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US folly on Iran

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When will the US ever learn that the Iranian problem is insoluble outside the framework of  a wider non-nuclear agreement for the Middle East as a whole?   The latest round of sanctions – the fourth since 2006 – won’t cut any ice with a determined and intransigent Iran at all.   But there is an alternative.

The sanctions strategy focuses primarily on financial restrictions, an enlarged arms embargo, and notice of vigilance to UN member states concerning a number of Iranian activities.   It will fail for several reasons.    It’s far short of the set of crippling measures the US planned because of the need to win over Russia and China.  It’s badly weakened because Turkey and Brazil voted against it, following on from the nuclear fuel swap deal they brokered last month with Iran which the West then promptly dismissed.   It will not seriously aggravate the real underlying pressure points on the regime based on inflation, unemployment, corruption and mismanagement.   And it only consolidates popular resistance behind the regime when not only Ahmadinejad, but also the opposition Green Movement led by Mousavi and Karroubi as well, fully support the right of Iran to pursue uranium enrichment.

Iran is surrounded on all sides by nuclear powers – Israel, US nuclear forces in the Gulf and eastern Mediterranean, China, Russia, India and Pakistan.   It would hardly be surprising if Iran, despite its denials, felt the need for nuclear arms of its own to deter attack, particularly from Israel.   The US never confronts the contradiction in its Middle East policy that Israel is allowed to pursue its nuclear arms build-up unhindered whilst Iran is subject to punitive sanctions for trying (allegedly) to manufacture its own bomb.

If the US is absolutely determined to stop Iran – and an Iranian nuclear weapon could certainly trigger a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East which would be in nobody’s interest – its only feasible option (short of war) is to carry through the resolution that Obama has already tabled for the Non-Proliferation Treaty review – a wider regional settlement leading to a non-nuclear Middle East.   But that of course requires a fundamental realignment of US policy between Israel and the Arab world, and that is not remotely in sight – which is why the world should prepare, probably sooner rather than later, to deal with a nuclear Iran.

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