Vice President Biden recently declared that Iran has never been more isolated and the international community never more united against it. He says new sanctions at the U.N. are next. He hopes this is going to stop Tehran's nuclear weapons. Really? Let us look:
1. Our intelligence community says Iran will build rockets capable of hitting New York in 5 years. Our plan? We will defend ourselves with better missile defenses in 2020.
2. Congress will soon pass legislation putting sanctions on firms that do energy business with Iran--such as selling refined petroleum products. Tehran imports some 40% of its gasoline so any cutoff would hurt. Good idea.
3. While political pressure has successfully stopped five of the top sellers of gasoline to Iran, China's top oil firm has stepped up and is selling Iran what it needs. Moreover, the legislation exempts Chinese firms from the proposed penalties. If it did not, the administration will not sign the bill.
4. Some 40 companies in Western countries do business in the Iranian energy sector. Some are subsidiaries of American companies. Some are European. The Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 gives our president authority to stop doing business with such firms. Since 1996, the federal government has done over $100 billion worth of business with these companies.
5. We are threatening another round of sanctions against Iran at the U.N. The first three sanctions have not yet done the trick. China does not want tough sanctions. Russia does not want sanctions that affect Iran as a whole.
6. Iran keeps spinning centrifuges to make nuclear fuel which, if sufficiently enriched, can make nuclear bombs. They are building faster rockets that can fly further. Iran is the only nation sending weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Their friends in Damascus have sent Scud missiles to Hezbollah. That is what Saddam Hussein used to have. And North Korea, too.
7. There are reports that Iran will have enough nuclear weapons material to make a bomb in 12 months. Another three years and they will be able to create a working warhead.
8. Venezuela plans to supply Iran, in the future, with needed uranium and gasoline for its economy. China has just sent $20 billion to Venezuela to rescue its economy, while Russia has loaned President Chavez billions to buy weapons.
9. A computer owned by the top FARC commander seized by Columbia forces last year contained -- on its hard drive -- plans to use explosives and weapons supplied by Russia and shipped through Venezuela, to enable Hezbollah to blow up Mexican pipelines shipping oil to the United States.
Whatever game of international chicken we are playing with the mullahs in Tehran, who, Mr. Vice President, did you say is winning?
Peter Huessy is president of GeoStrategic Analysis, a Potomac, Maryland-based defense consulting firm. He is also Senior Defense Consultant at the National Defense University Foundation.
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