Following on from Tuesday’s post exploring the sanctions currently imposed on Iran’s revolutionary Guards Corps and the message they are intended to send, The Shelf examines whether that message is correctly being conveyed and the stance the international community it taking on the matter. First we take a closer look at the IRGC.
Iran’s revolutionary Guards Corps were established in 1979 in order to protect the country’s Islamic system. An extremely loyal group, they were also seen to act as a counterweight for the regular armed forces, and currently the IRGC is a major military, political and economic force within Iran. By focusing on the IRGC it was hoped the US could single headedly strangle Iran’s economy, and isolate much of the countries economic infrastructure from the rest of the world.
The IRGC is in fact 125,000 strong, has its own naval and air force units, and is responsible for overseeing Iran’s strategic weapons. The IRGC also has a heavy political influence with dozens of ex-guards as MPs in Iran’s government, and president Ahmadinejad is himself a former member. Furthermore by adding the IRGC to the Americas list of terror, the IRGC have become the first part of a sovereign country’s military to be categorised as a supporter of terror.
At a first glance the IRGC looks a little more than a terror group? Washington however thinks differently, and some critics have suggested that by adding the IRGC to Americas list of terror the US is risking her international credibility. As a result is seems whilst American sanctions remian in place there are plenty other countries at this point willing to trade with Iran in place of the US. America has quickly come to realise that for a course of economic sanctions to have the desired effect on the IRGC, she needs the backing of the international community.
In the case of Iran and the IRGC, even if America got international backing through EU approval and China and Russia do not veto any UN sanctions resolution, no resolution will be effective unless Russia, China and the EU choose to enforce those sanctions fully as a collective force. For that to happen sanction objectives must be widely shared both by Iran’s neighbours and trading partners.
So where does the UN stand in regard to UN backed sanctions on Iran?
Although the UN atomic watchdog has recently stated that it was unable to confirm Iran’s nuclear intentions were entirely peaceful, it refuses to use the threat of sanctions deeming them as counterproductive at this point in time.
China too has already expressed its concerns about any UN backed sanctions on Iran and prefers the route of increased dialogue. Russia has taken a similar stance to china, even offering to act as a go between by enriching Iranian nuclear fuel for civilian use within Russia.
It seems that although the US is increasing pressure on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran, currently member states are not shifting from the view that increased dialogue is the preferred course of action.
In the past UN backed sanctions have been imposed upon governments that have violated international law with such actions as invading another countries territory. In this instance it seems claims regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions alone may not be enough to get the UN’s backing, especially being that India and Pakistan got away with the same thing with apparent US blessing. It also comes at a time when the credibility of US intelligence agencies are still recovering from inaccurate reports in the run up to the Iraq II war.
If Iran were to test a nuclear bomb then the stakes may change, and although the common goal of preventing Iran going nuclear is shared, it seems the UN sees Iran’s increased cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency as enough for now (or until November 30th at least).
It seems very much a possibly that if America cannot achieve her goals through economic sanctions which would require UN support, that George Bush is not willing to leave office without a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. This opens the gate for a strike on Iran as early as 2008, in the event of which Iran has promised to retaliate, resulting in a new conflict zone in the Middle East.