The Washington Post’s David Ignatius this week calls France “Bush’s new ally,” noting the increased cooperation between the two nations in several key areas. We can add one more to his list: India. France sees several benefits to opening up nuclear trade with India, as President George Bush wants. Even though it could setback global nonproliferation efforts, it would increase French-Indian trade and investment. There is a catch: while President Bush sees the deal as a way to expand U.S. influence, France sees it as a way to check that influence.
Here is the problem for both the United States and France. The U.S.-India “global partnership” proposed on July 18, 2005 by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will violate Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) comprehensive safeguard guidelines. Changing NSG guidelines to give India a permanent exception to the rules requires group consensus, but the president has run into resistance from a number of key NSG members. At an October 2005 meeting of the NSG, France, Russia and the United Kingdom showed support for dropping nuclear trade restrictions on India, but Austria, Sweden and Switzerland “registered strong reservations,” according to Wade Boese of Arms Control Today. (Read More)
Discussion and launch of Promoting the Rule of Law Abroad: In Search of Knowledge, edited by Thomas Carothers.
Ahmadinejad's threat to external security and internal freedoms is bringing forth an opposition coalition that sees more clearly the dangers of confrontation with the West. A nimble U.S. policy, one that plots a strategy beyond the next Security Council vote, can help these forces inside Iran succeed.
In a candid January 18 press conference, Carnegie Vice-President George Perkovich and Visiting Scholar Pierre Goldschmidt discussed the current Iran crisis with reporters. Goldschmidt said he is urging officials to take a generic proactive approach that could solve other potential or actual cases of noncompliance:
“The UN Security Council should adopt a generic resolution saying that when the IAEA has found a country to be in noncompliance and if the IAEA requests more verification authority, the UN Security Council would immediately, under a Chapter 7 resolution, provide this additional authority.”
Unfortunately, the “international community” has a tendency “to only react to crisis,” Goldschmidt said, which puts him in an “uncomfortable” position trying to “solve one specific case, which is Iran.” He offered two solutions that, by involving the UN Security Council, would make Iran’s current voluntary commitments legally binding:
“The minimum for me is to report [Iran] to the Security Council to request Iran to immediately resume the suspension of all enrichment-related activities, and, second, [for the Security Council] to provide the IAEA with a significantly increased verification mandate and authority. Once more, this has nothing to do with sanctions.”
Iran is moving to restart its suspended uranium enrichment program. Negotiations with the European Union have collapsed and the crisis is escalating. Does the United States -- or Israel -- have a military option?
The same neoconservative pundits who campaigned for the invasion of Iraq are now beating the drums on Iran. Urging us this week to keep military options open, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol said Iran’s “nuclear program could well be getting close to the point of no return.” Writing from the same talking points, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said, “Instead of being years away from the point of no return for an Iranian bomb…Iran is probably just months away.”
Do they reflect the thinking of senior officials closely aligned with these political currents? No official has indicated that they do. But just one year ago, Vice President Cheney seemed to be thinking along exactly these lines when he told radio host Don Imus on Inauguration Day, "Iran is right at the top of the list." Cheney came close to endorsing military action, noting that "the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards."
There is no need for military strikes against Iran. The country is five to ten years away from the ability to enrich uranium for fuel or bombs. Even that estimate, shared by the Defense Intelligence Agency and experts at IISS, ISIS, and University of Maryland assumes Iran goes full-speed ahead and does not encounter any of the technical problems that typically plague such programs.
This is not a nuclear bomb crisis, it is a nuclear regime crisis. US Ambassador John Bolton has correctly pointed out that this is a key test for the Security Council. If Iran is not stopped the entire nonproliferation regime will be weakened, and with it the UN system.
But it will have to be diplomats, not F-15s that stop the mullahs. An air strike against a soft target, such as the uranium conversion facility at Isfahan (which this author visited in 2005) would inflame Muslim anger, rally the Iranian public around an otherwise unpopular government and jeopardize further the US position in Iraq. Finally, the strike would not, as is often said, delay the Iranian program. It would almost certainly speed it up. That is what happened when the Israelis struck at the Iraq program in 1981. (Read More)
The Bush Administration has imposed sanctions at a significantly greater rate than the Clinton Administration, raising important questions about how the United States should approach the spread of technology in a globalizing world. Do more sanctions result in more security? A preliminary look into the case of the two Indian chemical firms suggests the answer may be no.