Thursday, January 12, 2006

Does Europe Have the Will to Use Military Force Against Iran?

Iran is ramping up development of a nuclear weapon and the European nations tasked with negotiating the matter are expected to end talks and refer the situation to the U.N. Security Council. Most likely, the Security Council will recommend sanctions.

Given that the Iranians have yet to enrich any uranium and won’t have the capacity to do so for quite some time, international sanctions would be the appropriate next step. But what if that isn’t enough and Iran continues forward? The U.N. is not exactly adept at resolving significant world crises (as the organization’s ineffectiveness in Kosovo proved and as their impotence in the face of the Darfur genocide is proving anew). If Iran refuses to cease uranium enrichment, it’s unlikely that the paralytically deliberative U.N. could solve the problem.

If sanctions don’t work, the only remaining action would be to threaten military strikes. The U.N. won’t do that, or at least won’t do that until the crisis has boiled over. Thus, the issue would fall back on the E.U. as they are the Western body charged with resolving the problem. But can the E.U. pose a credible military threat? Or would Iran take one look at Europe’s depleted military capabilities and pacifist inclinations and conclude that any military threat is meaningless?

The European powers are meeting in London this week where they are expected to refer the matter to the U.N. But I hope they will also discuss worse-case-scenarios and bolster their collective will so that they are prepared to take aggressive action should diplomacy and sanctions fail.

A nuclear Iran is a frightening possibility. The world would be well-served if the Europeans showed the resolve necessary to prevent such an eventuality. If they falter, the United States and Israel would certainly step in. But it would be good for our nation and the world if we didn’t have to take the lead.


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