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Saturday, October 11, 2008

US Congress Shelves Iran Draft War Resolution

Dubai: The US Congress has shelved recently a draft resolution calling for a naval blockade on Iran in a sign that shows it won't approve starting a war with Iran, Iranian-American activists said.

Many analysts in both Tehran and Washington, meanwhile, believe the global financial crisis, the upcoming US presidential elections and the "shift" in Israeli strategies in dealing with Iran, all eliminate the military option for the near future, at least.

"There were a group of organisations, who made an efficient effort in pointing out to the members of congress that the language of the draft was potentially very dangerous," said Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC).

"It could (have) opened the door for interpretation of a naval blockade on Iran, which, according to international law, is an act of war," Parsi added in an interview with Gulf News. NIAC played a vital role in defeating the draft resolution and shelving it ultimately before the end of the legislative session.

The draft resolution, which was introduced last May, called on the President to stop all shipments of refined petroleum products from reaching Iran.

It also "demands" that the President impose "stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo entering or departing Iran".

In case the same draft with the same language is introduced again in the next Congress session, it will end up in the same fate. But if it has been reintroduced with a different language and clarifications that "it is not a naval blockade" it will pass, Parsi noted. He also said the move of shelving the draft "by itself does not mean that the risk of war has been eliminated".

It "showed that the Congress is not likely to be helpful in initiating a war with Iran," he added recalling the Congress' approval in 2002 to a resolution giving the President the green light to start a war against Iraq.

Iran, meanwhile, is monitoring closely the developments in the US and on the international arena. Iranian analysts said the draft resolution was a "useless" attempt in the first place, and an "American attempt aims to be a prelude for the issuance of a Security Council Resolution".

"The US Congress has no right to legislate laws across the oceans," said Mus'ab Al Nueimi, Editor-In-Chief of Al Wefaq Iranian official newspaper.

"The military option at present has been eliminated. The Americans' hands are tied up with the current financial crisis and the upcoming presidential elections," he told Gulf News.

Iran, which is already under several UN sanctions, has been engaged in a crisis with the West over its nuclear program - a program that it insists is for civilian purposes, while the West fears it would lead to a military capability.

Pressure

The crisis has raised concerns of a military strike against Iran. And many parties expressed their hope that the crisis will be solved diplomatically, while some Iranian analysts noted privately that the US troops are already surrounding their country - in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, a military strike is not expected only from the US. Israel might take the move. Many analysts don't entirely exclude such a move, though it seems unlikely at present after the recent statements by Israeli senior officials, analysts note.

"From the very outset, the Israelis strategy has not been to take a military action," Parsi said. "Their strategy has been to put pressure on the US for the US to take the military action. And if you listen to the interview with (Israeli outgoing Premier Ehud) Olmert last week, he was quite clear, that the Israelis can't do it."

In the interview on with Yediot Ahronot several days ago, Olmert said "Iran is a very great power... The assumption that America and Russia and China and Britain and Germany don't know how to handle the Iranians, and we Israelis know and we shall do so, is an example of the loss of all sense of proportion."

By keeping their "rhetoric" and "harsh" tone against Iranian nuclear program, Israeli leaders are trying to keep the issue "alive" and to keep the American military option on the table, analysts said.

Meanwhile, in another positive development in the deteriorated relations between Tehran and Washington, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a few days earlier that Washington is still considering setting up a diplomatic mission in the Islamic republic after 30 years of severed ties.

To Parsi, who advocates direct negotiations between the two countries, this might be a good omen.

"This is a smart move by the administration to do this and it can only be help reduce the tension between the two countries as well," he said.

Earlier this week, press reports said American Iranian Council (AIC), a think tank based in the US, has been given the license to open an office in Tehran. However, Iranian officials denied the body the right to do so.

Parsi has expressed hope that many Iranian-American humanitarian non-governmental organisations will be able to open offices in Iran, after obtaining the necessary approval from the concerned authorities in both counties.

Iranians, meanwhile, will not take any move before "realising the lines of the new US administration's policies".

Until then, time, Al Nueimi, said "is in Iran's favour".

Washington (AFP) The six powers trying to scale back Iran's nuclear ambitions will consult soon about the "next steps" to take at the United Nations, a State Department official said on Wednesday.

Top State Department and foreign ministry officials from the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia will debate further UN Security Council action to halt Iran's sensitive nuclear work, the official, who was speaking on the condition of anonymity, said.

"We have a political directors' phone call that will probably take place in the next several days."

On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York last month, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the six powers would "move forward" with further measures against Iran over its nuclear defiance.

She spoke two days after the 15-member Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution urging Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear fuel work, but offering no new sanctions and merely reaffirming existing ones.

The US and its European allies had pushed for new, tougher sanctions but ran into resistance from Russia and China. The UN Security Council has already imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to heed international calls to stop uranium enrichment.
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