Give peace a chance
Whether or not the Western sanctions on Iran have begun to bite, Sunday's frenetic Anglo-American diplomatic effort to stall an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran underscores the heightened tension in the wake of President Ahmedinijad's placing of centrifuges in a nuclear reactor.
Rather then precipitate the crisis, both sanctions and diplomacya two-track strategyneed to be given a try. A conflagration in the region, indeed to open another flank of the Arab revolution, is fraught with chilling downsides and is much too awesome even to imagine. An Israeli war with a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to a new Cold War in the Middle East, as William Hague, the British foreign secretary, has warned.
A lot hinges on Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, whether or indeed for how long he is prepared to give diplomacy a try. It will not be prudent for Israel to attack Iran's nuclear facilities at this juncture. Sanctions and diplomatic initiatives must be tried out to convince Tehran not to pursue a nuclear programme with military intent.
A military strike may even be premature and it must be open to question whether a clash of arms will achieve Tel-Aviv's objectives.
In a critical coincidence, Sunday's US appeal to Israel comes in parallel with Iran announcing the stoppage of oil exports to Britain and France. This could well be a pre-emptive retaliation against the European Union's decision to boycott Iranian oil from July.
A similar threat has been advanced to six other European countries, which together account for 18% of Iranian oil exports. To a limited degree, the economic war can be said to have begun. Both Israel and Iran must hold their fire; the centrifuge is not a toy. The early 21st century concert of Europe and America must pursue the road to peace. The Arab world has been in ferment for a year; the Middle East can't afford another war.