(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/05/Picture-13.gif)The Iranian regime with which the P5+1 countries launched their second round of nuclear talks on Wednesday in Baghdad is not the real Iranian regime. That is to say, the Western, Russian, and Chinese diplomats will—at best—be negotiating with a fantasy-projection of the Iranian regime, and Tehran’s negotiators will be all too compliant in playing the part assigned to them.
At worst, the P5+1 diplomats will actually be aware of the true nature of the Iranian regime, but will act out the script of “negotiating constructively” with it so as to further certain ancillary goals—like lowering oil prices, boosting political fortunes, and above all, forestalling a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
This constructive, reasonable Iran, ready to strike a deal and essentially having the same aims as the P5+1 countries except for a few bridgeable areas of disagreement, cannot be the same Iran that just this week called for the “full annihilation of Israel,” that has taken a steady toll of American lives in Iraq, that bragged earlier this month of its navy’s ability to threaten New York City, that has been responsible for an ongoing string of terrorist atrocities for over three decades, and that continues to intimidate its Persian Gulf neighbors with subversion and very real threats of conquest.
There is, indeed, a situation in which a regime like Iran’s would sue for reasonable terms and real compromise—if it were truly on the ropes. But, while the sanctions are taking an economic toll, not even the most determined optimists claim that Tehran is anywhere near teetering. Not while its nuclear program continues at full speed, and while, as Israeli analyst Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall notes, it has been continuing a policy of strategic “buildup, defiance, and power projection” in the face of all Western blandishments.
IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano’s claim on Tuesday, then, about an imminent—but still-unsigned—deal with Iran allowing inspection of some of its nuclear sites was a kind of ominous prelude to the Baghdad talks. It was the IAEA whose report last November—confirming all of Israel’s warnings about Iran’s unceasing progress toward the bomb—seemed to create a more serious atmosphere regarding the threat. It was Amano himself who heightened the sense of crisis in March by warning that Iran had tripled production of higher-grade enriched uranium.
The apparent ease, then, with which Amano sounded sanguine notes on Tuesday—after his first trip to Tehran since becoming IAEA chief in 2009—seems to further confirm the fatal flabbiness of will in the face of Tehran’s steadfast march toward its objective.
Indeed, as the talks got under way on Wednesday the mood in Israel—the country with the least room to indulge either outright fantasies or convenient fictions about the mullahs’ regime—ranged from skeptical to somber. As one official put it: “The Iranians are serial agreement violators. We know from past experiences how all these agreements between the IAEA and Iran end. Iran continued to establish uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz under the nose of the international community….”
A commentator was even more scathing, writing that: “The free world is pulling a fast one on us. And on itself. The agreement that the International Atomic Energy Agency reached with Iran is a pact among thieves. Thieves and liars. Everyone knows that this deal is not worth even the few words used to announce it.”
On Wednesday evening AP reported that in Baghdad the six world powers had offered Tehran a proposal focusing on its highest-level uranium enrichment at 20 percent, that “the proposal may meet a swift refusal from Iran,” and that “no breakthrough accords are expected,” so that
the negotiation process is likely to be long.
That could allow U.S. and European allies to significantly tone down threats of military action. But it would likely bring objections from Israel, which claims that Iran is only trying to buy time to keep its nuclear fuel labs in full operation.
In fact, Israel has already been objecting. Earlier on Wednesday Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated Israel’s demand for “a complete halt to Iranian uranium enrichment”—at all levels and in all venues, including the underground Fordow facility—and criticized Western “foot-dragging” in the talks.
But if the same pattern continues—Iran stringing the world powers along, the world powers all too willing to be conned, Israel issuing ultimatums and threats but not acting on them—the result will be a nuclear Iran.
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