Basket Case ~ Editorial

Basket Case

New York Sun Staff Editorial
December 26, 2006

The most encouraging thing about U.N. Security Council Resolution 1737, the sanctions on Iran that were passed over the weekend, is that the American under secretary of state for political affairs, Nicholas Burns, greeted it with the declaration, "We don't think this resolution is enough in itself. We want the international community to take further action, and we're certainly not going to put all of our eggs in a U.N. basket."

It's a good thing, because the United Nations' basket of sanctions has holes big enough for dinosaur eggs to fall through. Just last week, China National Offshore Oil Corp — which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange — announced a $16 billion deal with Iran to develop Iran's North Pars natural gas field. When American politicians shortsightedly rebuffed CNOOC's bid for Unocal, the Goldman-Sachs-advised Chinese company went looking for other ways to use its capital, ways that will wind up enriching America's enemies in the war on terrorism. The CNOOC deal is not covered by the United Nations sanctions, according to Mr. Burns.

Also not covered under the U.N. sanctions is Russia's deal to help Iran build a nuclear reactor at Bushehr, a project on which the Iranian government has spent billions of dollars."We all did agree to allow the Bushehr project to continue," Mr. Burns acknowledged in a conference call with reporters. The fiction used to rationalize this exemption is that a country with such vast natural gas reserves as Iran is so ardently pursuing nuclear energy at Bushehr for peaceful scientific and energy purposes. It is a fiction that will be sustainable only until the first mushroom cloud appears over New York or Tel Aviv.

Perhaps the biggest hole in the basket is that Security Council Resolution 1737 was issued under the authority of Article 41 of Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, not Article 42. Article 41 governs "measures not involving the use of armed force," while Article 42 governs action "by air, sea, or land forces." The resolution essentially endorses a non-military solution to the problem of a terror-sponsoring, Holocaust-denying Islamist state building nuclear weapons at a time that it promises the destruction of the Jewish state in the land of Israel.

Just as the Security Council was agreeing on sanctions, there were several interesting Iran-related developments. First, a federal judge in Washington, Royce Lamberth, found that the truck bomb that killed 19 American airmen at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 had been assembled at a terrorist base operated by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards. That exposed the Iranians to the possibility of significant civil financial penalties under American antiterrorism legislation in which a country can lose its sovereign immunity — a kind of tort law version of war.

Second, a retired Israeli brigadier general, Zvi Shtauber, who is Jerusalem's former ambassador to the United Kingdom and a former adviser to Prime Minister Barak of Israel's Labor Party, released a report from Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies that was skeptical of the effectiveness of sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. "Our conclusion is that without military action you won't be able to stop Iran," General Shtauber told the Jerusalem Post. "There is no longer a possibility for effective sanctions to stop Iran."

Third, the New York Times reported that America had captured inside Iraq Iranian military officials plotting attacks on the American-backed, elected government of Iraq. The disclosure underscores the wisdom of the long-voiced warnings of Michael Ledeen that victory in the Battle of Iraq is not going to be possible without addressing the Iranian threat.

We don't want to sound unduly alarmist, but we are hoping that someone — whether it is President Bush, Prime Minister Olmert, or either of their successors — acts before the Iranians get the bomb. The direction to think in is targeted, covert sabotage of Iranian nuclear facilities, in combination with support, short of an American invasion, for regime change in Iran. The lesson of the past year, and especially of the past week, is that the United Nations basket isn't going to be tightly woven enough to contain the Iranian nuclear program.