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2/8/07

Time to talk: THE CASE FOR DIPLOMATIC SOLUTIONS ON IRAN

Source: Foreign Policy Centre

 

Military attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences warns new report: Coalition urges new diplomatic push to avoid crisis

On the one year anniversary of Iran's referral to the Security Council, a new joint report by 15 organisations - including think tanks, aid agencies, religious groups and Trade Unions - warns that, despite the seriousness of the situation, there is still 'time to talk'. This must be used to avoid an escalation with potentially disastrous consequences.


The report urges the UK government to work with allies in a sustained effort to find a diplomatic solution. In particular, they should push for:

  • Face to face talks between Iran and the US
  • A compromise on the suspension of uranium enrichment as a precondition for negotiation
  • Further development of a 'grand bargain' in which the EU offer of June 2006 is developed further to include security guarantees between Israel, Iran and the US.

"The consequences of military action against Iran are not only unpalatable, they are unthinkable. Even according to the worst estimates, Iran is still years away from having a nuclear weapon. There is still time to talk and the Prime Minister must make sure our allies use it," said Stephen Twigg, Director of the Foreign Policy Centre.

The report was launched at: The Foreign Press Association, 11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AJ at 10.30am on Monday 5 February 2007

The Coalition includes: Amicus, Amos Trust, British Muslim Forum, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Foreign Policy Centre, GMB, International Physicians against the Prevention of Nuclear War, Medact, Muslim Council of Britain, Muslim Parliament, Ockenden International, Oxfam, Oxford Research Group, Pax Christi, PCS, People and Planet, Unison.

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

The prospect of a nuclear Iran causes acute concern not only in the United States and Israel, but also in Europe, the Middle East and most of the rest of the world. This report does not seek to quantify the likelihood of military action against Iran. It argues that the consequences of any possible future military action could be wholly counterproductive as well as highly dangerous. Diplomatic solutions to the Iranian nuclear issue must be pursued resolutely.

 

Iran’s nuclear programme– a cause for international concern?

 

The Iranian administration insists that its nuclear activities are directed solely towards a civil nuclear power programme. However, many states share the conviction that Iran is dedicated to becoming a nuclear weapons power and that it must not be allowed to develop the capability of producing nuclear weapon materials. The problem is that a fully indigenous civil nuclear power programme involves all the dual-use technology necessary to produce military fissile material.

 

Iran has enjoyed considerable domestic and some international support for its refusal to relinquish its legal entitlements, including from the Arab League and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), but its record of misleading International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors has eroded international confidence in Iran’s intentions and its willingness to agree to watertight controls on its nuclear programme.

 

Since the international community was alerted to Iran’s secret nuclear activities in 2002, various diplomatic strategies have been pursued. Despite many setbacks some important progress has been achieved, such as the involvement of the major players (China, France, Russia, the US, the UK and Germany), albeit indirectly in the case of the US, and the formulation of serious incentives to induce Iranian cooperation. Still, many within the US and Israeli administrations remain skeptical that diplomacy can deliver. Accordingly, the military option not only remains on the table but is also a real possibility in 2007.

 

Though debate has largely centred on Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, Iran could also build a nuclear weapon by reprocessing plutonium. To ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon capability, both of these routes would have to be blocked. The civil nuclear power reactor in Bushehr is due to be started in September 2007 (nuclear fuel supplied by Russia will be on site from March 2007). Beyond this date, military strikes on Bushehr could unleash nuclear contamination so severe that it is unlikely that such strikes would be undertaken from that point forth. If Bushehr is on the list of targets, these considerations could hasten any plans for military action.

 

 

Consequences of possible military action

 

A US or Israeli led attack on Iran would likely unleash a series of negative consequences. These might include:

  • Strengthened Iranian nuclear ambitions;
  • Even greater instability in the Middle East and broader region, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • Inflammation of the ‘war on terror’;
  • Exacerbated energy insecurity and global economic hardship;
  • Damage to developed and developing economies;
  • Environmental degradation; and
  • Civilian casualties.

 

IRAN’S NUCLEAR AMBITIONS STRENGTHENED: It is expected that if military action were undertaken it could deepen the resolve of the Iranian regime to become a nuclear weapons power and would likely lead to Iran’s withdrawal from the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The threat of Iran building a nuclear weapon could intensify, possibly prompting further proliferation in the region.

 

GREATER INSTABILITY: Iran’s links with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza as well as Shia constituencies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf States make regional retaliation against any military attack on Iran likely. UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan could be particularly vulnerable, with significant losses possible. The notion of a limited engagement in Iran is likely to prove as illusory there as it has in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

WAR ON TERROR INFLAMED: An attack on Iran would be perceived by some as an aggression towards the Muslim world, fuelling anti-Western sentiment and giving renewed impetus to extremists at home and abroad.

 

ENERGY CHAOS: Iran has the world’s second largest hydrocarbon reserves and is currently the fourth largest oil producer. A disruption to the Iranian oil supply could cause havoc in the global oil market. Iranian attempts, or even threats, to attack oil transit through the Straits of Hormuz could send oil prices over $100 per barrel.

 

ECONOMIC DAMAGE: The EU, which is partially dependent on Iranian oil supplies, could feel the squeeze and possibly even experience recession. Inflationary pressure would damage consumer confidence in the EU and the US. In developing countries, a rise in oil prices could cause GDPs to fall, exacerbating poverty and effectively undermining debt relief.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION: Military action against nuclear establishments could unleash severe radioactive contamination. Aerial bombardments or sabotage could lead to contamination through oil slicks and oil well fires.

 

IMPACT ON IRANIAN CIVILIANS: In Iran, the impact of any military action on the civilian population could be acute. The notion that military strikes would be targeted and surgical is ill founded. Iran’s nuclear facilities are located near densely populated towns, and those living or working nearby would be at serious risk. It is likely that US war planners would also target military assets beyond the nuclear facilities in anticipation of counterattacks, increasing the risk to civilians. Military action is not likely to be a short, sharp engagement but could have a profound effect on the region, with shock waves felt far beyond.

 

 

Diplomacy is the only viable option

 

Iran has proved to be a difficult negotiating partner. But it cannot be said that the potential for diplomacy has been explored fully when direct talks between Iran and the US have not taken place. The major obstacle to full negotiations - namely, the requirement that Iran stop enriching uranium before direct talks with the US can begin - remains in place. If concessions are to be won, not only on the nuclear file but also on broader regional issues, there is more work to be done on elaborating the June 2006 package of incentives to address some of Iran's fundamental concerns, particularly in relation to security guarantees. The idea of a 'Grand Bargain' should not be dismissed outright. Real diplomatic options still exist, if a face-saving solution can be found to convince the protagonists to approach the table. The possible consequences of military action could be so serious that governments have a responsibility to ensure that all diplomatic options have been exhausted. At present, this is not the case.

 

The UK government is well positioned to articulate objections to military action. Military action against Iran would work against the interests of the UK. The UK should not lose this opportunity to advocate for direct US engagement; strengthening the hand of reformists inside Iran by being seen to treat it fairly and thereby laying foundations for a more functional relationship with Iran in the future.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

This report does not dispute the seriousness of the Iranian nuclear issue, nor the gravity of local, regional and global implications should Iran develop a nuclear weapon capability. It looks at the possible consequences of military action against Iran. As this report demonstrates, those consequences are potentially so serious that complacency about the possible outcomes of a military strike could be perilous.

 

The organisations affiliated with this report are concerned that arguments for military action against Iran might gain traction before a sober analysis of the consequences of such action has taken place. It does not seek to quantify the likelihood of military action in the near future. It does question the assumption that targeted military strikes against Iran’s nuclear installations would effectively set back Iran’s nuclear programme in the mid-to-long term.

 

What is certain is that the ramifications of military action are grounds for deep anxiety. The consequences could be devastating not only for millions of Iranians, many of whom do not share the hard-line views of their current government, but also for the prospects of peace in the Middle East; for hopes of stability finally taking root in Iraq; for people living in developing country economies, who could be disproportionately affected by the likely increase in oil prices; for the already strained ecosystem in the Persian Gulf; and for the UK, US and European economies.

 

Diplomatic options have not been exhausted; several important obstacles to an agreement remain in place. There is still time to explore these options, methodically and meticulously.

 

The signatories to this report have come together to support those seeking diplomatic solutions to the Iranian nuclear issue. This report focuses on the crucial role that the UK government can play in making diplomacy work. Once the broader implications of an attack against Iran have been comprehended, there can be no option but to step up direct and robust diplomatic engagement, however challenging and frustrating that may be. The Case for Diplomatic Solutions on Iran

 

... Payvand News - 2/8/07 ... --



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