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IRAN: If no sanctions and no war, then what?

September 29, 2008 |  7:55 am

Qodsday

Iran has managed to escape sanctions, but it didn't walk away completely unscathed from the latest United Nations General Assembly meeting.

The U.N. Security Council over the weekend passed a largely symbolic resolution against Iran for its refusal to stop producing enriched uranium, a key step in a certain type of nuclear weapons program, as well as in producing fuel for peaceful power generation.

The five-paragraph resolution reaffirmed four previous resolutions containing three sets of sanctions and urged Iran to comply with U.N. demands "without delay."

Of course Iran was flabbergasted.

Its office at the U.N. issued a news release calling the unanimous move "unfortunate" and an "unpleasant surprise" for the whole world. Iran downgraded its participation in an International Atomic Energy Agency conference set to begin today, a reminder that it could also boot U.N. arms inspectors out of the country if it's pushed too hard.

But the resolution fell far short of the harsh punitive sanctions the U.S. and Israel wanted. With veto-wielding Russia virtually ruling out the possibility of even mild sanctions, it was the best deal they could get, affirming the Bush administration's ninth-inning conversion to the type of painstaking multilateral consensus-building it decried during its first years in power.

Qodsday2There are other considerations and dynamics at work. All the Europeans keep talking about maintaining a united front yada, yada, yada. Fact is, they're still doing a lot of business with Iran. France's mammoth Total energy conglomerate and Austria's OMV are among the lead sponsors of an upcoming gas exploration conference in Tehran.

France's Danone yogurt company (called Dannon in the U.S.) has begun doing business in Iran, as has the mega-retailer Carrefour, which is a French version of Wal-Mart but with a better selection of cheeses.

That's not to mention the unabated presence of European automakers such as Renault, Peugeot and BMW.

There are also signs that the Bush administration is toning down the war talk in its final months. The Guardian, citing unnamed sources, reported last week that the Bush administration nixed any possible Israeli attack on Iran.

The Bush administration's decision to install advanced radar technology in Israel is likely a better weather vane of where all of this is probably headed.

Despite the position of the Bush administration, both U.S. presidential candidates and European leaders that a nuclear-armed Iran is "unacceptable," the West and Israel appear to be preparing the framework to live in a future with an Iran that might obtain nuclear weapons capability.

Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photos: From top, demonstrators burn an Israeli flag during Iran's annual Jerusalem Day celebrations on Friday in Tehran; a woman attends the Jerusalem Day event, which marks Iran's opposition to Israel.

Credits: Hossein Fatemi / Fars News Agency; Ali Abbaspour / Fars News Agency

P.S. Get news from the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, as well as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates," and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

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