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Talking To Tehran

Matt Dupuis of Foreign Policy Watch has a nice roundup on Iran, and Washington's efforts to curb their behavior:

There are two other reasons why the Bush administration is not about to reverse course anytime soon. One is that the US has already set clear conditions under which it would engage Iran bilaterally: when Iran first halts its enrichment activities. Admittedly, setting this as a precondition to talks was a major diplomatic blunder on the part of the administration because it asked the Iranians to hand over its main bargaining chip and thus produce the goal of negotiations before the two sides had ever sat down at the negotiating table. That came at a time when Iran's enrichment efforts were minimal and technical progress at Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz was far less advanced than it is today. While most everyone agrees a diplomatic solution is the most viable option to resolving the standoff with Iran, Washington should not readily give the appearance that it is willing to bend over backward to achieve one. Retreating from the posture of "suspension first" would make Washington look weak relative to Tehran and undermine the credibility of future coercive strategies if adversaries are led to believe they can weather US-imposed pressure longer than Washington can sustain it.

The second reason is that there is little hard evidence suggesting that Tehran itself is ready to negotiate away its enrichment program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has publicly said that Iran will not retreat "one iota" in its nuclear dealings, consolidated his control over Iran's nuclear portfolio by appointing a loyalist of his as Iran's new negotiator (a move most analysts agree could not be undertaken without Khamenei's nod), and just today denounced those in Iran who have criticized the nation's current handling of the nuclear program. Moreover, even if it is true that Ahmadinejad is a powerless and only symbolic figurehead in Iranian politics, no other prominent figure has emerged to officially speak for Iran or moved to restrain the boisterous president.

Fair points, although Matt answers his own query in the second paragraph. As he points out, it seems unlikely that Ahmadinejad and the rest of the regime will back down on nuclear power. It has become a topic of national coalescence, and an act of impunity in the face of Western imperialists.

There are of course other measures the Iranians can take however to appease the West, two of which being the reduction of terrorist financing in other parts of the Middle East, in addition to the curtailment of insurgent support in Iraq. These are in fact much more immediate concerns, since they both effect the security of American troops and our allies.

A deal could involve Iran bending on all three matters, with some kind of nuclear energy deal getting done via Russia (which was already offered over a year ago). It's looking more and more likely that the IAEA will come down harder than they previously had, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is currently lobbying for a global banking ban on the Islamic republic. China and Russia may feel compelled to get on board, lest they find themselves standing alone with an increasingly isolated Iran.

Others Blogging it:

Captain's Quarters
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