Reality Check on Iran

Jul 25, 2008 Published under Iran, United States

Can policy makers and strategists be really so naive?

The Ahmedinejad regime has turned Iran’s right to nuclear development into a national mantra.  Only its Islamic fundamentalism and its ideology of spreading their revolution stand above their nuclear ambition.

And yet diplomats seem to think they can sway Iran into a set of incentives to cease its nuclearization path?

The Iranians have made it all too apparent that they use the negotiations as a way to stall and buy time, to the point of embarrassing the negotiators, as an excellent article from Elaine Sciolino of the New York Times painfully pointed out. 

Studies from Iran "appear to show as yet undisclosed uranium-related work, high-explosive testing of triggers for nuclear bombs, a plan for an underground nuclear-test shaft and efforts to redesign the nose-cone of Iran’s far-flying Shahab-3 rocket to accommodate a nuclear warhead."

And yet Fareed Zakaria, who is otherwise a pretty smart guy, seems to assume on his TV show that these negotiations have a chance to work.  How? 

Nobody points out the foolishness of trying to get Iran to stop its nuclear race.  Condoleezza Rice says Iran is vulnerable on its nuclear ambitions.  Otherwise smart Senator Biden, chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes an op-ed encouraging pressure to change Iran’s behavior and give up weapons. What are these people thinking?!

No amount of sticks or carrots will make Iran drop its nuclear plans.  At best, like with North Korea, the West can play a game that will slightly slow down the regime’s path, and it can certainly extract a high cost for Iran’s efforts, isolating and weakening it.

But the only true path to end Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear weapons is for the government to change.  If policymakers can’t stomach that undertaking, they should just accept and brace themselves for a nuclear Iran.

What are the options?

  • Regime Change
  • accept inevitability of Iranian regime working to develop nuclear weapons but make it very painful to the point that regime will be unpopular enough to fall
  • Military attacks and counterinsurgency (applied in the same manner that Iranians do in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine) to undermine the Iranian regime

What is not in the cards is to expect this regime to drop its quest for nuclear weapons, overtly or covertly!

Iran offers 2 pages and no ground in nuclear talks

New York Times/IHT

By Elaine Sciolino

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

PARIS: The Iranians called their proposal a "None paper."

Indeed, for officials of the six countries sitting on the other side of the table, the paper addressed none of their ideas for resolving the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.

Instead, the informal two-page document that Iran distributed at nuclear talks in Geneva on Saturday ignored the main six-power demand on curbing Iran’s enrichment of uranium and called for concessions from the other side.

The title of the English-language text had two mistakes. "The Modality for Comrehensive Negotiations (None paper)," it read, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times. (Diplomatic jargon for an unofficial negotiating document is "nonpaper.")

For the six powers — the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — the paper’s substance was just as disappointing as its style. Sergei Kisliak, the Russian deputy foreign minister, could not suppress a laugh when he read it, according to one participant.

The talks on Saturday included the participation of a senior American official for the first time. The six powers were hoping that Iran would accept a compromise formula to pave the way to formal negotiations. For six weeks, Iran would not add "any new nuclear activity," refraining from the new installation of centrifuges that enrich uranium, and the United States and other powers would not seek new United Nations sanctions.

But both in their paper, and throughout the talks, the Iranians did not discuss the formula, called a "freeze for freeze." As a result, they left the impression that they wanted to lure the parties into an open-ended, cost-free, high-level negotiating process.

"The paper calls for a huge exercise in talking," said one senior European official. "If you were to try to implement it, it would take a minimum of several years."

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic rules.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Iran on Monday that it could not continue to "stall" and she warned of more sanctions if it defied a two-week deadline to accept the proposal.

The Iranian document, which has not been made public, offered a snapshot of Iran’s negotiating style. It put the burden on the other parties. Its imprecise language and misspellings were in sharp contrast to the rigorous approach by Iranian negotiators, many of them career diplomats, who were in charge in 2003 when France, Britain and Germany began the initiative of incentives in exchange for suspension of major nuclear activities. Those diplomats have since been replaced.

The paper called for at least three more meetings with Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, who represents the six powers. Those would be followed by at least four meetings at the foreign ministers’ level, which would start with the halting of any sanctions against Iran, "both inside and outside" the United Nations Security Council.

The Iranian document also seemed to suggest that there could be no discussion of the main issue of contention: some sort of limit on Iran’s production of enriched uranium, which can be used to make electricity or to fuel bombs. "The parties will abstain from referring to or discussing divergent issues that can potentially hinder the progress of negotiations," the paper said.

The six powers want to use their proposed freeze-for-freeze period as a prelude to formal negotiations on a package of economic, political, technological and security rewards. But Iran has to stop enriching uranium for the formal talks to begin.

In its paper, Iran focused only on negotiating a "comprehensive agreement" for the rewards. The paper also said current international sanctions against Iran would be discontinued. The Iranian nuclear issue will no longer be dealt with by the Security Council or the 35-country governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Only the atomic energy agency itself can deal with the subject, the paper said.

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