Tuesday, January 30, 2007

European Realpolitik on Iran

Europe is resisting American calls to economically boycott Iran because of Iranian meddling in Iraq and refusal to curtail their nuclear program, which Iran claims is civilian in nature.
European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.

Administration officials say a new American drive to reduce exports to Iran and cut off its financial transactions is intended to further isolate Iran commercially amid the first signs that global pressure has hurt Iran’s oil production and its economy. There are also reports of rising political dissent in Iran.

In December, Iran’s refusal to give up its nuclear program led the United Nations Security Council to impose economic sanctions. Iran’s rebuff is based on its contention that its nuclear program is civilian in nature, while the United States and other countries believe Iran plans to make weapons.

At issue now is how the resolution is to be carried out, with Europeans resisting American appeals for quick action, citing technical and political problems related to the heavy European economic ties to Iran and its oil industry.
This is unsurprising as Europe values its economic dealings with Iran more than the possible chance of war breaking out between Iran and the U.S. if Iran gets more aggressive in Iraq, which indeed seems unlikely. Again this is the nature of realpolitik -- an educated guess as to how events will turn out and how it can effect a state's or regional organization's interests.

Right now, Europe is playing with a tiny fire and is unlikely to be burned. But with any fire, however small, there is the chance an ember will jump out of the enclosure and create a forest fire.

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