Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Are We Ready to Deal With Iran?

On January 7th, Tehran announced that UN inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will arrive as early as Monday to break seals on Iran’s nuclear research facilities and to supervise Iran’s resumption of nuclear research and testing. Iran has claimed that the work on nuclear research will be focused on civilian and non-military activities. The United States and others have voiced concerns about Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

It is hard to believe that Iran is being genuine in her claims. Iran has become more bellicose toward the west. Their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former mayor of Tehran has continually made incindiary statements about the West, making outlandish claims such as the Holocaust was a myth, Israel should be relocated to Europe, and more recently allegedly saying he wished that Ariel Sharon would die after hearing of the prime minister's stroke. Iran's internal policy has become more and more draconian . They have recently banned all western music on state run television and radio. The director of the University of Tehran, has recently been replaced by a muslim cleric.

President Ahmadinejad is extremely popular amongst the the Iranian people. He has assumed a very conservative posture with respect to religion in the country. His rhetoric is focused on identifying the West and in particular Israel as an enemy to Iran and its people. Now, as Iran elects to resume nuclear testing and research, it is also solidifying trade arrangements with Russia and China. Russia has agreed to sell Iran nuclear fuel to help build its civilian power generation facilties, and China signed deals for oil and natural gas importation worth over $100 billion.

The Untied States is of course very concerned with both Iran's belligerence and Russia and China's economic support of the country and seeming lack of concern of the Iranian government's poltical posturing. The U.S. has recently been pushing for a crisis vote to bring Iran before the UN Security Council for their decision to resume nuclear research and testing.

My question is this: What will we do regarding Iran? Diplomatic measures and pressure are being brought to bear from the US. Britain, France and Germany are also applying pressure to the Iranians in an effort to forego sanctions and cool down the simmering political climate. Should diplomacy be successful and Iran become more focused on joining the world community with respect to trade and development of diplomatic relations with the West, then we may be able to breathe easier.

The concern of course is if Iran doesn't ease tensions and continues the course of action that becomes more and more threatening. If they decide to develop nuclear weapons, then we have a whole new problem. Israel is looking very carefully at Iran's actions. Given their current situation within the government and who will succeed Sharon should the prime minister not return to work., would Israel take a preemptive action against Iran? What would be the impact of such an event?

Given our current situation with Iraq, our collective fatigue with military action and the existing level of distraction in Washington regarding the congressional scandals, it is necessary for the U.S. to develop a cogent policy toward Iran and obtain support from the American public. The President and his State Department must get in front of this and develop a message to the country that is constructive and more importantly, believable. Recent polling numbers show a growing distrust of the administration with regard to foreign policy decisions especially if they involve military action. That trend has to be reversed and the trust of the public must be regained. Iran is a legitimate threat to the west and has to be dealt with. Our efforts must be cautious, consistent, and aggressively focused on resolving our concerns with Iran quickly.

It will be a true test of our leadership in Washington to solve our issues wtih Iran diplomatically. Iran will not make it easy. Any solution will depend upon gaining support from the Russians and Chinese as well as the Europeans that are dealing with Iran as well.

I'd like to hear how you think we should handle our issues with Iran? Are you confident that the current administration can work through these issues? If not, does this have any affect on how you will vote during the mid-term elections in 2006?

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