As mentioned in our Daily Talking Points yesterday, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) Senior Fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht and FDD Executive Director Mark Dubowitz’s oped today in the Wall Street Journal offers an interesting insight into the lengths that neoconservatives will go to stop Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
Gerecht and Dubowitz argue that the U.S. should apply pressure to China and Russia for continuing to do business with Iran.
All of the offending Russian and Chinese companies could be banned from receiving U.S. government contracts and forcibly divested from state pension funds.
Of course, there would be consequences for participating in what Russia and China might perceive as an extremely hostile economic policy. But Gerecht and Dubowitz conclude that while such an action will anger those in Washington who have sought to improve relations with Moscow and Beijing, their examples of “hardball ways” that Russia and China might retaliate is limited. Specifically, they reference the possibility of Russia “delivering S-300 antiaircraft missiles to Tehran.” And they seem to understand the potential dire consequences of this action: “[I]t could well provoke an Israeli preventive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
But the reality is that a tiff with Russia and China would have far-reaching consequences for U.S. strategic interests as well as global economic repercussions.
The Obama administration, after a rocky start, has found its footing in its relations with Beijing and will need to capitalize on those improved diplomatic ties as it attempts to deter an increasingly aggressive North Korea, navigate the tricky diplomatic high-wire act of selling the long-awaited upgraded F-16s to Taiwan, and improve cooperation from Beijing on RMB revaluations and intellectual property law enforcement.
A serious row between the U.S. and China could put all of those initiatives in a state of disarray.
As for relations with Moscow, there is a staggering number of ways that Russia could make life for the U.S., and, by proxy, Washington’s NATO allies more difficult. A brief example was offered in early 2009 when Russia shut off all gas supplies through Ukraine. It left more than a dozen countries scrambling to deal with fuel shortages during a particularly cold winter.
These scenarios have to be weighed against the benefits of pressuring Russia and China — two countries who display palatable antipathy to being publicly bullied — to cut their trading relationships with Iran. For Gerecht and Dubowitz, however, strategizing to avoid this conflict is useless. For them, it is an inevitable conflict and one which, presumably, they are comfortable paying the price.
To wit, they conclude:
We were always going to have a test of wills with Russia and China over Iran. That day has arrived. Connoisseurs of power politics—Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao, and Ali Khamenei—are watching. So is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will decide one of these days whether a nuclear-armed Iran is acceptable, or not.