They must be celebrating in Tehran right now. Russia has announced that it will oppose sanctions when Iran's nuclear program is referred to the U.N. Security Council. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said "such measures rarely achieve their goals," and indicated that the UN "must rely on the professional expertise of the IAEA, the watchdog of the non-proliferation regime." And he said it with a straight face, adding for good measure that Moscow is convinced that there is no military solution to this crisis.
Excuse me for a moment...
(SOUND OF HYSTERICAL LAUGHTER).
Let me get this straight. To keep Iran's nuclear efforts in check, we're supposed to rely on an organization that (1) Missed Saddam's nuclear program in the late 80s; (2) Ignored A.Q. Kahn's global nuclear proliferation network; (3) Kept inspectors and surveillance cameras at North Korea's inactive Yongbyon Nuclear Facility throughout the 1990s, while Pyongyang built nuclear weapons at a covert complex nearby, and (4) Failed to anticipate/gauge the gravity of the India-Pakistan nuclear crisis in 1999. Quite an impressive record, eh?
Unfortunately, it gets worse. Permanent UNSC members Britain and France are supposedly working on a "statement" that urges Iran to re-impose a voluntary freeze on its nuclear enrichment efforts and cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors. Reading the diplomatic tea leaves, it appears as though London and Paris might offer such a "sharply worded statement" in lieu of more forceful measures--such as sanctions--that would probably be vetoed by China or Russia.
Not surprisingly, Iran remains defiant, hinting that it might use the "oil weapon" if the west attempts to punish Tehran for its nuclear efforts. A senior Iranian representative to the IAEA threatened the U.S. with "harm and pain" for bringing Tehran's nuclear program before the UNSC. "Harm and pain" probably refers to a variety of potential responses, ranging from terrorist attacks to oil production cutbacks. Iran's bluster suggests it has little concern about potential action by the IAEA and UNSC--and with good reason. The Russian card is already being played, and if that isn't enough, the Chinese option remains available, too.
Meanwhile, a senior Israeli official says if the UN doesn't act, his nation will have no choice but to defend itself. It would be interesting to know if the training tempo has increased in recent weeks at Israeli Air Force bases.
Finally, here's a fascinating item from our friend Roger L. Simon. He has reprinted an editorial from today's New York Sun, based on scheduled Congressional testimony by Middle East expert Michael Ledeen. Mr. Ledeen has some definite ideas about the Iranian threat, and what we should be doing to promote regime change in Tehran. Ledeen was scheduled to testify today before Congressman Henry Hyde's House International Relations Committee.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Ledeen's expected testimony concerns Iran's potential to place medium-range missiles (and nuclear warheads) in South American nations, where the mullahs are cultivating relations with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, among others. It sounds far-fetched, but it is not beyond the realm of possibilities. Chavez has a definite interest in acquiring ballistic missiles, and he's courting several countries--including North Korea and Iran that could provide that technology.