The word on the street is that the Iranians will pursue their nuclear ambitions, according to their supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. This really comes as no surprise. Iran is confident that the Bush administration will be powerless to stop their program, either by military or diplomatic means. They are pretty much correct. Bush can do nothing right now.
The military option should be out of the question. The fact that the Bush administration would even consider it shows how weak our hand really is. Given that the Iranian facilities are so spread out and hidden, its doubtful that airstrikes would work well. Even *if* they were successful, it would only be a temporary solution to a long term problem. Not only that, but there are plenty of places the Iranians could retaliate; Iraq being the most obvious.
There will be no strong UN Security Council resolution. At best, there will be a slap on Iran's wrists, but even that would surprise me. The UN will be again paralyzed into inaction due to Russian and Chinese vetos. They have their own economic and energy interests at stake, and have no desire to anger a large oil supplier in the form of Iran. Besides, Iran and its proxies aren't threatening Russia or China, so they aren't worried.
The Bush administration won't be able to convince the Russians or the Chinese to do the right thing, but I bet the American people could. We Americans could wield our most powerful weapon against Russia and China - our power as consumers. If the Russians and Chinese refuse to back strict sanctions against Iran, then the American people should boycott as many of their goods as possible. They would quickly learn where their economic interests lie.
A strong Security Council resolution and sanctions is the only way that we can effectively deal with the Iranian government. The world - not just America, must diplomatically and economically squeeze Iran until it collapses. We must force the Iranian government to waste its resources on military equipment while denying it a strong economy that would also allow it to keep its population happy. We must continue to confront and isolate its allies, for instance ensuring that the UN follow through on its commitments and completely disarm Hezbollah. Finally we should increase support for Iran's enemies, both internal and external. Eventually, change will come from within; perhaps even before Iran is able to acquire nukes. This is the same strategy that defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War, without a shot fired. It can defeat Iran as well.
This is the only option that I can see. If we stand and do nothing, and allow the Bush administration to try to resolve the problem, we might end up in another war:
Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow in non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said: "This won't drag on for years. There are two deadlines of sorts at the end of 2008. That is the earliest date by which some people think Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon. I think the date is more like 2010.
"And on November 2008, there is the US presidential election. President Bush will be inclined not to let this problem be passed on. There will be a growing mood in the US administration to take other action."
Asked if Israel's problems in disarming Hezbollah showed the limitations of air power and might therefore make an attack on Iran less likely, he replied: "Israel's actions make an attack on Iran more likely as it removes one of Iran's retaliatory tools, an attack on Israel by Hezbollah. This has now been pre-empted."
Hmph. If we were going to bomb Iran, we shouldn't even consider bombing their nuclear facilities. We should bomb all of their oil pipelines, and blockade the Persian Gulf. Sink every Iranian oil tanker that we see. They can't make nuclear weapons if they don't have any oil revenue. And that way, nobody could accuse us of going to war for oil.
...not that I'm confident that Americans would prefer 5$/gallon gas at the pumps to World War 3. But hey, I can dream.
*** Update ***
I've decided that I'm searching desperately for a good solution to this problem, when one probably doesn't exist. Nobody is going to boycott anyone, Iran isn't going to stop their program, and Bush isn't going to leave office with this problem unaddressed. Sigh.