has approved plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities. I equate this to a small child who has been told he can't have any ice cream, and then screams, "As soon as I turn 18, I'm soooo going to buy all the ice cream I want. If fact, I'm going to buy 10 big, uranium enriching ice creams!" Well, maybe the metaphor needs a little work, but you get the point.
Iran is being told it can't have something, and has decided to act in defiance rather than comply. Should we be worried? I don't think so. These enrichment facilities take years to build. By then, sanctions will have taken their toll, or Israel will have worked its magic (bombed Iran). I do believe, however, that we should try to restrict the latter as best we can, and give the former time to work. A previous post argued that an oil sanction might not be effective, as smugglers are willing to provide oil at a premium. I would argue that even if smugglers bypass NATO measures to prevent such activities, Iran would still be significantly perturbed at paying such prices.

Still, even while I'm unimpressed at Iran's lofty ambitions, I am concerned that it might not be as globally isolated as it seems. Iran's recent play-date with Brazil indicates that some countries, mainly Latin American ones, may be willing to trade ideology for certain economic advantages. For several years now, Brazil has been operating an automotive factory under a joint venture with Iran. Iran is also considering loans to assist Ecuador in constructing hydroelectric power plants. Cuba and Venezuela have shown support as well. "So what?" you ask... Well, I'm glad you did. These economic benefits could be provided by the U.S. rather than Iran. This would further isolate Ahmadinejad and limit whatever backing he currently enjoys. For example, we could lift our embargo with Cuba- that would really show Iran what's up. Point being, these Latin American countries are enablers (shout-out to Dr. Phil), and we should be doing what we can to prevent them from being so.

Iran is cornered, and is looking for countries who have it's back. Obama should be doing what he can to ensure that Iran has limited leverage in this little quagmire. This includes a hiking ban on anywhere in the middle east, just to be safe. Kidding, but seriously... The U.S. should also do what it can to court Russia and China. This strategy is already bearing fruit; both Russia and China voted in favor of a recent resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency demanding Iran halt work on it's newly discovered enrichment facility near Qom.

In conclusion, Iran's decision to construct 10 more enrichment facilities should simply be an "I told you so" from the U.S. to China and Russia. Other than that, the U.S. should continue to do what it can to alienate Ahmadinejad and convince him that non-proliferation is better than harsh sanctions. Hopefully, this will be the case. Otherwise, we risk Iran withdrawing from the non-proliferation treaty. North Korea did this in 2003 and soon after produced enough fuel for eight or more nuclear weapons. While I seriously doubt that this would ever occur, as Israel would mostly likely conduct preemptive military action, it's still being discussed by a number of Iranian political leaders, and deserves our attention.

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