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May 17, 2007

The Business Of Iran's Hardline Military Elite And The Futility Of Sanctions To Stop Iran's Nuclear Bomb

Topics: Iran

Omeed Jafari writes at the Daily Standard today that new new punitive measures against Iran may result in some unintended consequences. As Europe and Asia forgo commercial opportunities, Tehran will turn to its hardline military elite, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), to fulfill its commercial and infrastructural needs. In the process, the IRGC will fill its coffers with billions of dollars, and further export its brand of terror. Flush with over $5 billion cash, the Corps will further augment the Basij, the paramilitary force responsible for regime protection and will also cement Iran's sponsorship of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas, and grease the flow of sophisticated weaponry to these terror groups, and the al-Sadr's Mahdi Army in Iraq:

ON APRIL 25, the United States and Europe adopted new punitive measures against Iran. While European foreign ministers imposed a complete arms embargo and a more extensive travel ban against Tehran's leadership, the United States sanctioned fourteen people, companies, and agencies which buy and sell Iranian weapons.

These latest measures targeting Iran may impact the country's economy by raising already high levels of political and commercial risk, thus forcing many European and Asian corporations and banks to cease their operations there. But, the sanctions will also have an unintended effect: as Europe and Asia forgo commercial opportunities, Tehran will turn to its hardline military elite, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), to fulfill its commercial and infrastructural needs. In the process, the IRGC will fill its coffers with billions of dollars, and further export its brand of terror.

There is precedent. The first sign of the IRGC's nationalist economic ambitions came in 2004, when Guard forces shut down Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport rather than allow a Turkish-led consortium to run airport operations. However, it took President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's June 2005 election to the presidency to set the IRGC on the road to big business.

... Inside Iraq, serial numbers on weapons and explosives used by a number of insurgent groups point to the Qods (Jerusalem) Force, the IRGC's foreign arm. Some American intelligence officials believe Qods has financed and armed Shiite militias. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense has accused Qods of supporting insurgent cleric Moktada al-Sadr with $80 million in funding and resources.

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Interesting as Jafari's piece is, as much as we'd all like sanctions to work, which they haven't so far and aren't likely to anytime soon, all of the discussions on sanctions are now moot. Iran has just crossed the red line, and as Bolton aptly suggests, the time to bomb Iran is sooner rather than later:

The European Union needs to "get more serious" about Iran and recognise that its diplomatic attempts to halt Iran's enrichment programme have failed, John Bolton, who still has close links to the Bush administration, told The Daily Telegraph.

Iran has "clearly mastered the enrichment technology...they're not stopping, they're making progress and our time is limited", he said. "Economic sanctions 'with pain' have to be the next step, followed by attempts to overthrow the theocratic regime and, ultimately, military action to destroy nuclear sites," the Telegraph quoted Bolton.

Bolton's warnings appear to have been validated by leaks about an inspection by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Iran's main nuclear installation at Natanz on Sunday. Experts found that Iran's scientists are operating 1,312 centrifuges, machines used to enrich uranium. If Iran can install 3,000, it will need about one year to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb, reported the Telegraph.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Bolton has said that it has been proven that Iran will not abandon its nuclear programme and only increasing pressure on them can stop them.

He said that if enough countries cannot be convinced to take part in such an initiative, a regime change must be considered because that could be the only way the Iran government would deem it safer not to pursue nuclear weapons. "And if all else fails, if the choice is between a nuclear-capable Iran and the use of force, then I think we need to look at the use of force," he added.

Iran has no intention of halting its program. As an op-ed at the Chicago Tribune asks, is that negotiable? "The only way to find out is to significantly crank up the price that Iran pays for defiance."

Posted by Abdul at May 17, 2007 7:53 AM



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