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Targeting Iran?
Economist ^ | Jan. 15, 2007 | Staff

Posted on 01/16/2007 5:14:34 AM PST by Schnucki

Iran's nuclear activities and its influence in Iraq are provoking stronger responses from America and others

GEORGE BUSH could hardly be clearer in his disagreement with those, such as the members of the Baker-Hamilton Commission, who have argued for an early exit from Iraq coupled with the wooing of its big neighbour, Iran. Last week he announced that another 21,500 American troops will be sent to Baghdad in an effort to impose a military solution there. Then came the sabre-rattling towards Iran. He confirmed the deployment of an extra carrier strike group and Patriot anti-missile batteries to the Middle East—a clear signal that he is giving himself the option of a military strike to halt Iran's suspected development of nuclear weapons.

As he announced the extra troops for Iraq, Mr Bush said that America would “seek out and destroy” foreign-supported networks trying to destabilise the country. The next day, on Thursday January 11th, American forces raided an Iranian “liaison office” in Arbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan. The troops arrested six Iranian nationals (releasing one later), and seized computers and documents. Iran protested that the men were diplomats. An American military statement said that those arrested were suspected of being “closely tied to activities targeting Iraqi and coalition forces”.

The tension between America and Iran is caused in part by Iran’s activities in Iraq. Dick Cheney, the vice-president, said on January 14th that “It's been pretty well known that Iran is fishing in troubled waters, if you will, inside Iraq, and the president has responded to that.” The arrest of the men in Arbil mirrored a round-up of Iranians in Baghdad last month. After that incident, two who turned out to be diplomats were soon released and the rest were kicked out of the country.

But the greater concern is Iran's nuclear programme. To deal with that, America and others are trying to turn up the diplomatic heat. On December 23rd, the UN’s Security Council passed, for the first time, sanctions on the Islamic republic for its nuclear programme. The measure was relatively mild, in order to get the veto-wielding Russians and Chinese on board. But it nonetheless riled the Iranian establishment. Iran’s leaders spluttered that America somehow manipulated the council to get the resolution passed.

Weak though they are, the UN sanctions could make Iran’s nuclear work marginally more difficult by banning exports to Iran that could help the programme. Iran made it clear on January 15th that it is pressing on regardless and it intends to install 3,000 atomic centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale. But other steps are being taken. America has already started tightening the financial noose, banning banks operating in America from doing any business with Bank Sepah, a big Iranian bank that the superpower says is connected to Iran’s nuclear programme. And more restrictions could follow: last month’s resolution came with a two-month deadline to reassess Iran’s compliance. China’s president recently told Iran’s nuclear negotiator that the resolution deserved a “serious” response. Although China and Iran have a growing energy relationship, the Asian power is getting tougher on proliferation. Russia remains the most important of Iran’s defenders.

As America turns up the heat in its way, Israel has been less subtle. A week ago the Sunday Times of London suggested that Israeli pilots have been training for nuclear strikes on Iranian facilities. This hardly implies a strike is in the offing, but the news added to the sabre-rattling.

Iran, meanwhile, may be trying make itself less vulnerable in the longer-term. In late December it announced it would try to double its petrol-refining capacity by 2016. This may be to guard Iran’s Achilles’ heel, its need to import refined fuel despite its enormous crude-oil reserves. Future sanctions could target those imports. And Iran continues to talk tough. Its nuclear negotiator has said that while its current nuclear programme is peaceful, it may not remain so if Iran is “threatened”. Iran’s leaders may just be sensing that world opinion, not just that of America, Europe and Israel, is turning against them.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: geopolitics; iran; nuclear; proliferation

1 posted on 01/16/2007 5:14:35 AM PST by Schnucki
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To: Schnucki

It's just a matter of time and the tme could be growing remarkably short.

2 posted on 01/16/2007 5:18:11 AM PST by saganite (Billions and billions and billions-------and that's just the NASA budget!)
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To: Schnucki
"GEORGE BUSH could hardly be clearer in his disagreement with those, such as the members of the Baker-Hamilton Commission, who have argued for an early exit from Iraq..."

That is driving me nuts because it is wrong! Even FOX News gets it wrong! The Iraq Study Group Report calls for a troop INCREASE! Read the section: MILITARY AND SECURITY FORCES. It clearly calls for a troop SURGE! Why can the media (both sides) not get it right!?

3 posted on 01/16/2007 5:18:35 AM PST by avacado
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To: avacado

Why can't they get it right? Because they don't want to get it right (Fox included). Misinformation is the trade mark of the MSM...

4 posted on 01/16/2007 5:22:24 AM PST by Russ
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To: Schnucki

I have my reservations, but maybe Bush has the Iranians squirming a bit:

"A Saudi official said on Monday Iran had asked Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, to help ease tensions between the Islamic Republic and the United States, as Washington held out the possibility of "engagement" with Tehran if it changed tack in Iraq.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani delivered a letter from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah ahead of Rice's visit to Riyadh.

The official, who declined to be named, said Iran wanted Saudi leaders to relay a goodwill message to Washington."

5 posted on 01/16/2007 5:30:39 AM PST by Thrownatbirth (.....when the sidewalks are safe for the little guy.)
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To: Schnucki

I am!

6 posted on 01/16/2007 5:41:17 AM PST by Doc Savage ("You couldn't tame me, but you taught me.................")
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To: Thrownatbirth

There's a very interesting dynamic at work here. Perhaps more important that Bush's recent speech is the growing apprehenson among Sunni Arab nations vis-a-vis Iran. I think it's conceivable that Ehud Olmert's recent "slip" regarding the nuclear status of Israel was an intentional public ice-breaker with the Sunni Middle East. Behind the scenes, however, it would not surprise me if the Saudis, Jordanians and Egyptians are quietly preparing to accept Israel as a nuclear nation under the agreement of a protective umbrella against Iran. Such an agreement would be earth-shattering, and it may sound silly at first, but the only thing standing between Iran and status as an economic empire are the Saudi oil fields. In the greatest of ironies, non-nuclear Sunni Arab nations may be realizing that they actually NEED Israel for their own protection.

If Iran actually gets around to testing a nuclear weapon in the coming years, expect very strange bedfellows to make themselves known.

7 posted on 01/16/2007 6:10:07 AM PST by Rutles4Ever (Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna)
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