Friday, September 15, 2006

Iran May Suspend It's Nuclear Programme.

Iran has told the European Union that it may suspend it’s uranium enrichment programme to enable talks aimed at resolving the current dispute with the West. Although neither side has confirmed the Iranian offer it is thought that a suspension of the nuclear programme would last roughly two months.

"Iran ... has accepted to talk about the question of suspension.” spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei informed news agencies at a regular news briefing

Over recent weeks increasingly strained relationships have developed between Iran and other international states, especially the USA, as Iranian president President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refuses to back down over Iran’s uranium enrichment activities.

Ahmadinejad claims that the programme is solely for civilian purposes. Legally, a country may enrich its own fuel if it is used solely for civil nuclear power; Tehran argues that is doing just this and thus should be allowed to continue. However critics have fears that Iran has plans for a nuclear weapons programme and will use the uranium enrichment to make atomic bombs.

There is increased dispute within the United Nation as to how to handle Iranian dissidence, especially after Iran ignored a recent UN deadline to call a halt to its nuclear programme. The US is strongly advocating UN sanctions to be imposed immediately. However no immediate action is likely to be taken now that Iran has offered to suspend nuclear activities temporarily. Russia and China, both veto holding member on the security council have stated that they will not support severe punishments.

Yesterday foreign office minister Kim Howells expressed his doubt that punitive sanction would be successful:

"I can't see a military way through this and I'm not sure that even there's an easy way for the U.N. to impose sanctions," he told parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee.

"It's a very diverse country and I've no doubt it could survive for a very long time and continue doing what it's doing," he added.

If sanctions fail, as they are expected to, military action seems inevitable. If military action does come to light it would probably be spearheaded by Israel and the USA. A ground offensive seems unlikely given the USA’s commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Israels forces being tied up in Lebanon. Most likely, military action will compromise an large air attack aimed at at the systematic destruction of Iranian nuclear targets with the goal of setting back Iran’s nuclear programme 3-5 years.

One report from the influential Oxford Research Group is pessimistic about the successfulness of military action:

"One key response from Iran would be.. to reconstruct a nuclear programme and develop it rapidly into nuclear weapons capability...this would require further attacks....A military action would not, therefore be a short term matter but would set in motion a complex and long lasting confrontation. “

It concluded that
“Military action should be firmly ruled out, and other alternatives sought.”

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