Tuesday, June 10, 2008

either negotiate, or don't

The one thing Bush has gotten during his trip to Europe -- apart from scorn, of course -- is an agreement to continue sanctioning Teheran. Bush again said that he would work to solve the problem diplomatically, rather than using military force as the Israelis have recently threatened.

The only problem with this is that he's not solving it diplomatically. Each of the last three Security Council sanctions resolutions has been more toothless than the one that preceded it, certainly for an issue as primal as Iran's pursuing the fuel cycle. The country's economy is in the sewer anyhow, and it's completely dependent on sky-high oil prices. But these are not going away, so ineffectual Council pressure won't stop Iran. Meanwhile, they can't get the US to meet unless they suspend enrichment. Assuming they're pursuing the fuel cycle for deterrence against US action, feeble threats give them no incentive to stop enrichment, nor do European-backed carrots when the prospect of direct dialogue with the US isn't on the table. (Think of the European diplomatic overtures as America outsourcing its foreign policy. We refuse to talk to Iran, so we'll get others to do it for us.)

John Bolton has repeatedly argued that negotiating with the Iranians "is not cost-free," because it takes time, which is to Iran's advantage. This is true, except that we could have done a lot of negotiating -- perhaps even negotiated our way to a suspension of enrichment by Iran -- in the last 2 years, during which time we did nothing at all except pass Council resolutions that very predictably failed to achieve any results. With China and Russia unlikely to allow for any further sanctions serious enough to give Teheran pause, our options are:

- Negotiate with Iran.
- The current course of passing ineffective Council resolutions demanding that Teheran suspend enrichment before we negotiate, then doing nothing when they refuse.
- Airstrikes, driving the Iranian program underground, thus leading to the necessity of a full-scale American-led invasion.

Which of those sounds like a viable option to you? As far as I'm concerned, only one of them does.

No comments: