- MIDDLE EAST
Iran has decided to resume uranium conversion. Negotiations with the EU have broken down. Is a peaceful solution to this nuclear stand-off still possible?
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Since February 2003, The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), deemed the United Nations “nuclear watchdog,” has been investigating Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear program.
Nearly three years later, having rejected the West’s demands to abandon its program in exchange for incentives, Iran now faces the prospect of the IAEA referring the nation to the UN Security Council for sanctions.
The United States insists that Tehran’s nuclear program is a guise for developing nuclear weapons. With Iran’s president thundering provocative words against Israel, this idea is not without merit: “Israel must be wiped off the map. No doubt the new wave [of attacks] in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world. Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury” (Financial Times).
Also, considering that Iran is one of the biggest oil exporters in the world, it is unlikely that Iran is seeking an alternative source of power because they want to combat global warming.
In trying to push for sanctions against Iran, the White House faces two problems:
(1) With dangerously high crude oil prices, Iran—a major oil exporter—could withhold its oil supply, thus driving the price up farther. Most countries understand this threat, and would be against imposing any sanctions that could threaten their own economies. The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned, “Any sanction against Iran can make the oil price reach $100 a barrel” (News24).
(2) Any UN resolution calling for sanctions must be approved by all five members of the Security Council. This is not an easy task, as two of the five members are Russia and China.
With the U.S. having a massive military presence around the world, many countries have developed a unilateral superpower phobia. This fear is causing tremendous changes in the realm of geopolitics, such as the formation of a triangular alliance between Russia, China and Iran. Such an alliance not only helps their economies, but it also serves to counter American military dominance.
The West’s fiasco with investigating Iran’s nuclear program spans the course of three years, with numerous inspections, allegations and negotiations:
Dec. 12-13: U.S. television stations broadcast satellite images of two nuclear sites in Iran. American media claims they could have a military use. Iran agrees to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection.
Feb. 9: Iran’s president says that uranium deposits have been discovered in Iran. Tehran is building two factories to convert the ore into nuclear power station fuel.
Feb. 21: The head of the IAEA visits Iran to verify that its nuclear program is peaceful. The U.S. maintains that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.
June 19: The IAEA requests that Iran agree to an additional protocol within the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and allow unannounced inspections of its nuclear sites.
Aug. 26: Iran says that it will allow unannounced inspections, but wants guarantees that inspectors will not reveal strategic military secrets. A confidential UN report discloses that Iran has developed two kinds of enriched uranium not needed for peaceful energy production.
Nov. 10: An internal IAEA report states, “At the moment, there is no proof that Iran is creating nuclear weapons.” The U.S. disagrees.
Dec. 18: Iran signs the additional NPT protocol.
April 4: Iran denies that it has any secret nuclear sites, insisting that the experimental use of its uranium ore conversion plant in central Isfahan does not violate its NPT obligations.
June 1: The IAEA claims it has discovered new traces of enriched uranium that surpass levels necessary for peaceful energy production.
July 31: Iran admits that it has resumed the production of parts for centrifuges used for enriching uranium, but insists it has not resumed enrichment activities.
Sept. 1: An IAEA report says a number of Iran’s claims concerning its nuclear development are “plausible.” But the report also expresses renewed concern about Iran’s decision to resume large-scale production of feed material for enrichment. The U.S. Secretary of State says the IAEA report warrants Security Council action.
Sept. 18: The IAEA gives a Nov. 25 deadline for Iran to reveal all its nuclear activities.
Sept. 21: Iran says it has resumed large-scale conversion of uranium ore.
Oct. 31: The Iranian parliament passes a bill allowing enrichment activities to resume.
Nov. 14: Iran agrees to suspend uranium enrichment activities, including the precursor process of conversion, while further negotiations are held.
Nov. 22: Enrichment is suspended. However, Iran says it will resume activity in the future, and that it will “never renounce” its right to enrich uranium.
Dec. 13: Talks open between Iran and the EU.
Jan. 13: IAEA inspectors visit the Parchin site, southeast of Tehran.
Feb. 27: Iran and Russia sign a nuclear fuel agreement for operations to begin at the Bushehr plant. Russia will fuel the reactor on condition that Iran sends back spent fuel.
April 30: Iran announces that it could resume uranium conversion at its Isfahan plant.
May 11: The European Union warns Iran against resuming an activity that “would end the process of negotiation.” Eight days later, Iran announces that its decision is “irreversible.”
May 25: Iran agrees to hold off on a final decision until Europe submits “detailed proposals” in two months.
Aug. 1: Iran announces that it will officially notify the IAEA of its decision to resume uranium conversion.
Aug. 3: Iran’s new ultra-conservative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, takes office.
Aug. 5: Iran rejects the EU’s offer of a broad incentive package.
Aug. 8: Iran says that it has resumed ultra-sensitive nuclear fuel work at Isfahan.
Sept. 22: The EU offers to delay its drive to bring Iran before the U.N. Security Council if Russia and China will agree to a new resolution that criticizes Tehran for violating nuclear commitments.
Source: Agence France-Presse
The three countries have more in common than one might think. They are geographic neighbors; they are experiencing economic upturns; they are able to act swiftly; and, above all else, they hold much disdain for America. In addition, Russia possesses weapons and technology that Iran and China lack, but are more than willing to spend money to acquire them. A natural supply-and-demand partnership is taking shape.
Beijing’s interest in relations with Iran is due in part to China’s soaring energy consumption. For example, its crude oil imports soared 40 percent in the first eight months of 2005. Oil analysts have said that China could deplete its domestic oil supply in 14 years.
In turn, Iran is becoming China’s major importer of manufactured goods, such as computer systems, household appliances and cars. Iran’s former representative to the IAEA stated, “We mutually complement each other. They have industry and we have energy resources” (The Washington Post).
Also, trade between these two nations is weakening the impact of American economic embargoes against Iran. A leading conservative theorist and editor of the Kayhan newspapers said, “Sanctions are not effective nowadays because we have many options in secondary markets, like China” (Ibid).
In 2004, China became Iran’s top oil importer, signing a $100 billion mega oil-pipeline deal with Tehran, coined the “deal of the century” by various commentators. A similar agreement is being worked on that is reported to be worth an additional $100 billion. That March, a state-owned oil trading company in China signed a 25-year agreement to import 110 million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Iran. Later that year, a deal was struck for China to import an additional 250 million tons of LNG and 150,000 barrels per day of crude oil over the same 25-year period.
Along with these momentous deals, China is investing sizeable amounts of money in Iranian energy exploration, drilling and production, as well as petrochemical and natural gas infrastructure. Such transactions violate America’s Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which penalizes companies for investing more than $20 million dollars in Iran or Libya. Apparently, what the U.S. thinks is of no concern to Beijing or Tehran.
Since the mid-1980s, Russia has been supplying Iran with advanced missiles and missile technology, and has been assisting in the development of long-range ballistics. With this assistance, Iran has developed Shihab-3 and Shigab-4 missiles that have ranges of roughly 1,250 miles. A Russian defense company is negotiating a deal with Iran to repair and modernize Iranian submarines as well, said to be “a $270 million dollar deal that could revive the bilateral arms trade [between Russia and Iran] but further irritate the United States” (St. Petersburg Times; emphasis ours).
Sales of missile technology breach the U.S.-Iran Non-Proliferation Act of 2000, which states that sanctions will be “imposed on countries whose companies provide assistance to Iran in its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and missile delivery systems.” So far, Washington has failed to enforce this act.
In early 2005, Russia signed a deal in which they will supply Iran with nuclear fuel for use at its nuclear power plant in Bushehr. (Russia has expressed interest in the construction of 6 more nuclear reactors and 20 nuclear power plants as well.) In return, to ease U.S. concerns that Iran will use the spent fuel to manufacture weapons-grade plutonium, Russia has promised that all spent nuclear fuel will be returned to them. Whether this actually takes place remains to be seen.
Along with economic development, trade and investment, this triangular alliance also brings foreign policies with mutual objectives. For instance, all three countries agree on policies toward Taiwan and Chechnya, with which the U.S. naturally disagrees. China and Iran are in full support of Russia’s war against the Chechen separatists, and Russia and Iran fully support China’s anti-succession stance toward Taiwan.
When it comes to the nuclear stand-off at hand, it should not be a surprise to learn that Russia and China pledge their full support of Iran. Moscow has consistently stated that it will not support referring Iran to the UN Security Council for sanctions; in addition, after striking the gas and oil deal with Tehran, Beijing stated that it would not support sanctions. Again, such opposition is significant due to both countries holding UN Security Council veto power. It is doubtful that countries with great economic interests in Iran will agree to impose burdens that will affect them as well.
Understand—Russia and China do not base their foreign policy on what the United States or any other nation of the West may want. Quite the contrary, they seek to undermine the West’s ambitions.
What about Iran’s newly-elected president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad? What kind of effect will he have on the nuclear issue at hand? An examination of his background—with his involvement in regional issues from Iraq to Lebanon to Palestine—provides some clues.
In June 2005, he won a landslide victory in Iran’s ninth presidential election, sending political shockwaves throughout the world. He clearly stated on his ticket that justice and freedom stand in contradiction, and that he stands on the side of justice. His hostility to “the corrupt Western way of life” is most apparent and is firmly entrenched in his past. One of his supporters echoed this sentiment, saying, “I picked Ahmedinejad to slap America in the face” (The Washington Times).
Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was born to a working class family in 1956. He was brought up in a Tehran district known for its poverty, which was an ideal area for Muslim fundamentalism to flourish. No stranger to higher education, in 1975, he founded a university engineering course at Elmo-Sanaat University. Four years later, he established the Islamic Student Association and became the university representative in the Office for Strengthening Unity between Universities and the Theological Seminaries (OSU). Interestingly, in 1979, this organization led the seizure of the American Embassy in Iran.
In 1980, Mr. Ahmedinejad joined the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG), and later worked for the Internal Security Department. Six years later, he was promoted to a position leading the Special Brigade of the Revolutionary Guards at the Ramazan garrison, which is near Iran’s border with Iraq. This was the headquarters of the IRG’s international military operations. While stationed at the Ramazan garrison, Mr. Ahmedinejad reportedly established an elite assassination squad known as Quds Force, which is still active in Iraq.
After becoming the mayor of Tehran, it is reported that he used his new position to cultivate a network of young Islamic fundamentalists, known as Abadgaran-e Iran-e Islami, which works alongside Iran’s secret services and the IRG. This group promotes a hard-line conservative religious and political outlook and seeks to preserve the legacy of Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.
A day after his victory, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad proclaimed that he would pursue a moderate line; however, in light of his past, it is much more likely that he will stick to his ultra-conservative roots, in contrast to the former president of Iran. His vision of Islam is expected to shape Iranian foreign policy. If he fails to deliver on his promises to eliminate corruption, ensure greater employment and raise the living standards of the poor, he will likely try to focus his supporters’ attention on hot-button international issues, such as the Palestine/Israel conflict and the ongoing nuclear stand-off with the West.
With an ultra-conservative now serving as Iran’s top elected leader, massive changes in government are expected. Mending “reformer” ideas of culture, education and the media is high on the conservative list of priorities. Greater restrictions on freedom of expression and greater politicization of education and culture are expected to occur.
Also, keep in mind that the ultra-conservatives view the United States as the foremost enemy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is doubtful that they (and the president leading them) will strike a deal with the White House.
In a speech given September 2005—during an annual parade of troops, ballistic missiles and other military hardware—Mahmoud Ahmedinejad issued a warning of what would happen if anyone considered and carried out an attack against the Islamic Republic. He stated that Iran’s “enemies have understood that we are very serious in defending our security. If some want to again test what they have tested before, the flame of the Iranian nation will be very destructive and fiery. Relying on our nation and armed forces, we will make the aggressor regret their actions.” Further, Iran’s president told the army to “prepare their defensive readiness” and called for an “expansion of the defense industries and the utilization of the latest technology” (News24).
These are strong words, but they do have a ring of truth to them. According to a professor of national security strategy at the U.S. National War College, Iran is capable of retaliating with “an elaborate, ferocious, global provocation designed to draw the United States into a protracted conflict.” (Or, in other words, more terrorist attacks against America and an escalation of violence in Iraq.) Iraq’s Deputy Foreign Minister added, “If Iran wanted, it could make Iraq a [nightmare] for the United States” (The Sunday Telegraph).
While politicians continue to call for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, Tehran is preparing for a fight that it thinks may be inevitable. In an attempt to demonstrate that the price for any military solution would be high, the Iranian government has made great strides in recent months to upgrade and prepare its military for action. “They see a fight coming, regardless of what they do, so they are getting ready for it,” said a European diplomat in Tehran (The Christian Science Monitor).
Some analysts expect the “Iraqization of the Iran dossier” or, in other words, the eventual presentation by the White House of the same plan for Iran as in Iraq. (For example, similar to the months before the war with Iraq, the White House would proclaim that Iran is in possession of weapons of mass destruction and is governed by a tyrannical, anti-democratic regime.) However, one must consider that, unlike Iraq, Iran has many venerable military assets from which to draw in the event of an attack:
• Upgraded Shahab-3 missile, capable of reaching Israel and U.S. forces in the region.
• The construction and set-up of sophisticated defenses around its nuclear facilities.
• Possible possession (from Ukraine) of a dozen Soviet-era Kh-55 cruise missiles—designed to carry a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead 1,860 miles, virtually undetectable by radar; a recent satellite deal with the Russians would supply digital maps for improved accuracy.
• Possible stockpile of sophisticated military equipment such as armor-piercing sniper rifles and night-vision goggles.
• In addition, Iranian hardliners have assembled a list of 15,000 suicide bomber volunteers.
“It is code to America: ‘If you hit us, we will play dirty, using Hizbullah and volunteers to hit the U.S. across the region,’” said a European diplomat, echoing analysts who have warned that Iran could easily destabilize Iraq and close the Strait of Hormuz to oil traffic. “There is an enormous danger of miscalculation” (Ibid).
Iran has the largest army in the region, with 540,000 active-duty troops and 350,000 in reserves, plus more than 1,600 battle tanks and 1,500 other armored vehicles. A veteran Mid-east military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington wrote last December, “There is considerable evidence that [Iran] is developing both a long-range missile force and a range of weapons of mass destruction” (Ibid).
Politically, an American or Israeli strike on Iran would almost certainly push the Iranian government to the right, possibly making the situation even worse, particularly considering that the intelligence regarding Iran’s nuclear program is weak. “This action will really work against democracy and reformers in Iran, and I believe the Americans know that,” said a former Iranian deputy interior minister (Ibid).
A strong anti-American/Israeli Iran bodes serious difficulties in the region. In addition, a war in Iran would not be as easy militarily for the United States as its war in Iraq, and would be fraught with multiple problems. However, without specifically saying that military action would be considered, President George W. Bush stated that “all options are on the table” with Iran. He had said months earlier that Iran would not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons.
Again, is a peaceful resolution to the nuclear stand-off with Iran still possible? An “unlikely source”—the Bible—explains that it is not possible for men to achieve lasting peace. Let’s examine what God says about man’s “righteousness” and peace aspirations:
“There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known” (Rom. 3:10-17).
In the end, men’s initiatives and resolutions of peace will always fail. The nuclear crisis between the West and Iran will not be different. In a world cut off from the only source of true wisdom and understanding—the living God—man is incapable of producing lasting peace. Sin—the breaking of God’s Law—is the cause (Isa. 59:2; I John 3:4).
Ultimately, the nuclear saga with Iran will lead to violence in some fashion, whether all-out war or terrorist activities. Exactly how this plays out and to what degree remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: Jesus Christ will return to earth in full power and glory. And when He does, peace, truth and justice will be established throughout His world-ruling supergovernment. Mankind’s politicking, negotiations and resolutions (whether peaceful or violent)—with their inevitable lies, deceit and doubletalk—will cease being the norm.
Notice: “Of the increase of [Jesus Christ’s] government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isa. 9:7).
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (11:9).
To learn more about the coming world-ruling government of God, and how you can be a part of it, read our book Tomorrow’s Wonderful World – An Inside View!