August 23, 2006


Iran running out of options (Kaveh L Afrasiabi, 8/22/06, Asia Times)

[T]he package, consisting of generous offers of state-of-the-art nuclear assistance, a nuclear-fuel supply, trade incentives and certain pledges on security issues, is very enticing. Iranian leaders have repeatedly praised it as positive and a step in the right direction to end the dispute over their nuclear program.

It is too bad, then, that there is a big string attached, namely the demand for the full suspension of Iran's enrichment-related activities and the termination of construction of a heavy-water reactor in Arak. Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said on Monday that it would start operating the plant "in the near future", describing it as one of the country's greatest achievements. [...]

There are suggestions that enrichment could be suspended after the talks, and not as their precondition, and also of interim suspension and a standby option. The last is borrowed from the United States' own experience of putting one of its largest enrichment facilities on both cold and warm standby, incurring a substantial cost, principally to prevent the equipment from decaying and keeping scientific personnel on payroll.

Of course the US wants none of that, and senior government officials have promised a swift UN reaction should Iran reject the package. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel has demanded a "firm response" that would not contain shades of gray.

Iran, however, is desperately looking precisely for that. There is, after all, a real threat of a US military strike, corroborated by the US media recently, which has not disappeared as a result of the war between Israel and Hezbollah.

ran Pushes For Talks Without Conditions: U.N. Demand for Freeze On Nuclear Work Rejected (Dafna Linzer, August 23, 2006, Washington Post)
Iran offered yesterday to enter into immediate and "serious" negotiations on a broad range of issues with the Bush administration and its European allies but refused to abide by a U.N. Security Council demand that it suspend work at its nuclear facilities by the end of the month.

Tehran's proposal came in response to an offer in June by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China for talks on the country's nuclear program, and the possibility of future cooperation, if the Islamic republic would first agree to suspend its uranium-enrichment work.

In order to save face, Iran needs the suspension to be a condition of an agreement rather than a precondition for talks, hardly a point worth our stumbling over. However, the West should insist on negtiating directly with the mullahs, not the president, and make it clear that the pre-condition has been dropped in deference to his assurances that the program is peaceful. Negotiations are a wedge to be driven between Ahmedinejad, Khamanei and the electorate. In agreeing to them Ahmedinejad has already lost.

Iran Sanctions Could Fracture Coalition (HELENE COOPER, 8/23/06, NY Times)

While only the permanent members can veto, the rising fear, particularly among European diplomats, is that smaller countries on the Council are so angry over how the United States, and now France, have handled the Lebanon crisis that they will give Russia and China political cover to balk against imposing tough sanctions.

While France, for instance, has been almost as insistent on a tough stance against Iran’s nuclear program as the United States, France has also in recent days alienated many members of the Security Council by offering only 200 troops to a peacekeeping effort in Lebanon.

“The Lebanese situation has caused a lot of bad faith and I think that will play into this,” said one European diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic rules.

Getting the group to punish Tehran was always going to be difficult. Russia and China have deep economic interests in Iran and dislike the blunt instrument of sanctions. And the West must tread carefully because any sanctions levied in the place that could actually hurt Iran — its energy sector — would ratchet up already high global oil prices and end up harming the West.

That was the tough road Ms. Rice faced even before the Lebanon crisis began. Now, “Lebanon has proven that there’s no military solution to the problem in the Middle East,” said Trita Parsi, the Iranian-born author of “Treacherous Triangle: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States,” which Yale University Press plans to publish next year.

While there is no talk among the world powers right now about hitting Iran militarily, European diplomats in particular said they worried about a downward spiral if the sanctions did not work. “They’ve been dragged into three wars over there by the U.S.,” Mr. Parsi said, referring to Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. “They don’t want a fourth.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 23, 2006 9:57 AM

What does "corroborated by the US media recently" mean?

Posted by: ed at August 23, 2006 10:13 AM

Same old BS. Let's keep talking and pushing action down the road while Iran finishes what it is clearly trying to do - get nukes. This is Iraq all over again - the UN, Europe, and US lefties will always be calling for delay and discussion. The question is whether Bush will go ahead anyway as he did in Iraq. If Iraq were going more smoothly I would say yes but given his troubles over Iraq it is hard to predict.

Posted by: AWW at August 23, 2006 11:49 AM

Parsi needs to be told it's all the same war.

Posted by: Bartman at August 23, 2006 11:49 AM

It's not France's war.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2006 12:12 PM


Yes, and Iraq wasn't close to weapons either. Meanbwhile, Iran can easily be Reformed via the democratic process, unlike Iraq under Saddam. So they're quite dissimilar.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2006 12:14 PM

"the democratic process"

When the electorate can't do anything about who really runs the country, I think we're talking oligarchy or kleptocracy, not democracy.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 23, 2006 2:11 PM

"easily reformed via the democratic process"...

This is where we agree to disagree. The Mullahs have run Iran since '79 with no real signs there power is slipping. Castro has ruled Cuba for 40 years. There are times when outside force or action is needed to force a democracy on a country - it had to be done in Iraq and it will have to be done in Iran.

Posted by: AWW at August 23, 2006 3:46 PM

They retain the veto over legislation and the power to determine wh runs, but their preferred candidate hasn't won an election since the early nineties. They don' rule Iran in the sense that Castro does Cuba but in the sense that 17th/18th century kings did England.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2006 3:54 PM

OJ, you're a man of great faith and may be right in the long run, but for the short term I think AWW has a good point.

Posted by: jdkelly at August 23, 2006 6:03 PM

History isn't about the short term.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2006 6:22 PM

But our lives are. We have to work it out in the alloted time.

Posted by: jdkelly at August 23, 2006 7:55 PM

“Lebanon has proven that there’s no military solution to the problem in the Middle East,”

Yeah, right. Except of course there is. The biggest problem the West would then face is developing a technique for burning slightly radioactive oil.

Posted by: ray at August 23, 2006 8:07 PM

oj: I know it isn't France's war. It's our war. The WOT. Doesn't matter where.

Posted by: Bartman at August 23, 2006 8:38 PM


Only the secular think so, which is why they're a mess.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2006 8:39 PM


The Lebanon isn't.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2006 8:43 PM

The Final Solution isn't consistent with what makes us the West.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2006 8:44 PM