Special Report

Rogue State Enabler

When Iran gets the bomb, thank the U.N.

By 5.3.06

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Either today or tomorrow the United States, Britain and France will introduce a resolution to the United Nations Security Council urging swift and tough action opposing Iran's rapidly developing nuclear program. According to under secretary of state Nicholas Burns, the resolution will carry a "stiff message" and express "serious concern" about the program and Iran's refusal to halt the program in the face of massive amounts of international pleading and whining.

That'll show 'em.

Iran announced on April 9 that its uranium enrichment program had reached an advanced stage. The Security Council leapt into action. It told Iran -- informally -- to halt its program by April 28. Iran didn't.

Now the Security Council might consider sending a "stiff message" that, the New York Times reports, "does not include a fixed deadline for compliance or a specific threat of action against Iran if it does not comply."

As the United States, Britain, and France try to use the United Nations to keep Iran from getting the bomb, Iran tries to use the United Nations to censure the United States. On Monday Iran's ambassador to the U.N. asked the world body to oppose statements by President Bush and Condoleezza Rice that the United States would not rule out the use of military force, including nuclear weapons, against Iran if it does not halt its program.

It's no wonder Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thinks he can use the U.N. to his advantage. Iran was elected one of eight vice-chairmen of the U.N. Disarmament Commission on April 10, only a day after it announced its advanced enrichment of uranium.

Here's the question: What does Iran have to lose by developing a nuclear weapon? Thanks to the United Nations, most likely nothing. Iran is paying Russia, a permanent Security Council member, somewhere on the order of $1 billion to develop its first nuclear energy plant. China, another permanent member, is a major buyer of Iranian oil and has never met a despot its leaders didn't like. There is no chance the Security Council would authorize military force against Iran.

That leaves economic sanctions. Colin Powell discussed sanctions on Britain's ITV this past weekend.

"I don't know that there is a very robust menu of sanctions," he said. "I think that the menu of sanctions would be quite limited. By sanctions I mean those that could actually get through the Security Council.

"It seems to me that the Iranians have looked at this very carefully, and they have examined their situation and have decided to go forward even in the face of potential sanctions, which suggests to me that they have pretty much decided that they can accept whatever sanctions are coming their way."

And that means one thing. Iran is going to get the bomb. The only possible way to prevent that outcome is unilateral action from the United States, Britain, and Israel, and this week Iran mimicked Saddam Hussein and announced that any military action against it would trigger an immediate strike against Israel. The appetite for a unilateral strike is nearly nil, and Iran knows it. Iran has the upper hand, and it intends to play it.

These events are further confirmation that the U.N. is not an international policeman; it is an international schoolmarm. It wags a finger, utters high-falutin' scolds and keeps ineffectually telling everyone to play nice. Meanwhile, evil regimes grow stronger.

The myth of multilateralism is that polite, reasoned debate can sway nations to act against their own self-interest. The current Iran crisis shows otherwise. Wicked regimes will use the institutions created by well-meaning do-gooders to their own advantage. It is why the United Nations will never be an effective keeper of world peace or disarmer of rogue states, and why Iran, secure in the knowledge that the U.N. will not authorize military action against it, feels free to pursue the bomb with impunity. Thanks, U.N.!

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About the Author

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @Drewhampshire.