02 Mar The U.S., Multilateralism, and the Iranian Nuclear Program
According to recent reports, the U.S. is considering lowering the level of ire in its rhetoric towards Iran and even providing incentives to Iran (such as not blocking Iran’s bid to enter the WTO) for setting aside its attempts at constructing nuclear weapons. This turnabout of U.S. policy (see, by contrast, here) seems to be in response to calls by its European allies to become more engaged in negotiations with Iran over nuclear proliferation. As a result, there is now a more concerted effort by the Europeans, the U.S. and the U.N. in addressing the threat of Iranian military nuclearization.
One interesting side issue is how and when the issue of the Iranian nuclear program should be referred to the Security Council. The U.S. has been in favor of referring the issue sooner rather than later, likely in an attempt to get a Chapter VII resolution finding any such nuclearization a threat to international peace and security. This could open the door to international sanctions and, as discussed in my posts on S.C. resolutions and Iraq, a Chapter VII resolution with the “all necessary measures” clause (opening the way to armed interventions) .
Some view the U.S. about face as being actually an about face of 360 degrees: ending up the same place as where it started. The theory is that, by giving the Europeans what they want (engagement towards a diplomatic settlement), it will be easier for the U.S. to get European acquiescence to a Security Council referral if (or when) the negotiations fall apart. Perhaps.
Nancy Soderberg, among others, has argued (hear her, for example, on the Brian Lehrer show) that this policy shift is a sign that the Bush Administration is realizing that U.S. unilateralism will not be able to secure the type of long term changes that it is seeking in the Middle East. Returning to our earlier discussions on multilateralism and unilateralism (see here and here), by going it alone the U.S. finds that there is too much to do, at too much of a cost in blood and treasure, if it is not able to bring along more than a token coalition. And, in today’s world, if you want more than a minimal set of allies, then the U.N. is a very useful institution. In such cases multilateralism matters and it is smart politics. Perhaps Bush the Younger is learning what Bush the Elder clearly knows.