In the past, I have often been against the excessive sanctions imposed on Iran, invoking the fact that there is no evidence that Iran has been developing nuclear weaponry. However, with the recent events in North Korea, I now propose greater international intervention in Iran.
In response to North Korea’s threats of a long-range nuclear test and satellite imagery that seems to confirm these preparations, the UN has mandated more stringent sanctions on North Korea. It seems that every time North Korea violates international law, its sanctions are tightened and, yet, it continues to violate international law. The fact of the matter is that North Korea doesn’t care about sanctions. The nation has self-imposed economic isolation and can receive any imports it needs from allies such as Russia in any case.
Iran is a similar situation. Although it is not isolationist, it can also receive, and currently does receive, illegal trade from backer Russia despite heavy sanctions. Moreover, despite the benefits that its people receive from foreign trade, popularity is immaterial to the government. The Iranian government is solely interested in demonstrating its foreign power to the world, much like North Korea. Although elections are set for this summer, it appears that due to rigging an equally despotic ruler as Ahmadinejad will come to power and the nuclear armament will continue.
The difference between Iran and North Korea is in their stages of nuclear armament. While North Korea has potent nuclear weapons right now, Iran is still at the low-enrichment stage of uranium production. It will take months, if not years, for Iran to build an operational nuclear weapon. So, the international community is unable to have any leverage over North Korea for fears that it may use its nuclear weapons if it feels threatened. It is forced to use sanctions as a merely safe-facing measure to prove that the UN does have some minimal amount of power. However, it knows that these sanctions will never work. On the other hand, Iran does not have a nuclear arsenal yet, so the international community is better able to impose its will over Tehran. If the UN and the international community waits until Iran achieves nuclear armament to take action, they will be stuck in the same position as they are currently with North Korea where they are unable to do anything but watch and hope for the best.
Clearly, military intervention in Iran is needed. The question, though, is who? The United Nations lacks the ability to do so because it has a strict set of circumstances in which it can use military power, and Iran doesn’t fit the mold. Also, with Russia’s voting power in the Security Council, such a proposal would certainly be rejected. NATO seems like a viable option. It was able to carry out an effective no-fly-zone over Libya and has a strong enough military task force to defeat Iran easily even if it is protected by allies such as Russia.
How, though, would such a coalition reach its motive of preventing nuclear armament in Iran? There is a reason why the military has not been use in preventative measures in the past: it is difficult and very inefficient compared to using it for punitive measures. The goal should not be in wiping out all roots of nuclear reactors in Iran; after all, nuclear energy is an extremely important part of Iran’s economy. The goal should instead be to coerce Iran into staying at the low-enrichment stage of uranium enrichment and agreeing to IAEA inspections. Needless to say, any type of military action should come after the Iranian election. Although it appears that the election will be rigged so that someone in Ahmadinejad’s party will win, it will be most prudent to wait until then… just in case.