Saturday, February 26, 2005

The One Time the U.S. Might Want to Listen to Europe

This past week, President Bush went on the charm offensive in Europe, pledging to work more closely with his European allies. Slate's Fred Kaplan is pessimistic about President Bush backing up his words with actions, especially when it comes to dealing with Iran. While I do not share Kaplan's pessimism for now, I do agree with him that the U.S. should join Britain, France and Germany in its talks with Iran to dismantle its nuclear program.

The U.S. has three options right now to deal with Iran: invasion, encourage and support an internal uprising or join Europe in its talks to disarm Iran. The first option is dead in the water with the U.S. military still deeply involved in Iraq. The second option is riddled with problems too. It's unclear whether they are enough people in Iran so fed up with the mullahs that would support and engage in an uprising. In addition, I worry about the instability that a semi-successful uprising would cause in that the mullahs would lose control of the nuclear facilities and terrorists taking advantage of the power vacuum were able to take nuclear material from these facilities. While having the Iranian mullahs in control of nuclear weapons is a bad situation, terrorists having even a faction of this material is an even worse situation. The third option of a nuclear disarmament agreement certainly has problems too. There is a good possibility that with any agreement reached with Iran, that Iran will try to cheat. However, cheating can be minimized with an agreement that allows for random inspections from the U.N. and IAEA where ever and when ever and an agreement that has sufficient carrots and sticks to encourage compliance.

While a nuclear disarmament agreement appears to be the best of the imperfect solutions to deal with Iran, it has little chance of coming to fruition without the presence of the U.S. in the talks. The U.S. is the lone superpower, and can provide the biggest carrots and sticks in any agreement. Iran is not going believe anything Britain, France or Germany tells them about what the U.S. will do if they agree to disarm. In addition, to borrow a point from Kaplan's article, Iran is building nuclear weapons in part out of fear of an attack by the U.S. and Israel and not Britain, France and Germany. U.S. presence is needed to give any credibility to disarmament talks with Iran.