In an article published by the Mail & Guardian Online on June 27, titled “Iran Cannot Engage in Serious Talks with US,” I briefly explained some of the reasons why Iran would not be able to engage in serious talks with the United States or accept the European incentives package offered in exchange for a halt to its uranium-enrichment program.
A little over a month later, because of Iran’s lack of cooperation, the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany sent its dossier back to the council for further deliberations and passed a resolution that required Iran to abandon all enrichment activities by August 31. If history is any guide, Iran will reject this last ultimatum as well, dampening as a result any hope for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear stand-off.
With the end of the diplomatic phase in sight, what will the next step be? The diplomatic phase, once ended, must be followed by a punitive stage. Within the present framework of the Security Council and in relation to Iran, this would, most probably, mean progressive (step-by-step) punitive measures of a non-military type, designed to produce calculated results over the long term.
This is what Europe is capable of and aiming for, and what Russia and China can perhaps be persuaded to accept. The story with the US is, however, a bit different and, alas, worrying.
With the Bush administration’s distrust of Iran’s nuclear program and its seeming desire for regime change in that country, there is a possibility that the US will, in due time, detach itself from such time-consuming, collective efforts as those taking place within a Security Council framework.
The Bush administration is leaving the political scene in about two years’ time, and it is concerned that the next administration might not be so willing to engage Iran. Therefore, it is highly likely that the Bush administration is planning to hijack the Security Council resolution on Iran as a platform from which to launch its third “war on terror” in the Middle East. This type of US proclivity toward unilateralism is, of course, not without precedent. It is what some have termed in the past “America Going It Alone.”
The recent US-backed Israeli attacks on Lebanon, which took place in spite of international outrage and United Nations calls for restraint, clearly reveal the perceived importance of such extra-UN military operations to the US and its allies. After all, the Iraq war was also fought without the direct backing of the UN and, similarly, on the basis of an earlier Security Council resolution that lacked sufficient grounds for an all-out war.
As a result, it would not be far-fetched to assume that the Bush administration may be thinking of yet more hawkish action in the Middle East, now that the resolution on Iran has officially made it through the labyrinth of Security Council decision-making processes.
In light of the above discussion, one cannot but warn the US, its allies and, indeed, the entire international community that a fourth war in the region would truly devastate the Middle East as a whole and dampen the prospects of freedom and democracy in Iran for generations to come. This, of course, is not to mention the shocking effects that such a war would have on the world economy as well, which relies heavily on the stability of the price of oil. In this respect, another war in the region would perhaps drive the price of oil to more than $100 per barrel, which, according to some estimates, will be high enough to eventually trigger a worldwide depression (akin to that experienced in the 1930s).
Such warnings have, in the past, fallen on deaf ears within the Bush administration driven by concerns for power, domination, and narrow economic interests, so it is up to the world community of ordinary citizens and progressive forces to confront potential US war plans against Iran or any other state in the Middle East, for that matter. Any shortcoming on our part in this respect will, forever, denigrate the nature of our humanity.
Jalal Alavi is a sociologist and political commentator residing in Britain.