European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran. Administration officials say a new American drive to reduce exports to Iran and cut off its financial transactions is intended to further isolate Iran commercially amid the first signs that global pressure has hurt Iran’s oil production and its economy. There are also reports of rising political dissent in Iran. (...)The European Union is now implementing the limited UN sanctions against Iran. Is it time for (full) economic sanctions against Iran? Unfortunately, there is not much of a debate about it in Europe, is there? Dear readers, are you in favor of tougher sanctions?
The Bush administration has called on Europe to do more economically as part of a two-year-old trans-Atlantic agreement in which the United States agreed to support European efforts to negotiate a resolution of the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. Typically, American officials say, European companies that do business with Iran get loans from European banks and then get European government guarantees for the loans on the ground that such transactions are risky in nature. According to a document used in the discussions between Europe and the United States, which cites the International Union of Credit and Investment Insurers, the largest providers of such credits in Europe in 2005 were Italy, at $6.2 billion; Germany, at $5.4 billion; France, at $1.4 billion; and Spain and Austria, at $1 billion each. In addition to buying oil from Iran, European countries export machinery, industrial equipment and commodities, which they say have no military application.
More after the fold:
The US government might want to turn to India as well rather than just Europe: Foreign Policy Magazine has a list of "Top Ten Stories You Missed in 2006." The number one story is "India Helps Iran Build the Bomb, While the White House Looks the Other Way."
The U.S. government usually takes a hard line against countries that assist Iran with its nuclear program. In 2006 alone, Washington sanctioned firms in Cuba, North Korea, and Russia for making it a little easier for Iran to develop weapons of mass destruction. But, when the proliferator is a close American ally, the United States seems to take a different approach. Just after the U.S. House of Representatives voted in July to support a plan to provide India with nuclear technology, the Bush administration quietly imposed sanctions on two Indian firms for supplying Tehran with missile parts. Nor was the White House forthcoming with congress about other blots on India’s proliferation record: In the past two years, two other Indian companies have been penalized for allegedly passing chemical weapons information to Iran, and two Indian scientists who ran the state-run nuclear utility were barred from doing business with the U.S. government after they allegedly passed heavy-water nuclear technology to Tehran. Far from scuttling India’s nuclear deal, the United States seems to have rewarded the country by overturning 30 years of nonproliferation policy in its favor.• The Washington Post has learned: "Military Surplus Parts Illegally Find Their Way to Iran, U.S. Officials Say"
Fighter-jet parts and other sensitive U.S. military gear seized from front companies for Iran and brokers for China have been traced in criminal cases to a surprising source: the Pentagon. In one case, federal investigators said, contraband purchased in Defense Department surplus auctions was delivered to Iran, a country President Bush has branded part of an "axis of evil." In that instance, a Pakistani arms broker convicted of exporting U.S. missile parts to Iran resumed business after his release from prison. He purchased Chinook helicopter engine parts for Iran from a U.S. company that had bought them in a Pentagon surplus sale. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents say those parts reached Iran.I am not aware of any such recent cases involving European arms sales.
• A University of Maryland's World Public Opinion survey concludes:
+ Iranians Want Capacity to Enrich Uranium But Accept Non Proliferation Treaty Rules Against Developing Nuclear Weapons
+ Americans Would Allow Limited Enrichment, Provided UN Is Given Full Access
+ Iranians and Americans Believe Islam and West Can Find Common Ground
and most importantly:
Iranians and Americans have generally unfriendly feelings toward each other. Most Iranians have negative opinions of the United States (76%) and the current US government (93%) while their attitudes toward the American people are divided (45% favorable, 49% unfavorable). Most Americans also have unfavorable views of Iran. More than three-fourths (78%) see the Iranian government negatively while more than half (59%) feel the same way about the Iranian people. Nonetheless, both publics are interested in improving U.S-Iranian relations. Large majorities of Americans and majorities or pluralities of Iranians endorse a variety of ways to strengthen ties, including increased trade (Iranians 52%, Americans 65%), direct talks between the two governments on issues of mutual concern (Iranians 48%, Americans 79%), greater access for each other’s journalists (Iranians 51%, Americans 68%), and more cultural, educational, and sporting exchanges (Iranians 46%, Americans 72%).
Is it a credible public opinion poll survey?
The questionnaire included 134 substantive questions on a wide range of international issues, administered in face-to-face interviews in rural and as well as urban areas. Both the Iranian and U.S. surveys were probability-based national samples of 1,000 respondents or more.
Okay, that is about the Iranian public rather than the regime.
Anyway, another question for anybody interested: Should the Bush administration start direct negotiations with Iran?
It does not have to be with Ahmadinejad. Iran's top negotiator on issues of national security, including Iran's nuclear program, is Ali Larijani. He is also one of two representatives of the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). The influence of Ahmadinejad is often exaggerated in the media.
• One argument against US-Iran negotiations was that Washington is waiting Tehran out by betting on falling oil prices, political isolation and by hoping for a change to a more amenable government. Now it seems that one of America's closest allies might not help out: Foreign Policy Passport points out that "Saudi Arabia wants to shave oil output by 158,000 bpd. Maybe the Saudis don't want to bury the Iranians in cheap oil after all."
• Foreign Policy: Who Pays When the Bomb Goes Off?
The growth of the nuclear club provides more opportunities for terrorists to acquire deadly materials. That means the world needs a new strategy of deterrence. What could help keep the right ingredients• Related post in the Atlantic Review: Liberal American sends Europe a letter on Iran
out of the wrong hands? Giving bombs birth certificates.
Final thought: Perhaps the EU and the US could make a deal with each other:
The EU implements economic sanctions against Iran, which would cost us a lot.
And the US engages in serious, direct and unconditional negotiations with Iran.
Does that make sense?