junge Welt (its name translates as "young World" or "new World") is a decidedly Leftist daily paper published in Berlin and distributed throughout Germany. Its political analyses are particularly sharp and its historical reviews are especially informative. It's been published since 1947 and it is a survivor of the collapse of the German Democratic Republic in 1990.


February 1, 2006

Russia and China have given in: The Iranian nuclear program is to be discussed in the Security Council

"The announcement says the situation will come to a head in March"

A conversation with Mohssen Massarrat

Mohssen Massarrat was born in Iran in 1942 and has lived in the Federal Republic of Germany since 1960. He teaches political science in the University of Osnabrück and publishes frequently in the fields of peace- and energy-policy.

Question: The five Veto-bearing Powers in the UN [China, France, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States: transl.] have agreed to bring the Iran problem before the UN Security Council. What is the significance of that?

Prof. Massarrat: It means the confrontation will be moved to the next stage. The US and the EU were able to achieve a consensus with the Peoples Republic of China and Russia. Germany had been aligned with Washington's course long before Chancellor Merkel's visit with President Bush. This constitutes the international front against Iran.

Q: Will there be a war now?

M: A war will be an option for the US — initially it will almost certainly be an air war — only if there exists a consensus with the other Great Powers that Iran must be prevented, absolutely and by any means, from building up its own uranium enrichment program. This consensus has now been reached. Initially it will be sanctions against Iran. Iran will respond with counter-sanctions. Then the West will argue that military measures against Iran are unavoidable. We are now in the stage of psychological preparation for war.

Q: Why have China and Russia suddenly succumbed to Western pressure?

M: Russia is faced with a dilemma. On the one hand they have profited from a nuclear trade with Iran over the last decade. On the other, they want to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power and to be in a position to challenge Russia's preeminence in Central Asia. It was to escape this dilemma that Vladimir Putin advocated a relatively moderate course relative to Iran and yet signaled that, in the final analysis, he would stand on the side of the West. The Chinese consider sanctions against Iran to be a certainty. Because of their trade with Iran they themselves would become a target of Western retaliatory sanctions. They had to reckon with the fact that their trade with the US and the European market would suffer. This loss would be more serious for the booming economy of the People's Republic than the threat to their oil deliveries from Iran.

Q: Russia's about face is especially surprising. Hadn't Teheran recently accepted Putin's proposal to have their uranium enriched in appropriate facilities on Russian soil rather than in their own country?

M: That compromise was never achieved. Most of the media reported it incorrectly. Also, it wouldn't have made sense from Iran's perspective: They want to be sovereign in the processing of their own fuel rods and not dependent on a foreign power. The recent interruption of the gas deliveries to the Ukraine showed that Russia sees the connection between energy policy and power politics. Iran can also not depend on a partner like that. All they agreed to was to possibly use facilities in Russia in addition to their own uranium enrichment.

Q: Germany's Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, recently warned against a "militarization of thinking" in connection with Iran, but now he has also given his approval to raising the pressure. Why?

M: That shows the ambiguity of the German position, which corresponds to that of the EU in general. After the failure of their own initiatives they quickly jumped onto the escalation train. Through saber rattling, they hope to divert attention from their own irrelevance. Besides Germany, that also applies to France and to President Jacques Chirac's threat to use nuclear weapons, which was indirectly meant for Iran as well. The tragedy of the EU states lies in the fact that they don't realize that they are being used by the US: Bush let the Europeans negotiate with the Iranians and, after that failed, they found themselves sitting in the same boat with the US.

Q: What does the escalation mean for the economy?

M: The Western states have planned for it. As early as October 2005 at a G-8 meeting, the US was preparing its allies for a currency crisis. They were advised to build up their dollar reserves. It's interesting to note that the time for the crisis was given as March 2006.

This interview was conducted by Jürgen Elsässer.
It was translated by Otto Hinckelmann, February 1, 2006.