The world’s major powers are set to meet later this month in Washington in order to discuss nuclear security, with Iran set to be the focus of discussions at this US nuclear security summit.
Russia and China are the two most important countries that will take part in this conference, as they are the two countries who have procrastinated the most over the past 5 years and delayed and disrupted the efforts to prevent the Iranian regime from getting its nuclear project off the ground. Most of the reasons for this division between the major countries have noting to do with Iran itself, but rather with the balance of international power and interests. In the past, the Europeans dragged their feet at the prospect of issuing sanctions against Iran hoping instead to reach an acceptable solution under which Tehran would obtain the nuclear energy that it says that it needs, with the military factor being removed from the [nuclear] project. However since Barack Obama became US President last year Iran has become more overt with regards to their nuclear ambitions. The Americans agreed to all proposals made by their European allies and they agreed to numerous concessions, including dealing directly with Ahmadinejad’s government, refraining from issuing military threats, increasing the economic temptations offered to Tehran, and putting forward new ideas regarding external uranium enrichment. More important than this, the US pledged to put an end to the embargo against Iran and begin a new relationship based upon mutual respect.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected everything that Obama proposed, and in fact this only served to increase the disdain of the Iranian government and its language intensified further. As a result of this, the Europeans turned upon their previous policy and today they are leading the campaign to sanction Iran.
After its failure with Germany and France, the Iranian diplomacy turned to China and Russia in order to ensure that at least one of the votes on the UN Security Council prevents sanctions being issued against it. Tehran spent a lot, financially and politically, to lure the Russians, however Moscow turned against the Iranians and used the Iranian card to make strategic gains with the West. Beijing represents the last hope for the Iranians, and they have stepped up their visits to China over the past few weeks. However the Chinese are expected to follow the example of the Russians, and use the Iranian card in order to obtain concessions from the West and the Arabs for not using their veto.
Since Iran is China’s largest oil exporter, the first commitment offered to Beijing was to guarantee oil supply in the event of Tehran cutting off its oil exportation or blocking the Strait of Hormuz. In fact, oil reserves were being built on oil tankers close to Chinese waters in order to reassure the Beijing leadership that their oil supply is secure. In reality however the scales are not balanced, for what Iran is offering to the Chinese to buy their vote is limited in comparison to what is being offered by the West, along with a number of oil producing Arab countries, from promises of oil to economic projects and political positions.
In my opinion, the Washington Summit will provide the minimum that is required to twist the arm of Ahmadinejad’s regime and threaten it economically and politically, and perhaps even more than this. However this will not be enough to change Tehran’s position, as the regime is capable of withstanding the pressure regardless of the suffering of its people, as we saw in the case of Saddam Hussein. From here, the two sides will race to incite unrest against one another, with the West inciting unrest against Ahmadinejad’s regime, attempting to weaken and perhaps even topple it from the inside, while the Iranians will increase their intervention in the region and raise even more unrest in the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Gulf. Therefore we are on the threshold of witnessing a new historical stage, that may begin as early as the middle of this year, and this historical stage will be one that is decided by “who first throws in the towel.”