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U.S. Efforts To Bring Iran In Line

By Guest Contributor, Craig Martelle | April 20, 2006

How can the U.S. achieve any sort of victory in Iran, either for America or for world peace? The way foreign relations work is by making an alternative more appealing, either by "bribing" (trade concessions, joint ventures, etc.) or by making the primary, undesired course too expensive. Countries with good relations will choose the former to achieve compromise. Countries with rocky relations or countries who honestly think they are right in their course of action, will generally use the latter diplomatic method. When those methods fail, then either a third party steps in to attempt one of the diplomatic methods or war is likely.

What has George Bush done with Iran that he was criticized for with Iraq? He was criticized for not building a vast consensus of nations (later it was discovered that France and Russia were providing material aid to Iraq, resulting in millions of dollars in profit for key leaders in those countries). He was criticized for not going through the UN, although he did (the UN's oil for food program was the source of riches for far too many diplomats from far too many countries, ergo their innate opposition to any action against Iraq). And of course, the big one - Saddam did not have any WMD.

On this point, I was a member of CENTCOM's Intelligence Staff through the mid to late 1990's and I personally briefed General Tony Zinni that Saddam had the "capability" to produce WMD, along with limited hidden stockpiles. I personally know a few UNSCOM inspectors who know unequivocally that Saddam did not cooperate with UNSCOM. A lack of UN-mandated cooperation could only lead to one conclusion - Saddam was hiding something. Our intelligence coordination with European Intelligence officials supported only one conclusion - Saddam had both WMD and the ability to make WMD. Unfortunately, Monday morning quarterbacks find it too easy to connect dots that did not exist when the first picture was drawn. We did the best we had with what we could get and it appears that the conclusion we reached was the one Saddam wanted us to reach - if he believed that he had WMD (because that is what his "boys" told him), then how can one think that we would not also believe it? And it was confirmed that he had WMD - remember the ill-planned roadside IED using the nerve agent shell? According the UN and the "Bush lied" crowd, why was that shell in existence? Where are its mates? "Experts say weapon probably not part of a cache." That dismisses it? It should not be in existence at all if there was no WMD in Iraq. That is our background from which to start working a solution to our current issue.

First question - do we want Iran with a nuclear weapon or not? Iran claims its nuclear ambitions are for peace only. If that were the case, then they should have taken Russia up on its offer to enrich Iranian uranium - a compromise that would have defused tensions and returned the world to a relatively peaceful footing. But by retaining the option to enrich uranium, then actually claiming to successfully have done it, followed by Iran's own claim to ratchet up enrichment, there is only one reasonable conclusion - which Russia, France, Germany, UK, and the U.S. all come to - Iran is attempting to enrich uranium to produce a weapon.

How do we build a consensus?

First, what is a consensus? Is it a simple majority of nations? Is it a large majority, but only of nations that we "like?" Let's go with a combination of both definitions - we want as many countries as possible to agree with our position, definitely a majority, but we can discount positions from countries who have a stake in Iran. Right now, the majority of countries do not want Iran to have a nuclear weapon - that is clearly a majority all the way around. At this point, the diplomatic world goes its many separate ways.

Generally, Muslim countries support Iran in its efforts because they are united against Israel. Also, they may believe that Iran's pursuits are peaceful only (but peace for them may be a world where Israel was nuked, and "wiped off the map").

African countries? They have no "dog in the fight" as it may be, but if we get drug into a war with Iran, we'll have to get money to pay for it from somewhere - aid to Africa (in the billions of dollars) would be easy to cut - ahhh, our joint venture, bribing approach comes into play. Although note that a number of African countries attended Tehran's Al Qods conference and signed the declaration claiming Israel had no legal right to exist.

European countries? The Mohammed cartoon debacle is still ringing in their ears. They caved in, not willing to offend Islam. Maybe by calling Iran a liar regarding claims of its "peaceful" nuclear program, they will again offend Islam - will they remain stalwart allies?

What about Asian countries - do we have more influence or does China? I suspect Asian countries are split, although Indonesia will probably remain neutral or on Iran's side. And India, a soon-to-be full member of the SCO, expressed support for Iran in their Prime-Minister-to-President meeting.

Well, it looks like we will not be able to build a consensus, no matter which definition you use. We definitely cannot get a unanimous resolution through the UN Security Council - Russia and China will both veto it. So without other pressures, this leaves us without a general consensus and without a UN consensus. So what's next?

The IAEA - let the UN's watchdog agency, whose sole purpose for existence is to monitor and identify nuclear proliferation. Once identified, it reports to the UN and the UNSC. And in order to keep the issue at the front of all nations' agendas, we keep up diplomatic pressure and bang the drum loudly. Okay, we're banging the drum - listen to SecState Rice, or President Bush. We'll let the IAEA do their job (hopefully this time - they did not do such a good job with Iran over the past 20 years, by the way, otherwise we would not be at this point). This is a sound approach and really the only option we can actively pursue at this time. Building a consensus will be easier if the IAEA actually produces a report stating directly that Iran is attempting to produce weapons-grade uranium, inconsistent with any peaceful purpose.

With that report in hand, it will be hard for other countries to bury their heads or deny the truth, regardless of their relationship with Iran. We may get some fence jumpers. Unfortunately, the IAEA report will be watered down, ambiguous, and will not be convincing one way or another. Then what do we do? Try to build enough of a consensus to start some kind of sanctions. Unfortunately again, we need Iranian oil and we need other Middle Eastern oil that comes through the Straits of Hormuz (which Iran can shut down). Shutting down the Straits will result in military action - there is no other alternative. Overnight our gas would go to $10 a gallon. Maybe then, we'll be able to drill in ANWR, but there will be much pain and suffering until it produces, and we'll already be at war. Will Iran do this? We hope not, but hope is a really lousy plan. So we plan for all options. This includes diplomatic pressures, economic sanctions, a small-scale war to a nuclear conflict. We plan so we are ready and pray that we don't have to execute the plan. That is how the pragmatic world works. For those who would condemn us for planning, you condemn the U.S. to being unprepared. When you are not prepared, the other country holds the upper hand. We remain in the strongest position, but only because we are ready.

So what criticism can be leveled at the current administration? It appears to me that they are doing everything reasonable - not rushing to war, trying to build a consensus, letting the UN do what it is getting paid and chartered to do, planning for the worst, and hoping for the best. Has anyone else given us anything that sounds like a comprehensive strategy? Harry Reid has a plan - blame Bush (and do nothing)!

Craig Martelle, founder of The Strategic Outlook Institute, is a retired Marine Corps Intelligence Officer who entered military service as an enlisted Marine in 1982. He earned a BA in Russian Language at the University of Arizona and is currently a second-year law student at William Howard Taft University. ThreatsWatch is pleased to welcome Craig Martelle and introduce him as our newest contributor.