For Sanctions to Work in Iran,
By: Giora Eiland Translated from Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel).
The newspaper headlines herald a severe economic crisis in Iran that has caused the local currency to fall by 80% in the last year, among other things. The unconcealed hope of the media as well as of sources in the American administration is that the crisis will lead to one of the following two scenarios: the fall of the regime, or at least the regime’s decision to halt its nuclear program.
About This Article
Are economic sanctions enough to stop the Iranian nuclear program? Giora Eiland believes they aren't, and that rational negotiations with Iran are needed. But for world powers to come to an agreement and band together against the Iranian regime, the US will have to consider Russian interests on other issues.Publisher: Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel)
What the Russians want
Author: Giora Eiland
First Published: October 3, 2012
Posted on: October 4 2012
Translated by: Sandy Bloom
It was 69 years ago that Great Britain’s officer of RAF Bomber Command, General Harris, recommended that the Allied war effort be shifted to the area bombing of German cities. He expected that “Britain will maybe lose 400–500 planes, but Germany will lose the war.” Harris hoped that the suffering of the residents would lead to the toppling of the Nazi regime or to a decision by the regime to stop the war. While the German residents did suffer severely from the shelling, neither of the two hopes was realized.
The situation with Iran today is rather similar. The regime there understands that nuclear weaponry is their insurance policy against external intervention, so they will not hurry to give it up. On the other hand, although Iranian citizens are suffering, they do not have the ability to translate their frustration into action. Evidently, economic pressure alone will not be enough to rule out military action.
Does that mean that sanctions are not important and that military action is the only solution? Not necessarily. The sanctions are a vital but not sufficient condition. So what is the additional condition that will lead to an Iranian decision to abandon or at least delay their nuclear program? This condition is a “substantial” proposal from the international community. Such a proposal must be made with one united voice — and that is not what is happening today. China and especially Russia say totally different things than the Americans do, and so long as this situation continues, no effective negotiations with Iran are possible.
Russia acts differently than the United States, not because it wants Iran to have nuclear weapons — the opposite is true. Why, then, does Russia try to sabotage Western efforts? The reason is simple: Putin’s Russia is angry at the United States for what it perceives as systematic American harming of Russian interests.
The first issue is unrelenting criticism on the side of high-level Americans about the lack of democracy in Russia. Only half a year ago, after parliamentary elections in Russia and before the presidential elections, the US Secretary of State lambasted Putin for lack of transparency and related concerns. Do the Americans really expect that after such a dressing-down, Russia will try to help it on Iran — a low-priority issue, as far as they are concerned?
Similarly, the Russians are fuming over intensive American activity to broaden its influence in the republics that were once part of the Soviet Union. Putin is infuriated by the American attempts to drag the Baltic states into NATO and by American military and political assistance to Georgia and its president, detested by Moscow. Under such circumstances, Russia cannot be expected to assist the United States on any issue. Anyone who looks for logic in the Russian stance toward Iran, Syria and Libya, in the past, must understand that Moscow will, on principle, always torpedo anything that Washington tries to accomplish.
While the United States claims that it wants to reach a diplomatic solution on the Iran issue, it has not been willing (so far) to pay the requisite price — which is taking Russian interests into consideration on other issues. The current timing, in which sanctions have been doing their job, requires the Americans to operate the other, diplomatic arm: offering a “reasonable” proposal to Iran, such as transferring the enriched uranium to a third country — Russia — and having it returned to Iran as fuel rods.
This requires that all of the important countries speak with one voice. The United States can achieve this if it agrees to defer to Russia on less important matters. Halting Iranian nuclear program is not a matter of desire; it is a national need, and one must be willing to pay a price for its realization.
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