February 26, 2007


Nuclear diplomacy and Iran: Seeking the next step (Economist.com, 2/24/07)

For a start, economic pressure may begin to tell, despite the boon in revenues from high oil prices. The non-oil sectors continue to perform poorly. An Iranian parliamentary committee reported late last year that sanctions on Iran's oil exports, if ever imposed, would force the country to "modify its national priorities, and to devote the bulk of its resources to preventing major social upheaval". No one proposes oil sanctions, not least because these would hurt the world economy too. But the parliamentary report shows that Iran is aware of its own vulnerabilities. And non-oil sanctions, notably unilateral financial pressure from America and other Western countries, may already be having an impact, deterring investors and putting up the cost of funding an assortment of activities, including in the energy sector.

In turn there are some signs of political divisions within Iran. Some newspapers have recently dared to start criticising the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his controversial comments over the Holocaust, Israel's right to exist and other topics which have helped make Iran look more of a pariah. Urban-dwellers, especially, are uncomfortable about international isolation. Ms Rice would love to exploit internal splits. She has said she hoped to convince "those who are reasonable in Iran" to suspend enrichment and return to talks. The trouble is, it may be difficult to tell which reasonable-sounding Iranians really speak for the regime.

If outside powers preserve a relatively united front--for example at a meeting of senior diplomats in London on February 26th--perhaps the pressure will really begin to tell. Despite splits over Iraq, the big European powers have stood together with America over this confrontation. Russia's and China's recalcitrance over sanctions may not bode well, but even that may not be permanent. If Iran both remains stubborn externally and looks wobbly internally, the two might decide that a gentle racheting up of pressure might help achieve the goal they say they want--defanging of Iran's nuclear programme without sparking a third regional war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 26, 2007 12:02 AM

Putin has a worse Islamist problem than we'll ever have. Once the Iranians got their uranium, what'd stop them from sending it to Chechnya to help their co-religionists? China has a huge province in the west called SinKiang(?),New Frontier, which is a Muslism province. They have been fighting for independence since 1949. A Chechnya in China. In fact the one who has the least to worry about Iran is the US. The Russians and the Chinese will cave after posturing a few more days to save face.

Posted by: ic at February 26, 2007 4:30 PM

they aren't coreligionists.

Posted by: oj at February 26, 2007 6:14 PM