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Week's special: Is an Iran War imminent?

Subject: Iran nuclear crisis and future of Middle East
Chinese version: Click here
Guest: Zhang Zhaozhong, assistant director of Military Logistics and Military Equipment Department, National Defense University.
Date: Apr. 20, 2007
Host: Strong Nation Forum

Prof. Zhang is quite concerned about the current situation in the Middle East which he described as 'in an extreme mess'. But he does not see a war on Iran 'right on the horizon'.

Iran's hardline

Iran still takes a hard-line on the nuclear issue under the UN Resolution 1747. But its rejection against any inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be very dangerous and increase the possibility of 'sensitive occurrences'. As a result, the room for communication is shrinking.

The reason lies in different understanding about the rights of developing nuclear power. It is legal for any country like Iran, a UN member and a signatory of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, to make use of the nuclear energy peacefully.

However, Iran's nuclear plan has always been overshadowed by opposition from countries like the United States which does not trust Ian's commitments on the 'peaceful use' of the technology. Iran complains it is not fairly treated as tolerance is given to countries like Israel on the issue of developing nuclear weapons.

In addition, DPRK's nuclear test is a simulative to Iran. Rounds of talks have been held on the North Korea nuclear crisis, asking for the closure of its nuclear infrastructure. But it still has not done so.

That may give Iran an implication that the international community could hardly take any actions even when Iran also has a nuclear test one day.

World powers

There is a consensus in the international community. All diplomatic efforts must be made to avoid the use of force and the escalation of crisis.

The United Nations adopted the Resolution 1747 last month, urging Iran to implement previous resolutions and increasing sanctions. This resolution, together with the previous one, 1737, is a fair decision designed to secure the world peace, take Iran's demand into account and fence off the nuclear proliferation. It was not adopted under the pressure of the US. So it must be respected.

World powers, including the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany, all uphold UN decision. But Israel, however, shows somewhat extreme response on this issue. It seems that Israel is inclined to unusual actions to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

China has expressed its position. China insists that the international law be observed and the nuclear proliferation be avoided. It is also against the abuse of force on the issue. China votes for the two UN resolutions. It has also tried to persuade Iran and US to solve the issue through diplomatic ways.

Prospect of a war

The blast fuse is smoking. But chances of avoiding the war are still high. European countries, like France, Germany, Italy, do not want a war. Nor does the US. We just cannot imagine how it is possible for the US to engage in another war when Afghanistan and Iraq still cause headaches to the US.

In fact, the US has begun to reflect on its policy on Iraq. It has realized that hi-tech weapons can win a war but not peace.

Iran is different from Iraq. Iran is the strongest military power among the countries in the Persian Gulf. Its long coastal line makes it capable of blocking the sea transportation if it thinks necessary. In addition, it enjoys a high degree of unity and shows determination of rejuvenation.

Once a war breaks out, Israel will be the first to get engaged. In that case, Arabic countries will not stand by. Is the Third World War looming? Nobody knows how many countries will be involved if such things happen. The Middle East will be in a total mess.

If Iran chooses to stick to its hardliner policy till the deadline specified by the UN Resolution 1747, it will have to face the consequence. What tough measures will be taken is not sure. But the US may resort to some kind of force.

The US is facing a dilemma now. It can bomb Iran's nuclear infrastructure before uranium 235 can be made. But how can Americans deal with Iran's revenge after that? If the US bombs Iran till Iran makes the uranium 235 and the US has no idea about the whereabout of the uranium, a global nuclear radiation will be disastrous.

Though the war is not imminent now, the situation is really very dangerous from long run. Even if it were not for oil, the US would have been disgruntled by Iran's criticism and disobedience.

US interests in the Middle East

Why US is so deeply involved in the Middle East? Firstly, the region is abundant in oil. Iran, in particular, is rich in oil and gas. The US always worries about the possibility of Iran's intimidating by withholding the oil supply. So the control and the fight against control underscore the crisis.

Oil is only part of the story. If the US builds on its dominance in Asia, the whole lay-out of Asia will be changed fundamentally. Given the fact that the US has controlled Kuwait and Iraq in the Middle East and made Afghanistan a base, the scenario of the US control over Iran will have great impact on Russia and whole Asia.

Politically, the US never allows a competitor. Americans think they are the only world leader. They do not tolerate any challenge in any place in the world.


Iran should have its nuclear plan monitored by the IAEA to prove its transparency. Confrontation with the West led by the US is not wise. For Iran, it should prepare for the war on one hand and continue seeking for diplomatic settlement on the other.

Iran's release of the 15 hostages days ago was out of many people's expectation. That shows Iran is still reasonable. Iran's antagonism attitude will give the US a handle against itself.

Iran should implement the UN Resolutions 1737 and 1747 and the IAEA inspection to disperse the suspicion on its nuclear plan by the international community.

The distrust of the international community will, on the other hand, be a catalyst to Iran's incentive of developing nuclear weapons. So negotiation is the best way out of the crisis.

History has proven that sanctions would not work. The 12-year sanctions against Iraq ended up with a war. Sanctions against North Korea fueled its ambition. Sanctions against India and Pakistan failed finally.

Further more, one-fifth of world oil export is shipped via Strait of Hormuz. Unrest in world oil supply will push the oil prices up, which may lead to the 'Oil Crisis' like that in 1973.

Background information

Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong, assistant director of Military Logistics and Military Equipment Department, National Defense University, Supervisor of doctoral students in Military Strategy.

Zhang studied in Beijing University, National Defense University and Royal Military College of Science.

Since 1992, Zhang has been invited as a visiting guest and military consultant to China Central Television (CCTV) and China National Radio (CNR). With CCTV, he joined several live broadcasts on "Desert Thunder" act and Kosovo War in 1998, as well as Iraqi War in 2003. From 2006, he began to contribute to the production of "Defense Review Week" program for CCTV-7.

This was the third time that Zhang had chatted with the audience of the Strong Nation Forum.

Zhang's Blog at Peoples' Daily Online

UN Resolution 1737, adopted by the Security Council at its 5612th meeting on Dec.23, 2006, decides to carry out a series of sanctions including imposing embargos, freezing assets, supervising outbound travel of relevant personnel related to Iran's nuclear or ballistic missile programs.

UN Resolution 1747, unanimously adopted by the Security Council at its 5647th meeting on Mar.24, 2007, reinforces sanctions against Iran on its nuclear and missile plans and highlights the importance of seeking for a settlement through negotiations.

The resolution urges Iran to implement, without delay, Resolution 1737, imposes arms embargo from Iran and calls on the international community to keep "vigilance and restraint" toward Iran's imports of heavy weapons. It continues freezing assets related to Iran' s nuclear and missile plans and calls upon all nations and financial institutions "not to enter into new commitments for grants, financial assistance, and concessional loans", to Iran, "except for humanitarian and development purpose". (clause 7, UN Resolution 1747) .

The resolution requires an IAEA report within 60 days on Iran's implementation of previous resolutions and confirms the termination of the sanctions on the condition of Iran's full compliance with its obligations.

The resolution vows to support and reinforce IAEA's authority and role.

By People's Daily Online

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