Wednesday, May 31, 2006
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Will Iran and the United States talk?
President Bush reversed course on Wednesday because it was made clear to him — by his allies, by the Russians, by the Chinese, and eventually by some of his advisers — that he no longer had a choice. [Hey, bloggers could have told him that!!--DD.]This appears to be Kevin Drum's fear as well:
The usual response, if talks are unwelcome, is to demand some kind of obviously unacceptable precondition for the proposed meeting. This forces the other country to make concessions before negotiations have begun, and since no one is stupid enough to do that, it derails the talks nicely....Kevin's overstating things a bit. Despite Iran's desire for talks, their rhetoric has been unyielding since Ahmadinejad came to power. Furthermore, as this Glenn Kessler analysis demonstrates, the Bush administration has actually shifted its Iran policy a fair amount since 2004.
Iran's response, however, does suggest to me that there's room to negotiate:
Iran this morning issued a wary but apparently less than final reply to the Bush administration's offer. "Iran welcomes dialogue under just conditions but won't give up our rights," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, in remarks quoted by Iranian state television. "We won't negotiate about the Iranian nation's natural nuclear rights but we are prepared, within a defined, just framework and without any discrimination, to hold dialogue about common concerns."....Based on what Rice and the Iranians are saying, there is definitely a zone of agreement to start talks. Tee U.S. acknowledges that Iran has the right to a civilian nuclear energy program, which could obviously include enrichment. However, the Iranians, if they're serious about talks, can acknowledge that recognition without actually engaging in enrichment activities while talks proceed.
What happens next will be a very interesting test of both American and Iranian intentions.
UPDATE: If nothing else, this strategic shift appears to have created a united front at the Security Council, if this AP report is accurate.
Eugene Gholz is more pessimistic about resolving the situation. He makes a strong case. I'm more optimistic than Gholz for the reason he offers -- that by taking this route, the U.S. has augmented the likelihood of multilateral action if Iran refuses to back down. In the end, I think China and Russia will prefer UN action over a nuclear-armed Iran.posted by Dan on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM
"Mr. Bush's turnaround, some participants in the drawn-out nuclear drama questioned whether this was an offer intended to fail, devised to show the extent of Iran's intransigence."...
In fairness to Bush, it seems to me that Iran is indeed intransigent. Is the rest of the world supposed to pretend that Iran is being reasonable?
"But also an appetite to speak directly with Washington, after 27 years of hostile official silence, in hopes of avoiding punishment by the UN Security Council and perhaps eventually restore diplomatic relations."
I think it's far more likely that Iran wants direct exclusive talks with the U.S. *only* because any failure in the talks (caused, of course, by Iranian intransigence) will be blamed on the U.S., thus delegitimizing any attempt to actually stop Iran from building nuclear weapons.
That's why I think Rice's statement is brilliant: the U.S. will *join* the EU3 talks, not negotiate bilaterally; and Iran must verifiably stop *first*, turning the whole "verification" process to U.S. advantage for once.posted by: Bryan Lovely on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
"In fairness to Bush, it seems to me that Iran is indeed intransigent. Is the rest of the world supposed to pretend that Iran is being reasonable?"
I guess the problem is that you don't really want to be seen as supporting GWB's rush to war with Iran, regardless of how intransigent Iran is actually being. That'd be a great albatross around your neck...posted by: Stu on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
It's not as though Iran's original offer wasn't an "offer we couldn't accept," either.
The objective on both sides, ours and the Iranian leaders, is to appear flexible enough to cast the blame on the other guy. If Iran is truly being intransigent, there really is no reason to compromise everything just for the sake of sitting down.posted by: John Thacker on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
> Despite Iran's desire for talks,
Despite America's desire for talks, their rhetoric has been unyielding since Cheney came to power...
Not Reallyposted by: Not Really on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
That "substantial agreement from Russia and China...on an escalating series of UN penalties" looks to me like the key factor here. If this agreement does in fact exist, the most intransigent sections of the Iranian government will see their position weakened. If it doesn't, or it dissolves later when the moment comes to actually decide on applying sanctions, the opposite will happen.
The fact of Sino-Russian agreement is attributed by Branigin and Vick to a senior administration official (not the Secretary of State). I hope this official is right. If he is the administration will have made a major step toward resolving the Iranian nuclear problem.posted by: Zathras on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
Iran and the USA will not talk because they have nothing to talk about. There is no reason for either of them to talk because they both have different goals. So even if they did talk to each other, it would be useless. They both know this.
The USA is coming to the table with significant strength and Iran with significant weakness. Therefore, Iran sees itself as having no room to negotiate its position, its back is already to the wall and they have nothing they are willing to give up. They have made it very very clear that they will not give up the ability to enrich nuclear fuel, and i highly doubt that they are just saying that for fun. They consider it their basic right.
The USA could negotiate if it wanted, it is holding all the cards. But the USA is not interested in negotiating because it is already holding all the cards, they are not going to just give Iran stuff for free. They would have to be completely stupid (which is not out of the question) to expect Iran to agree to give up their basic rights through negotiation. So the USA knows that its only hope it to force Iran to do what it wants. The USA has a lot of power in the world and will put pressure on Iran. Iran has a long history of being subject to colonial domination and seems to have learned not to give in. Therefore, conflict in almost unavoidable.
To those above, Iran is not showing "intransigence" just because it believes they have the right to produce nuclear fuel. Article 4 of the NPT says:
The USA is being "intransigent" because they want to rule the world and get all violent when someone does not listen to them. Iran is no threat to the USA, there is absolutely no evidence that they are making nuclear weapons, and American estimates think it would take 10 years at best even if they were trying. The USA is a terrorist state and Americans are the only people on earth too dumb to understand that.posted by: joe m. on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
there is absolutely no evidence that they are making nuclear weapons, and American estimates think it would take 10 years at best even if they were trying.
Except for the evidence of, oh, the President of Iran saying that there were making nuclear weapons and that as soon as they do they will wipe Israel off the map. I understand that you can't really believe everything that the Iranian leadership says, but I hardly think that that's a reason to trust the Iranian leadership.
The ten years at best is, of course, fuzzy. The CIA also thought that India, Pakistan, and others were years away when they exploded theirs. We could play kick the can and wait for ten years, of course.posted by: John Thacker on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
Joe M, there is some reason to think iran is trying to make nuclear weapons. One strong reason is we have threatened them. If they don't succeed in getting nukes before we attack, what possible defense do they have? That's a pretty strong indication that they ought to want nukes.
It's true we have no actual evidence, but this circumstantial evidence is pretty strong. After we first conquered iraq Cheney publicly said that iran was next. If you were running iran, wouldn't you want nukes?
In true Catch-22 style, Cheney has made it extremely probably that iran is getting nukes by the simple method of threatening to conquer them for having nukes.
But then, there's still no evidence. But that's easy too. We can do a few weeks or months of bomb strikes and then announce that there used to be evidence but we bombed it away.
Except for the evidence of, oh, the President of Iran saying that there were making nuclear weapons and that as soon as they do they will wipe Israel off the map.
Please provide a link for that. It's tremendously important news.
While I do think that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, that statement is totally false.
Nonsense. Do you just make these things up out of mid-air ? It was well known that Pakistan and India had the capability to make nukes well before their 1998 explosions. As far back as 1989, the Bush administration said to Congress that they could not certify any more that Pakistan did not have nukes. The only thing that caught the CIA off guard was that they did not know India was planning a nuclear test (not that India can nuclear capibility).
The US turned a blind eye to Pakistan's nuke program because it needed Pakistan's help in training the mujahdeen (including a lot of people who later joined Al Qaeda) to fight the Russians in Afghanistan.posted by: erg on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
John Thacker may be referring to this:
"The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world," the president told a conference in Tehran on Wednesday, entitled The World without Zionism.
Ahmadinejad doesn't say when or how this goal should be achieved (or through whom). But nobody who wants Israel obliterated can be trusted with nukes. Or with anything else, for that matter.posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
But nobody who wants Israel obliterated can be trusted with nukes. Or with anything else, for that matter.
Well, the US has never seemed to have any trouble trusting ex-President Zia Ul Haq and his many sucessors, right down to Musharaff with nukes, F-16s and the like despite the fact that sucessive Pakistani governments have threatened India with nukes, readied them at least once and actually attacked India with conventional weapons (something masterminded by Musharaff) in 1999. And Pakistan's threats and actions were generally fairly obvious and direct.
Double Standards ?
Prez A is obviously a bit of a loony, a Holocaust denier, has a passionate hatred for Israel. Yet its not clear that he actually wants to destroy it, since in the Spiegel interview he seemed to indicate that he wants to send Jews back to Europe. That is certainly serious and revolting, but the sort of apocalyptic scenarios that people are projecting (which have Israel as some sort of weak state instead of a country with 40 years of nuclear development) seem to be far-fetched.posted by: erg on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
> It was well known that Pakistan and
India detonated its first nuclear explosive (which it claimed was not a weapon) in 1973 (seventy-three), so there was no question they could produce a weapon any time they wanted.
Off the top of my head, the follow countries could produce a nuclear weapon (of varying levels of sophistication) within 3 years of deciding to do so:
Germany, Canada, Sweden, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Australia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Taiwan.
In fact just based on an analysis of the situation and their technical capability I would guess that Taiwan has a dozen or so nuclear weapons stored deep under a mountain somewhere as a doomsday defense. Want to take any bets on the rest of the nations on that list? In 2015? 2025?
This business about the US getting to control whether or not all the soverign entities on the face of the Earth possess nuclear weapons is a joke. One which has been turned macbre by the W and Cheney show.
Not Reallyposted by: Not Really on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
So, how's that North Korea policy working out?
posted by: Babar on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
India detonated a nuclear explosive back in the 70s, but they did not develop an actual warhead that could be delivered until the late 80s. Political instability and some governments that were lukewarm to nukes delayed the program. Arguably India's decision to explode a bomb in the 70s was a big mistake, since it lead to sanctions which badly hurt the Indian nuclear energy program.posted by: erg on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
Pakistan can't be trusted with nukes, if for no other reasons because a) its security measures didn't stop A. Q. Khan from transferring nuke technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea, and b) the Pakistani government pardoned A. Q. Khan. But it's too late for us to do anything about it once a nation's gone nuclear (otherwise we'd have gone after North Korea by now), and coming up with a casus belli might be a bit tricky (unless the pardoning of A. Q. Khan counts). Fortunately, India's nuclear arsenal helps to keep Pakistan in check.
Iran committed acts of war against the US by actively arming terror organizations (Hezbollah in particular), so we already have a casus belli whether Iran fields nuclear weapons or not.posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
"In the end, I think China and Russia will prefer UN action over a nuclear-armed Iran."
I think that's where you are wrong Dan. Depending on how you define UN action of course. Travel restrictions or Security Council Resolutions maybe, but start sanctioning the gas/oil, which is the only real sanction, and China is quickly vetoing. As for Russia, they're more interested in a multi-polar world and bringing down the US enough that the US stays out of "their" sphere of influence that they would risk creating an enemy for the future. (Shucks, we did the same thing in Afghanistan.)
As for other commentors arguing that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, give me a break. Even though I do support 'more stick, less carrot' with Iran, I'm not gonna sit here with a straight face and say part of it isn't driven by our desire to be hegemon. When it comes to timelines and the wisdom of invasion vs. living with a nuclear Iran things can be argued, but please don't try sitting there with a straight face and argue that Iran doesn't want nuclear weapons.posted by: BishopMVP on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
BishopMVP, it seems reasonable to me that iran ought to be trying to get nuclear weapons. Cheney publicly told them they were next right after we liberated Baghdad. It would be stupid of them not to want nukes after that.
However, if we try for sanctions etc, at some point we will be asked where's our evidence. And if we can't actually produce any evidence that iran is doing anything beyond the NPT, pretty much everybody's going to laugh at us. So far we haven't shown any such evidence and we haven't even claimed we have it secretly and refuse to show it to anybody.
So I think unless we can get actual evidence it will be hard to get sanctions or other penalties. Therefore our strategy to get rid of iran's nukes will have to involve military action. Like last time. We'll want to come up with some excuse to say the UN allowed it, or maybe we'll want to withdraw from the UN.
Or maybe the plan is to look tough until after the elections and then dump it on the next guy.
> and coming up with a casus
You people really do live in an alternate reality, don't you? The fact that any attempt at US military action against Pakistan would result in the US getting its butt kicked very badly and the entire Islamic world united against it doesn't even enter your thoughts.
Not Reallyposted by: Not Really on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
Who is recommending a US war against Pakistan? I for one stated the opposite, that starting a war with an established nuclear power is a bad idea, even a pipsqueak nuclear power like North Korea.posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
I would be foolish to think that there are not any significant reasons that Iran would want nuclear weapons, but motivations are not proof that it is happening. And just because proven liers like Cheney and Rumsfield say Iran is doing something, does not convince me. When you look at the way top Iranians speak about the issue, their arguments are just as logical as any other. I do not outright believe what the Iranians say, but i am more likely to believe them then the Bush criminal gang, and especially when there is no evidence against what they say, and when what they say seem very logical.
for example, here are protions of a speech by the leader of Iran:
Tehran Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 in Persian at 0645 GMT on 4 June carries a live broadcast of a speech by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Kahmene'i on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeyni's death. The speech is given at Ayatollah Khomeyni's mausoleum.
TV shows a large gathering of people at the mausoleum supporting the supreme leader by their slogans.
The following is the part of Khamene'i's speech relating to international relations and the nuclear issue.
(Khamene'i) "Science cannot be begged from others. Science should be inspired from within. A nation should use its talent to become truly knowledgeable. At the same time, it would only be through national unity and nationwide peace that faith, justice and science could flourish. At the absence of peace and calm, the country cannot benefit from science or faith, and it will not be possible to establish justice for the people. The enemy is therefore willing to grant its biggest prize to those who can shake the pillars of peace in Iran and to fight against the people's faith in God, themselves, the (revolution's) path and success . . .
"Those who want to distance universities and research centres from science and research are working for the enemy, and the enemy is ready to give them its biggest prize. . .
"The person who pursues this nation's honour and this nation's scientific progress is an insider. The strangers (Persian: gharibeh) are those who are enthusiastic for America's hegemony. They are the ones who work at home for the enemy that's lying in wait and act in its favour. These are the strangers . . .
"Let me say a few sentences about enemies' propaganda. The propaganda commotions against the Iranian nation and the system of the Islamic republic are mainly set in train in the world by the Americans, Zionist media and the news empire affiliated to Zionism. . .
(They make) Several points about Iran:
First, that there is an international consensus against Iran.
Second, that Iran is a threat to the world.
Third, that Iran is trying to make a nuclear bomb and nuclear weapons.
Fourth, that Iran is a violator of human rights.
These are the few sentences which the enemy's entire propaganda activities harp on. And they keep repeating these in different ways in the world, using a variety of ploys. Of course, the truth is clear to our nation. It is also clear to many intelligent people in the world. But I'll briefly say something (in this respect).
"There is no consensus against Iran. This is a lie by the Americans and a few people who are America's allies in the world. (Crowd chants in support)
"Some 116 non-aligned countries supported Iran in its bold move to acquire nuclear technology. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has voiced support for Iran. Independent governments all support Iran. All those people who have acted as middlemen to repeat America's words to us, under the American pressure and out of courtesy, have told us in secrete that they have been asked by the Americans to say so and that they do not think the same way.
"The world and the countries that want to secure their future are all against the monopoly of nuclear technology by a few countries. To say that no country has the right to have access to nuclear technology means that in 20 years' time, all of the countries of the world will have to beg certain Western or European countries to meet their energy demands. They will have to beg for energy in order to run their lives. Which country, nation, or honest official is ready to take that? Today, our nation has taken a step forward in this road. It has become the pioneer and stands courageously by this end. Other nations have no problem with this (move), let alone having a consensus against it. The consensus is among a number of political monopolist countries. This consensus is worthless . . .
"The American and Zionist propagandists say Iran is a threat to the world. This is the second issue. Iran is not a threat to any country and everyone knows this fact about Iran. We have not threatened neighbouring countries. We have friendly and brotherly ties with all the countries of the region. Our government has healthy and good relations with European countries. These relations with Europe will be even better in the future, when gas plays a more important role as a source of energy. They need our gas. We have friendly and good ties with the Arab world. The most important issue in Arab society is the Palestinian cause. On this issue, we speak openly about whatever they (Arabs) have in their hearts. We have a very clear and transparent position on the Palestinian cause and Arab nations like this position whole-heartedly. They feel proud when we voice that position. The Arab officials too want the same in their hearts, although they cannot speak about it as openly as we do due to certain issues.
"We have friendly ties with different countries in the region, in Asia and other parts of the world. They all recognize and appreciate Iran's rights, its role and its influence. We also have good ties with Russia. The Russians know very well what would happen to them if a pro-American government was in power in Tehran. We (Iran and Russia) have common interests in central Asia, the Middle East and this region.
"We have no problem with the world. We are not a threat whatsoever to the world and the world knows it. The Americans, with their shameless propagandas, want to influence world public opinion. However, they haven't yet managed to do so and will not be able to do so in the future either.
"Their other issue is [their assertion] that Iran seeks [a] nuclear bomb. It is an irrelevant and wrong statement, it is a sheer lie. We do not need a nuclear bomb. We do not have any objectives or aspirations for which we will need to use a nuclear bomb. We consider using nuclear weapons against Islamic rules. We have announced this openly. We think imposing the costs of building and maintaining nuclear weapons on our nation is unnecessary. Building such weapons and their maintenance are costly. By no means we deem it right to impose these costs on the people. We do not need those weapons. Unlike the Americans who want to rule the world with force, we do not claim to control the world and therefore do not need a nuclear bomb. Our nuclear bomb and our explosive powers are our faith, our youth and our people who have been present on the most difficult scenes with utmost power and faith and will continue to do so. (Chants of slogan, God is great).
"The American political institutions and propaganda machines are behind all these false ballyhoos. The Zionists also help, along with them and side-by-side them. They are the cause of everything.
"I would like to address a few sentences to the American officials and the team which is running America today and claims to lead the world too. I hope they listen to it, think about it and understand it. I want to ask them to compare themselves with our government. Compare your (American) president with ours. Your government is the most hated government in history of the United States today. They (Americans) announced it to the world in their own opinion polls. The government currently in power in America is the most hated government in history of the United States according to its people. Compare this with our own government. Our government is one of the most favourite governments since the Constitutional Revolution (1906). (Chants of slogan, God is Great, Khamene'i is our leader, death to America, death to Britain).
"Wherever your president, Mr Bush, visits he is faced with the people's protest demonstrations and abhorrence. This is the case in Europe, Asia and Africa. In Latin America, governments come to power by using anti-US slogans. Today in Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and many other Latin America countries as soon as presidential candidates use anti-US slogans the people vote for them. Can someone be hated more than this?
"The American government doesn't allow its people to hold a normal telephone conversation safely. This means that they can't trust their people and can't allow them to hold a telephone conversation freely. They have passed a law allowing them to control the telephones. This is your situation.
"Well, compare this with the situation in our country. Compare it to visits by our country's officials.
"See what enthusiasm the people showed towards Iranian presidents during the (Iranian) president's visit to Indonesia and our former presidents' visits to Lebanon, Sudan, Pakistan and other places. Why don't you understand this? Why don't you confess such things?
"You have confessed to spending 300b dollars in Iraq so that you could bring to power a government which was your puppet and took orders from you. But you failed. They have confessed to spending 300b dollars, but they've probably spent more than this so that they could bring a government to power which took orders from America. But they failed because the Iraqi nation was obstinate.
"In Palestine you did your utmost to stop the Hamas government from coming to power. But you failed. And contrary to your wish, the Palestinian nation voted for the Hamas government. You exerted pressure from various sides on the Palestinian government. However, this strengthened the Palestinian people's solidarity with this government. In Lebanon, senior agents from the American State Department went to Beirut and stayed there for a few months to see whether they could hold Lebanon in their clutches, undermine the resistance in that country and create a Lebanon which follows Israel. But you failed because the Lebanese people held a grudge against you. It's the same everywhere else.
"Why doesn't Mr Bush confess that, by his conduct, he's made America, the American nation and America as a country, despised in the world? Why don't you confess that you've been weakened? Why don't you confess that your blade has gone blunt in the world? (But) You still make threats.
"Compare our president's message to the American president to the Americans' impolite and feeble message, which was disseminated in the world a few days ago. Out of keeping with diplomatic convention. Brimming with dim-witted arrogance. Full of threats. Hollow words. If you were capable of harming the Islamic republic, you wouldn't have wasted a minute during these 27 years.
"The former American secretary of state openly said: I have to tear out the Iranian nation by its roots. He (or she; Persian is gender neutral) is finished and gone; the Iranian nation has grown daily. (Crowd chants in support)
"You speak about human rights. You speak about being against terrorism. How the hell can an administration that has Guantanamo Prison and Abu-Ghurayb Prison and crimes like the Haditha crime and the recent crime in Kabul and dozens and hundreds of other such things on its record dare to speak about human rights? (Crowd chants in support)
"In order to threaten Iran, you (America) say that you can secure energy flow in the region. You are wrong. Beware that if you make the slightest mistake about Iran, the energy flow through this region will be seriously in danger. (Chants of slogan, God is great, Khamene'i is our leader, death to America).
"You will never be capable of providing energy security in this region. You are not capable and you should know this. We will never start a war. We have no intention of going to war with any government. We have a high aspiration and we will use all our energy to reach it. That aspiration is to build an Iran which provides this nation with moral and material prosperity. We want an Iran that can be a role-model for all other nations. Other nations know (it) well and endeavour (to reach this end) themselves.
"We want to properly use this big country and its huge natural and human resources - the resources which have been given to this nation and its officials. We want to relieve this nation of the burden of hundreds of years of humiliation. This nation feels proud and powerful and it has every right to feel so. This nation is proud and powerful, but it has been kept behind. Both corrupt dictator systems and their foreign ill-willed supporters (have kept Iran behind). . .
"Peace and blessings of God be upon you." . . .
(Description of Source: Tehran Islamic Republic of Iran News Network Television (IRINN) in Persian -- State-run 24-hour news channel in Persian, Arabic and English; presenting up to the minute domestic and international news. It offers exclusive interviews on a variety of topics, as well as information on universities, labor, and economic developments from the capital and the provinces 'posted by: joe m. on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
I would be foolish to think that there are not any significant reasons that Iran would want nuclear weapons, but motivations are not proof that it is happening. And just because proven liers like Cheney and Rumsfield say Iran is doing something, does not convince me. When you look at the way top Iranians speak about the issue, their arguments are just as logical as any other. I do not outright believe what the Iranians say, but i am more likely to believe them then the Bush criminal gang, and especially when there is no evidence against what they say, and when what they say seem very logical.posted by: jiimyking on 05.31.06 at 09:32 PM [permalink]
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