Iran and the UN: The Laughter of Ahmadinejad

It has now been almost a month since the United Nations demanded that Iran cease it’s enrichment of uranium or face sanctions from the world community. Sadly, the united front demonstrated during the passing of the U.N. Security Council’s resolution has quickly faded as the United Nations is showing yet again why the organization simply does not matter when it comes to issues of global stability.

In July, the U.N. Security Council demanded that Iran respond to an incentives package in “weeks rather than months.” Since then, Iran has defiantly stuck to its self-imposed deadline of August 22 for a formal response, ignored the August 31 deadline for the cessation of uranium enrichment, and continued to delay any discussion of its nuclear program, all the while promising Kofi Annan and the world further negotiations.

While the United States continues to favor sanctions, China, Russia, and the major European nations have abandoned their commitments to the Security Council and are now urging further diplomacy.

When it comes to China and Russia, it is not difficult to determine the motivations behind their actions. Both nations retreated from the threat of sanctions almost as soon as the Security Council resolution was passed, in part due to economic concerns and in part due to a fervent desire to defy the United States at every opportunity, no matter what the issue.

The Europeans, particularly Britain and Germany are somewhat more difficult to understand. The United Kingdom, particularly under Prime Minister Tony Blair, has been a staunch supporter of U.S. foreign policy, a critical ally in the war on terror, and a vocal critic of Ahmadinejad and the radical clerics who pull his puppet strings. Germany, under new Chancellor Angela Merkel, has made a concerted effort to move closer to the United States and has been among the most adamant voices calling for Iran to be held accountable for its actions.

Yet, both the United Kingdom and Germany signed a joint statement with long-time appeaser France that asks Iran to comply with its obligations under the U.N. Security Council resolution. That’s right, the major European powers are now ASKING Iran to agree to the terms they had previously demanded. It could be that public support for the governments in Britain and Germany is waning. It could be that neither is really willing to confront Iran about its nuclear program.

Either way, nothing is happening at the U.N. headquarters in New York, Iran is still enriching uranium, and the impotence of the Security Council is again glaringly obvious. All of this is happening because Iran knows what President Bush knows.

Iran knows that the divisions within the United Nations, and particularly within the Security Council, run deep. Iran knows that no amount of bellicose rhetoric will actually translate into meaningful sanctions or military action against its nuclear facilities, at least not with U.N. approval. Iran knows that the resolution demanding that it cease uranium enrichment is not worth the paper it is printed on.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton recently said the United States should give the U.N. until the end of this year to clean up its act. If the world body cannot or will not address its bureaucratic inefficiencies or its mismanagement by then, Bolton says the U.S. should consider cutting back on its dues. This is no small threat since the United States provides the U.N. with about one quarter of its annual budget.

But the reason for the warning is likely more than inefficiency and mismanagement. Any organization the size of the United Nations is going to be wrought with bureaucratic waste and poor leadership, at some levels if not all.

No, it is more probable that President Bush is tired of wasting U.S. diplomatic efforts in an organization that is more concerned with everyone getting along than with addressing serious security issues. It is more likely that President Bush is rapidly losing patience with a Security Council that ignores global security in the interest of national gain and increasingly defies the United States just for the sake of doing so.

Bolton’s remarks were likely a warning to the United Nations that the issue of Iran’s nuclear program could be the final straw for the Bush administration. The cutting of dues would probably be a precursor to the total U.S. abandonment of the U.N. And if the halls of the U.N. are without the powerful voice of the world’s only remaining superpower, the only sound to be heard will be the laughter of a nuclear-armed Ahmadinejad.

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