America and the Europeans have co-drafted a UN Security Council Resolution with some teeth and have written into the resolution the trigger for economic sanctions against Iran if it fails to cease its nuclear program.
This is serious.
Previously, all John Bolton and Nick Burns had been able to push out of the Security Council was a declaration, which was not binding.
On the military front, Sy Hersh’s sources tell him that we are planning for an invasive hot strike against Iran. My sources do not confirm the Hersh assertion that a strike against Iran will occur this summer but do suggest that there is a great deal of operations/logistics planning underway. My sources also say that if a large scale operation against Iran looked likely, we would see scores of generals in the military elect to resign rather than participate.
Resigning generals may be the canary in the cave if a real Iran strike is genuinely on course.
But let’s just suggest for the moment that there are some serious players in the Bush administration who see the military option as the right course, and others who don’t. At this point, it seems clear that the military option is not one behind which there is consensus in the Bush White House.
That doesn’t leave many options — but it does leave “diplomacy”, or what Bush would call “talk”.
On the diplomatic front, Burns and Bolton are pushing for the imposition of sanctions against Iran — as a way to further isolate Iran in the hope that some players in the Iranian political scene will see that they might tie an end to sanctions as well as potentially normalized relations with and security guarantee from the U.S. to standing down on Iran’s nuclear program.
The problem with the sanctions track is that China and Russia are opposing, and though Europe has drafted the resolution with the U.S., many believe that Japan and Europe will be highly porous in economic flows to Iran. Thus, any sanctions regime has serious implementation flaws, and America may once again find itself (with or without Europe) mostly isolated in an effort to impose unilateral sanctions.
The toxic mix is that Iran believes that America is weak right now and will wilt when oil prices shoot higher, while on the other hand, George Bush intends to make sure that Iran and other nations don’t underestimate American strength and resolve, tilting towards force when he can afford it to demonstrate power.
This mess is looking increasingly like 1914 — when nations fell into war because of ego, attitude, poorly thought strategies regarding basic strategic interests, and miscalculation.
I will write more on this later, but what is clear is that America has a “teeth problem” in its tough diplomacy with Iran. It is using the hype and puffery of potential military action and the new moves in the UN Security Council to help transmit “resolve”, but it’s not enough.
As the prominent foreign minister I sat next to Sunday night said, the economic sanctions path is quite risky because it’s unlikely given our track record with sanctions that we can make them work, particularly against a nation of 70 million people in addition to China and Russia opposing sanctions and high levels of direct investment in Iran from other major economies like Europe and Japan.
The risk, of course, is that if we fail to make sanctions work or fail to scare Iran off its perch using military saber-rattling, then it will see these threats as weak ones — and this may embolden a brinksmanship-prone Iran to advance its pretensions in the region and in world affairs even more aggressively.
But Burns and Bolton are laying track — no doubt about it — and that track may take us back to a military option in the end, and that option, if triggered, could punctuate the end of American primacy in global affairs, particularly if outraged Middle East oil states band together, even in part, with China and Russia in a new, global stand-off regarding global rules, global finance, and the control and management of global strategic resources.
That is what is being gambled here, and it’s important that Bolton and Burns — and their employers — recognize this.
— Steve Clemons