April 4, 2010
On Friday only hours after President Barack Obama of the United States conferred with his Chinese counterpart, in a rare hour long telephone call, how to approach Iran and its nuclear program; he said the campaign to impose United Nations Security Council sanctions against Tehran would pivot on unified international backing.
For years, the Bush administration accused Iran of seeking to develop atomic bombs to use them against Israel and endanger American interests in the region. The claim was refuted by the UN nuclear watchdog whose inspectors have closely monitored the country’s activities and said they have witnessed no diversion in the civilian purpose of the program.
World powers then were forced to alter strategy and accuse the Islamic Republic of seeking to develop the “capacity” to build nuclear weapons. The charge is rather ridiculous as any country running a uranium enrichment program possesses, technically, the ability to produce weapons-grade nuclear material, to the level of above 90 percent purity.
As the enrichment capability should be integrated with a sophisticated military program which enjoys advanced missile know-how, before an atomic bomb is developed, the White House claimed that Iran was seeking blueprints to combine the nuclear program with its conventional missile program.
However, any country, even those which are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) such as Iran, can, in theory, have the ‘capacity’ to build nuclear weapons.
Toady, the White House is spearheading a campaign to rally international support to further punish Iran for its pursuit of developing ‘the capacity’.
After talking to President Hu Jintao of China on Friday, Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS news, “The idea is to keep turning up the pressure” on Iran — which is already under three rounds of sanctions resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council.
He also argued that the existence of a nuclear armed power in the volatile Middle East would have “huge destabilizing effects” in the oil rich region. He, however, ignored the fact that a major factor in destabilizing the region is the very existence of Israel’s undeclared, un-accessed, and growing nuclear arsenal.
The new Obama push, meanwhile, has been praised in Tel Aviv.
A Friday editorial in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said the anti-Iran campaign, “even if its results are significantly lower than what [the Israeli regime] had hoped,” pleases the Zionist leaders.
It said the efforts are “significant” as Mr. Obama is “incorporating both Russia and China among those nations which see an Iranian nuclear weapon as a threat.”
While anti-Iran efforts, led by US administrations and advocated by Israeli hawks, are nothing new, the timing of Mr. Obama’s tough talk has drawn my attention.
Next week Mr. Obama hosts more than 40 heads of state to Washington to examine measures for preventing terrorists and radical groups from acquiring weapons grade uranium and plutonium — stockpiles of which are produced by the very countries which accuse Iran of seeking nuclear arms.
Then, he will welcome the parties to the NPT to New York, in May, for a pentennial review on a treaty which has sidetracked from its objectives: thwarting the expansion of the world’s nuclear club by disarming those countries which already own atomic bombs.
The focus on Iran at this time — and pressuring the Russians and the Chinese to support the White House plan to impose sanctions on Iran’s economy and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), blacklist Iranian shipping companies, and freeze Iran’s international assets — will pave the ground for failure in the upcoming conferences on American soil.
Disappointment is anticipated as no one in the right mind expects the super powers, naming the United States and Russia, to slow the production of weapons grade nuclear fissile, let alone to begin abandoning their nuclear arsenals.
Although Mr. Obama, on the international scene, is having a difficult time courting the support of Russia and China — which both have veto power in the Security Council — he is cruising at home pushing an anti-Iran agenda.
Congress is preparing measures to hit the world’s second largest oil producer where it hurts as it seeks to punish the companies that supply petroleum to Iran.
Tehran, however, is not concerned. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his government could easily cope with any new sanctions on gasoline imports, warning that Washington will be further isolating itself over the escalation of a more than three decade long hostility with Tehran.
Mr. Ahmadinejad also said there is little difference between the administrations of Mr. Obama and his predecessor.
“They say ‘we have extended our hands to the people of Iran but the government of Iran and the people of Iran pushed it back’. What hand did you extend towards us?” he said Saturday after inaugurating a factory in Sirjan.
“Did you lift the sanctions? Did you stop the adverse propaganda machine? Did you ease the pressure? Did you change your attitude in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine?”
Iran has always welcomed negotiations with the West, but it remains steadfast in safeguarding its national interests. The country says even international sanctions will not deter its pursuit of nuclear energy.
“You should know that the more hostile you are, the stronger an incentive our people will have, it will double,” he said. “They said ‘we want sanctions on petroleum’. Why don’t you do it? The sooner the better.”
Mr. Obama, meanwhile, is having none of it. After securing the passage of the healthcare reform plan, he is in need of a foreign policy win to strengthen its shaky presidency.
And despite his recent offering of engagement with Iran, in a symbolic Persian New Year message, that win, in the eyes of Congress and hawks in Israel, is defined as forcing the country to halt what it is entitled to — its enrichment work — or as escalating the confrontation and paving the way for an eventual military showdown with the country.
“I have said before that we don’t take any options off the table, and we’re going to continue to ratchet up the pressure and examine how they respond,” said the president, repeating warnings that were first raised by former President George W. Bush.
As the war of words continues, Mr. Obama is missing a unique opportunity, as he prepares to face down Republican contenders in the 2012 presidential election, to sit down and engage Iran — the country which more than 70 percent of Americans think, incorrectly, already possess nuclear weapons.
Rapprochement with the Islamic Republic could overshadow the healthcare reform’s victory and become his presidency’s signature.
This article was posted: Sunday, April 4, 2010 at 5:49 am