Saturday, September 13, 2008

Iran: An Object Lesson In EU Impotence

The European Union is a first in the annals of power politics; a quasi-state with pretensions of power, whose only weapon is politics. Attempts to create an EU Rapid Reaction Force have foundered for years, and even if such a thin and casualty-averse core force got off the ground, it would be useless against an aggressive strike such as Russia's recent foray into Georgia, or a swift moveby a cunning regime in the Middle East. The EU is fully invested in “soft power”; i.e. negotiating, diplomatic massaging, and begging.

Let’s examine the “progress” the EU has made in 5 years of nuclear negotiations with Iran:

October 21, 2003: As a confidence-building measure, Iran and the EU-3 agree to negotiations under the terms of the Paris Agreement, pursuant to which Iran agrees to temporarily suspend enrichment and permit more stringent set of nuclear inspections in accordance with the Additional Protocol, and the EU-3 explicitly recognizes Iran's right to civilian nuclear programs in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

December 18, 2003: As agreed in the Paris Agreement, Iran voluntarily signs and implements the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Though the Protocol was not binding on Iran until ratified, Iran voluntarily agrees to permit expanded and more intensive IAEA inspections pursuant to the Protocol, which fail to turn up a nuclear weapons program in Iran. Iran ends the voluntarily implementation of Additional Protocol after two years of inspections, as a protest to continued EU-3 demands that Iran abandon all enrichment.

October 24, 2004: The European Union makes a proposal to provide civilian nuclear technology to Iran in exchange for Iran terminating its uranium enrichment program permanently. Iran rejects this outright, saying it will not renounce its right to enrichment technologies.

November 15, 2004: Talks between Iran and three European Union members, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, result in a compromise. Iran agrees to temporarily suspend its active uranium enrichment program for the duration of a second round of talks, during which attempts will be made at arriving at a permanent, mutually-beneficial solution.

November 22, 2004: Iran declares that it will voluntarily suspend its uranium enrichment program to enter negotiations with the EU. Iran will review its decision in three months. The EU seeks to have the suspension made permanent and is willing to provide economic and political incentives.

November 24, 2004: Iran seeks to obtain permission from the European Union, in accordance with its recent agreement with the EU, to allow it to continue working with 24 centrifuges for research purposes.

August 5, 2005: The EU-3 submit a proposal to Iran pursuant to the Paris Agreement which requires Iran to permanently cease enrichment. The proposal is rejected by Iran as a violation of the Paris Agreement and Iran's Non-Proliferation Treaty rights.

Confused yet? That’s the point. By introducing a bewildering array of proposals and incentives, the EU seeks to create the illusion of progress. Meanwhile, Iran plays them like a violin, agreeing, backing off, and teasing, in an elaborate dance meant to buy time for their unwavering pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Since the de facto failure of EU-3 talks, the UN Security Council has introduced several rounds of trade sanctions. These have been relatively weak, owing to the fact that Council member Russia is actively collaborating with Iran on nuclear and general military development. China is also running interference due to significant energy ties and a strong willingness to oppose US interests whenever possible.

Check out the 60-day window on this resolution, providing the ideal environment for Iran to bait, switch, and lie until the 60 days are up and they can cajole the West into another artificial deadline:

December 23, 2006: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737 was unanimously passed by the UN Security Council. The resolution, sponsored by France, Germany and the UK, punishes Iran uranium enrichment program according to Resolution 1696. It banned the supply of nuclear-related technology and materials and froze the assets of key individuals and companies related to the enrichment program. The resolution came after the rejection of UN economic incentives for Iran to halt their nuclear enrichment program. The sanctions will be lifted if Iran suspends the "suspect activities" within 60 days to the satisfaction of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

So why all the obvious footdragging from European nations on meaningful sanctions against Iran? Money and oil. The EU has been abused by Russia’s energy blackmail in the past few years, and for some reason they see dependence on Iran as a safer alternative.

Despite this, unilateral American sanctions are having some effect on Iran, mainly because of the tight financial restrictions that make European investment in Iran more risky. France and the UK have greatly downscaled the trade staff at their embassies in Tehran. But this is due to cold economic calculation rather than a moral stand; the US sanctions have simply dried up a good chunk of their former business interests.

Meanwhile, Iran is one of Germany’s principle trading partners. German companies exported $5.7 billion worth of goods to Iran in 2006, up from $5 billion in 2004. There was a slight dip in 2007, but in the first four months of 2008 the numbers went up 18% from the same period last year. German recently approved an export license worth 100 million Euros to provide Iran with high-tech gas plants.

Israeli member of Knesset, Ephraim Sneh has said that "investing in Iran in 2008, is like investing in the Krupp steelworks in 1938, it's a high risk investment." On a continent where appeasement has a long and storied history, this latest episode has advanced the rich tradition of emboldening antagonists while simultaneously earning their contempt.

More links:

Iran Mocks EU Nuclear Offer

Iran's Trade Grew Despite US Sanctions

Iran is France's Primary Trading Partner in the Middle East

In Spite of German Talk, Trade with Iran Growing

Germany's Special Relationship; With Iran

Israel Concerned Over Germany-Iran Deal

No comments: