Friday, June 02, 2006

Iran: Here we go

This article in The Washington Post struck me as ominous when I read it first thing this morning:
The United States and five other major world powers agreed Thursday to offer Iran a broad new collection of rewards if it halts its drive to master nuclear technology, but they threatened "further steps in the Security Council" if Iran refuses.


Iranian diplomats on Thursday did not reject outright the U.S. proposal for talks, but they criticized the demand that their country end enrichment first.

Although details of the five- to six-page document agreed to in Vienna were not announced, incentives discussed before the meeting included an international effort to assist Iran's nuclear industry, including construction of a light-water reactor and guarantees of a long-term supply of fuel. That would represent a significant shift from the Bush administration's past insistence that Iran has no need for nuclear power. Increased trade and investment have also been discussed.

Aides to Rice said the deal also commits China and Russia to a long list of specific steps to punish Iran if it refuses to halt its enrichment program. Both countries have resisted sanctions for months, arguing that they could backfire.

Addressing reporters here, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized the incentives in the package and did not mention possible negative measures. He said it was important that all six powers be united in making the offer, including the United States, which he said found it difficult to offer inducements to Iran.
To put it bluntly, Iran has every right to pursue nuclear power, and, by all credible accounts, has done everything in accordance with the applicable international agreements, which is considerably more than can be said about the United States. I find this "accord" ominous because, though it appears to re-commit the US to diplomacy and multilateralism here, in reality it merely establishes a pretext for future action and makes it more difficult for Russia and China to stand in the way. In any event, the US will take "multilateralism" when it can get it, but will happily ignore everyone else when it's not getting its way. Far too many people opposed the war in Iraq only because it was waged "unilaterally" by the US, as if it would have been just swell if a broad "coalition" had been convinced/bribed to take part. (Meanwhile, the "good" liberal NATO war over Kosovo is generally accepted as having been "just".) On the face of it, this accord seems to me to be designed for Iran to reject it.

For an interesting discussion of the latest developments, see this excellent article at the Asia Times:
...if Iran rejects the US offer for talks and the European package altogether, it will almost certainly lose the battle for world public opinion, and that is a hefty price it can ill afford.

After all, the non-aligned countries have thrown their weight behind Iran's nuclear rights, this after much diplomatic energy and expenditure by Iran - praised even by Iran's critics in the Western media. Yet the new US move has the ability to knock down this diplomacy if Tehran takes rash missteps instead of prudent counter-moves.

With the ball thrown back in Iran's court, the burden is on its diplomats to devise a concerted effort that acts in anticipation of the next two or three moves by the US and its allies, within a coherent strategic whole.

Iran has a tendency to trade diplomacy with rhetoric, and there are political limits to its nuclear flexibility. The latter is, however, a double-edged sword, given that any future sanctions would hit many Iranians in the pocket and thus add to political turmoil at home.

All in all, the United States' shrewd maneuver has opened a new window of opportunity for a diplomatic solution of the crisis, irrespective of the tactical nature of the move, due to its implications for global multilateralism. And the fact that only half a window is open does not by itself mean it is a dead end.

Rather, the fear of unwanted consequences by both sides is a primary motive for seizing on the opportunity of this crisis to create a real way of finding a way for the Islamic Republic and the US to get along together. The only trouble is that
there are other, conflicting motivations that impede this force.
And about the manufactured Iran crisis generally, see this article by David Peterson at CounterPunch:
At this stage in the dangerous and escalating, largely U.S.-manufactured, and wholly unnecessary "crisis" over Iran's nuclear program, the question the world ought to ask is not whether Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons, and therefore poses a Chapter VII-type threat to international peace and security. Quite the contrary. The crucial question is whether the United States, as the most belligerent and serially aggressive power in the world today, will be able to use its considerable influence over the three peripheral belligerents (Britain, France, and Germany) to bribe and cajole both China and Russia into enforcing from the floor of the Security Council the NPT-violating principle that "no enrichment in Iran is permissible"?
As of now, with this agreement announced this morning, the answer appears to be "yes".



Blogger LondonCaspian said...

Thanks Richard. It's good to know people like you live in the states and are not buying everything Fox News says.

June 02, 2006 6:32 PM  

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