Thursday, October 29, 2009

Delaying Action

Here is a test for news junkies: On Oct. 21, Iranian nuclear negotiators left Vienna after negotiations with the United Nations, Russia, France and the United States. In their briefcases they carried a proposal requiring authorization from their government. The deadline for approval was Friday, Oct. 23. When the deadline came, what did Iran say?

A. Yes

B. No

C. Talk to you later.

Anyone who has followed the now 7-year-old effort by the international community to stop Iran's nuclear march could have predicted the outcome. There was no answer. Iran continues to confound and delay and outmaneuver. We could also predict what will come later. Iran never says Yes or No, except when it says Yes and No. And when it finally agrees to some watered-down compromise, it fails to keep its commitments.

Iran said it would answer a few days later, while prominent Iranians offered contradictory opinions about the proposal. The proposal offered little to get very excited about. Despite the breathless reportage describing it as a breakthrough, the plan was important mainly as a test; a test of a new attitude from Tehran and the effectiveness of President Obama's engagement strategy.

The substance of the deal ignored the centerpiece of the problem: Iran's continued nuclear enrichment in violation of international demands that it stop. The plan says nothing about ongoing uranium enrichment that Western nations believe aims for nuclear weapons.

Progress unknown

Instead, it focuses on how Iran will obtain fuel for a medical research reactor, proposing that it send about 70 percent of its low-enriched stockpiles to Russia and France, which would enrich it to the level required for the reactor and ship it back to Iran. All the while, Iran centrifuges would continue spinning. Experts say the scheme could delay nuclear weapons production by a year, but we don't really know what exactly Iran already has in place.

The West wants Iran to send the full 70 percent in one shipment to Russia by the end of the year. Let's see how this cat and mouse game proceeds. Iran's main goal is to keep the conversation going as long as possible, doing exactly what French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned against: ``gain[ing] time while the motors are running.''

Obama administration officials are optimistically analyzing Tehran's reaction, claiming that Washington's new approach has uncovered divisions and put the regime on the defensive. But there is little evidence that Iran is behaving any differently than it has in the past.

That is not to say the disagreements are imaginary.

Tehran today is off balance, but Washington's engagement policy is not the reason. The country is profoundly divided. Until recently the regime appeared unshakeable. Now it seems to stand on a soggy foundation. The hardliners may keep control, but they have to watch their flanks. The Islamic Republic now faces a crisis of legitimacy after a stolen election. Political divisions have weakened the government, and ethnic divisions are giving it more reasons for concern. This is the time when tough negotiations could bear fruit, because Iran's government can ill afford more challenges to its hold on power.

West is outmaneuvered

Unfortunately for the West, the government of Iran has far more experience than Western negotiators. Representatives from London, Paris and Madrid have looked like camera-toting tourists at a Middle Eastern carpet shop, plied with sweet tea and cookies, walking out with empty wallets and a load of goods they never intended to buy.

After we found out about the enrichment facility at Qom, only made public in September, it took a year for inspectors to enter. Nobody can think of any use for the plant other than nuclear weapons. Iran says the Qom plant, like the rest of its nuclear program, seeks energy production. But with just 3,000 centrifuges, Qom would require 20 years to supply an energy reactor for one year. For nuclear weapons, you enrich the same uranium over and over.

The Obama administration's engagement policy will work only if the West acts firmly. Iran does not want tough sanctions, and it will try, as it has, to delay, confuse and backtrack. In short, it will try to play Obama for a fool.

It already ignored one deadline; one meant merely as a test of its intentions. Iran failed its test. Washington should not delude itself into thinking the delay was a sign of progress; quite the opposite. If Obama wants results, let's hope this is the last missed deadline Tehran ignores and Washington celebrates.

Pic - "No More"


mauryk2 said...

Right on the money!

Annie said...

I will never understand the problem America and The overall West has with Iran's nuclear programme. Because the probability of America using a nuclear bomb against someone is much bigger than Iran doing so...

and If America is allowed to work on their Nuclear programme so should every other country.

If nuclear disarmament is a concern, then it should be applicable to every country.

René O'Deay said...

Tsk. Tsk, Annie. USA has already used the bomb twice, with such devastating results all we can think of is forbidding anyone else from using one ever again.
To allow Iran with its devastating violations of human rights on its own people, its exports and support of terrorism in just about every country around them and its threat against israel, would be the height of naivety.

The only reason we have so many bombs, unfortunately, is preventive.
And the last thing we ever want to do is use one of them again.

But getting rid of ours is not the answer, for it will only embolden our enemies.

Despite the efforts of the Iran's 'Green Movement', or Opposition, Iran is still the Islamic Republic of Iran, a very bloodthirsty regime, and our avowed enemy. We are still the Great Satan to the regime, which still holds power. Let them get the bomb, and they will soon try to use it on us.

courtneyme109 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...


See, let me tell something. I am from Pakistan and considering the amount of aid America sends our way, The amount of Jimi-Hendrix, Eric-Clapton, and Mj fans there are in this land of pure, and the number of Miley Cyrus, Beyonce wanna bes which roam the streets, you would be amazed at how strong the anti-american sentiment is in the hearts of Pakistanis.

It doesnt matter which demographic you are talking to, everyone looks at America with contempt.

Take the Kerry Lugar bill. We need aid right now.badly... and still people just dont want to say 'yes'.. No one trusts america.

I think it would benefit the American Govt more if they looked into that. Why so much anger and hatred against them? ...

...and the 'devastating violations against its own people' ..

How come America is not looking into other Middle eastern states. Maybe cause its too busy supporting them?... The royal family of Saudi Arabia for instance? ..

America needs to stop with the policing. This anti-american sentiment, This hatred, will keep growing until USA decides to stop with the paracholism.

René O'Deay said...

Annie is a Pak? No wonder she hates the Great Satan, she has no idea why?

How about no more money and we take the nukes? or would you rather the Tallie-bans have them? They've already made three attempts or more on them.

It's very, very simple, Annie, why you and all those people you refer to hate America.
You are instructed to. and since you are slaves to Allah, you obey. Your mullahs, clerics, and your Tali-bans, tell you to hate America.
You should also get it straight, that 'America' includes many nations.

Since your own countrymen take the US Aid and divert it to their own uses, why should we not make sure it gets to the people it is supposed to go to? Like the displaced people, schools that teach useful subjects like how to read and write and do math, etc.? Like medical? Like helping these people rebuild their devastated villages?

You need to wake up and face reality.

Annie said...

Dear Rene.

Talk about assumptions and generalizations ...

I am an agnostic. I took birth in a muslim family and yes, I have great respect for Islam, and just about any other religion I have read up on... but I choose to not follow one. I dont see the point. It's a personal choice.

So your justification for why I or my fellow country men hate America is rather cliched.

We were America's foremost ally in its fight against communism. We were the United States' "most-allied ally" in Asia..

But when it came to Help or support during bad times, Let's just say, America didnt prove to be the buddy he promised to be...

Our relationship with USSR, today's Russia, has been strained primarily because of the support we lend to USA.

Do a simple google on Pak-USA relationships and you'll get a fair enough picture.

The Anti-America sentiment wasn't always there. Its based on the foreign policies you guys have chosen to take up!

wake up and face the reality?.. Funny you would say that!