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Iran, the SCO, and the NPT

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ratcheted up the rhetoric, suggesting that Iran might quit the NPT, which the has been used to restrict and control the development of nuclear technology. This announcement, which was made in a discussion with reporters and is not official policy (yet) is likely Iran's way of saying that for them as well "all options are on the table". This could simply be rhetoric to heat up the Americans into a preemptive strike on Iran, which would likely play into any political desires Ahmadinejad has. If so, he is playing a very dangerous game; if the Iranian public begins to get a sense that he has baited the outside world into attacking them, his gambit might be for not.

He also said that he doesn't believe the UN will impose economic restrictions on Friday, the day the Security Council demanded Iran suspend all uranium enrichment. In that he might be right, but, as others smarter than I have suggested, he should be wary; the UN Security Council might well back sanctions yet.

Economic sanctions or worse are indeed less likely owing to the reluctance of Russia and China, who rely on Iran for oil and gas, however anything is possible. If a UN security council resolution is proposed, all that is required I believe is yes votes from nine of the fifteen members and no vetoes. Russia and China do have vetoes, and every public statement they have made to date indicate they might veto, but it is hard to say exactly what they would do if a motion was proposed and backed by enough countries.

An interesting piece of recent news that has some bearing on this is that the Chinese are about to offer Iran membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The SCO is an economic organization which, if observer memberships become full for Pakistan, India, and Mongolia, will cover the majority of the world's fastest growing economies. This bit from the article must be raising eyebrows in the US State Department:
Its main focus has been regional security and the fight against separatism and extremism, but last year witnessed a shift linked by some analysts to Beijing's opposition to American "hegemony" and wariness about U.S. presence near its western flank.

It's certainly hard to see how Iran would fit in an organization whose main goals are fighting extremism, but it certainly could be a welcome member state in the "Us vs. Them" club. I'm not sure if we're beginning to see a Cold War-style alignment of powers yet, but it is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Iran keeps getting bigger and more complicated and more important with every article I read. And for what it's worth, the PNAC decision to invade Iraq looks more and more foolish.

I don't know enough about the internal politics or economics of Russia to know if Putin would benefit from flipping the bird to the Americans or indeed how reliant they are on trade with Iran. Would sanctions damage their own already fragile economy? As for the Chinese, it is anyone's guess. They certainly need the resources, but they have the economic clout to get them anywhere. I have a sense that they are beginning to express their interests more openly on the international stage and at some point in time we will see the Chinese put their foot down on some issue in the face of international pressure; I'm just not sure whether this is the issue or not. As important as it is for the threat to nuclear proliferation, this might also mark the debut of a new and bolder China on the international scene.

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