January 30, 2006
By Peter Brookes
Masterfully pitting the East versus the West, this week Iran is
once again likely to slip the noose over its nuclear (weapons)
program - avoiding a vote of the International Atomic Energy
Agency's Board of Governors, meeting in emergency session in
Vienna, to refer the Iran case to the U.N. Security Council.
It really should come as no surprise.
Why this failure of the best efforts of the United States and the
European Union to heel Iran's atomic aspirations? Tehran is
countering via increasingly cozy relationships with China, Russia
And why are Beijing, Moscow and New Delhi dragging their feet on
dealing decisively with Iran's nuclear program? Raw
Take China: Now perhaps the world's No. 4 economy, China is also
the No. 2 energy consumer - scouring the globe for new energy
sources to stoke a decade of double-digit economic growth. And Iran
is now China's third-largest oil supplier.
Moreover, China has invested nearly $100 billion in developing
Iranian oil/gas fields. By some estimates, Iran will provide China
with over 250 million tons of natural gas and 150,000 barrels of
crude oil per day over the next 30 years.
Plus, Iran buys Chinese conventional weapons, including anti-ship
cruise missiles and anti-tank missiles - and technology and
equipment for WMDs and ballistic missiles, such as missile
control/guidance systems, chemical-weapon precursors and nuclear
materials and technology.
Iran is also a commercial cash cow for China. Chinese firms are
building Tehran's billion-dollar subway system. And Beijing plans
to invest over $200 million to help finance a new highway
connecting Tehran to the Caspian Sea coast; other projects are in
And, strategically speaking, Beijing certainly doesn't mind keeping
the United States off balance in the Middle East with a
nuclear-armed Iran (plus Iraq, Afghanistan and war on terror) while
the People's Republic increases its influence in Asia, Africa and
even Latin America.
Russia is also heavily vested in Iran. Moscow is trying to broker a
self-serving deal to supply and reprocess uranium for Iranian
reactors, ostensibly preventing Tehran from turning nuke fuel into
bomb material. Iran isn't sold on it yet; the next round of talks
is Feb. 16.
Russia has already built a $1 billion nuclear reactor for Iran at
Bushehr, and Tehran has expressed interest in two to three more
reactors. Actually, it's considering building more than 100 nuclear
reactors in the years ahead. Russia unquestionably wants a cut of
that fat action . . .
A security relationship exists, too. In December - to our horror -
Russia agreed to sell Iran $1 billion in arms, including $700
million worth of advanced surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), the
Each TOR unit is capable of tracking 48 bogies and firing at two
targets at the same time. The SAMs pose a deadly threat to aircraft
involved in any strike against the tens of Iranian nuclear-related
targets, including the high-value sites at Bushehr, Natanz, Arak
Reportedly, Moscow and Tehran have also discussed the sale of
billions of dollars of other weapons, including more diesel
submarines, air-defense systems and anti-ship missiles - and
fighters, ground-to-ground missiles and armored infantry
India has its own stake in the Iranian nuclear standoff: Delhi's
developing economy also craves access to world energy supplies.
Iran and India, along with Pakistan, have agreed to build a $7
billion pipeline to move Iranian natural gas to India via
The pipeline would ease India's energy crunch by delivering
affordable gas, while providing impoverished Pakistan with
much-needed transit-fee income. The joint project might improve
always testy Indo-Pakistani relations, too.
While India, along with 21 others, voted last September in favor of
referring Iran from the IAEA to the UNSC, Delhi's stance has
softened. (Abetting Iran's atomic ambitions may come with a high
price, such as scuttling congressional support for a pending
U.S.-India civilian-nuclear-cooperation pact - and forget about
gaining a permanent Security Council seat . . .)
Also working against U.S.-E.U. efforts is the fact that an IAEA
report on Iranian cooperation with IAEA inspectors isn't due before
March. This - and the pending Russian deal - make decisive IAEA
action this week improbable.
On the merits, this should (finally!) be the week for
referring Iran to the Security Council for tougher measures such as
punitive economic sanctions. But the diplomatic stars may not yet
be quite aligned in our favor.
Worse: The same self-serving national interests make it less likely
that Beijing/Moscow/Delhi will support action when and if we go to
the mat at the United Nations over Iran.
Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow. His
book, "A Devil's Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and Rogue States," is
First appeared in the New York Post
Masterfully pitting the East versus the West, this week Iran is once again likely to slip the noose over its nuclear (weapons) program — avoiding a vote of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors, meeting in emergency session in Vienna, to refer the Iran case to the U.N. Security Council.
Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
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