Iran believes “that enriching uranium is [its] ‘absolute right’ under the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” claims a Wall Street Journal article on June 20. In response, world powers, led by the U.S., have demanded that Iran “[put] a halt to its high-grade nuclear enrichment, ship out the highly-enriched fuel it has amassed, and shut down a nuclear facility situated deep in a mountain that is impervious to an airstrike.” Exacerbating the situation is Iran’s decision to back out of a tentative arrangement to allow United Nations inspectors increased access to its uranium facilities.
The standoff is likely to result in greater U.S. sanctions against Iran. These could include more focus on the Iranian energy, financial, shipping and insurance sectors. According to one U.S. senator, Iran is in continued violation of numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions relating to its uranium enrichment program.
Western officials were optimistic that Iran might capitulate after Russian diplomats pressured them to do so. This did not happen, and the recent meetings in Moscow were not successful.
Sanctions continue to take a toll on the Iranian economy and have “driven up the cost of staple goods by as much as 50%,” according to the Journal. New penalties will target Iranian oil exports, the principal source of the country’s revenues.
Iran has promised to retaliate against sanctions in the past. This included a threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, an important channel for the movement of oil through the Persian Gulf. Terrorist and insurgent attacks are also possible.
Many experts believe that the sanctions are the last move by the West. If they are not successful in bringing Iran to the negotiating table, military action by the U.S. and/or Israel may soon follow. Congress will meet momentarily to discuss this possible action.
When assessing the Iran situation, one must first consider whether the U.N. Security Council should have the power to prohibit sovereign nations from developing nuclear weapons. If so, the Iranians have no choice but to comply or face even greater sanctions and/or military action.
Regarding the latter contingency, it is inconceivable that the U.N. Security Council will approve military action, and so it will be up to the U.S. and Israel to decide whether to proceed unilaterally. This action will surely result in condemnation from many nations. And more importantly, it may cause Iran to retaliate in unspeakable ways against the West and Israel.
As we debate this growing crisis, we must measure the value of the U.N. and it Security Council, if it is defanged after rogue regimes defy its resolutions.