"Disappointed", "Serious concern", "crossed a red line" and "running out of patience" are just some of the responses by Russia, the US, El Baradei of the IAEA and Britain, realeased respectively in reaction to the latest Iranian actions. The Iranians have just broken UN seals at some of their nuclear research stations sparking suggestion that they are in the latter stages of acquiring the knowledge to obtain nuclear weapons.
All eyes now turn to the UN Security Council where many nations have said they will call for sanctions. The problems with this scenario are many. Firstly, nations like Russia and China have said they will use their veto to block any sanctions. Secondly, as we saw with Iraq under Saddam Hussein, sanctions in a totalitarian regime only affect the population and not the rulers and decision-makers. The sanctions and oil-for-food program were useless and even gave Saddam Hussein an extra revenue with UN workers implicated. The last problem is, once you have used sanctions and they don't work, then what? Again, looking at the Iraq model, we see that numerous last chnace UN resolutions were only worth the paper they were written on and even the threat of violence rang hollow as most nations balked at the idea they had signed up to.
So we are left at an impasse. Is there a possibility of force? Information would dictate the difficulties involved, the Israel Air Force would not have enough fuel to complete the mission. The nuclear stations are extremely well protected and spread out. This won't be a one-time raid on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear facility. If there was a huge international consensus on this issue then an attack would not just be feasible it would work. However, we know in the real world of realpolitik there will be no such consensus until it is too late.
The scenario could be that only after a nuclear launch on an enemy nation would the Europeans, Chinese, Russians, etc actually move from words to action. This is a frightening scenario, but we see time and time again it takes a massive loss of life to actually shake the tepid diplomacy to real action.
Why is it considered so unliberal and unhumanitarian to strike first at a nation with aggressive nuclear ambitions? Surely, a military precise strike with a wide international consensus is the most humanitarian scenario. There would be a loss of life but minimal compared to the millions of people soon to be within Iranian nuclear range. So there has to be a stop to the words, diplomacy and empty threats. The world can not afford a scenario where Iran joins the nuclear club, something has to be done now before it is too late.
Just as a side issue, the reason Iran is going nuclear could be due to the fact that the world can not stomach another fight. I was speaking to an Iranian analyst who grew up in Tehran and he asked me, why have the world not considered why Iran is so desperate to acquire nuclear weapons? He told me he remembers sitting at home as a young child cowering with his family while the Iraqis rained missiles, sometimes with poisonous agents, down on his city and many others. The world not only did not react, they gave tacit approval to Iraq in its war with Iran and supported Iraq financially and militarily. Iran, he said, does not want to be in that position again so must equip themselves so they can not be threatened. My friend, a Jew living in Israel said this still angers him to this day. He understands the nature of the Iranian nuclear ambitions. Have we ever stopped to think why Iran needs to acquire nuclear weapons. If we understand it maybe we can tackle the problem.
I'm not sure what the ideal solution to this issue is, but it is certainly food for thought.