Friday, June 30, 2006

Analysis: U.S-Iran nuclear debacle

By William D. Hartung Jun 30, 2006, 19:08 GMT

"nuclear iran"-- The Bush administration`s pledge to talk with Iran about its nuclear program comes against the backdrop of massive U.S. nuclear superiority. Iran appears to be seeking a nuclear weapon that could be produced five to 10 years from now. By contrast, as of January of this year the United States had 5,735 active nuclear warheads, with another 4,235 held in reserve. To put it mildly, the nuclear scorecard is rather heavily tilted towards Washington: U.S. 10,000, Iran zero. This 'do as I say, not as I do' approach to nuclear weapons will not serve the U.S. well in negotiations with Iran.

Even given this major flaw in the U.S. stance, the Bush administration`s decision to offer the possibility of direct talks with Iran is a potentially good sign. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had to fight a fierce internal battle with Vice President Dick Cheney to get an offer of talks of any sort on the table.

That being said, there are clear down sides to the idea of 'diplomacy' as conceived by the Bush administration. For example, one administration official has suggested that part of the point of the U.S. overture was the hope that Iran would reject it, thereby freeing up the administration to take more forceful action, up to and including U.S. air strikes.

Given this background, opponents of U.S. military action need to support talks with Iran while pointing out the challenges involved.

First, the notion that Iran needs to shut down its nuclear enrichment activities before the U.S. will even speak with Tehran makes no sense. Step-by-step actions on each side would be far more effective.

Second, the U.S. still has not renounced the idea of taking military action against Iran. Even as it offers talks, the Bush administration is working with anti-government militias whose ultimate goal is to overthrow the Iranian government.

Third, there is a strong nationalist current in Iran in favor of continuing its nuclear program. This is a tough political issue that any Iranian leader will need to address.

Fourth, Iran is in the vicinity of nuclear-armed nations Israel and Pakistan. It may feel that the potential threats from these countries, along with U.S. pledges to keep the military option 'on the table' vis-Ã -vis Tehran, compel it to seek nuclear weapons.

Fifth, if the U.S. and Russia don`t take further steps to reduce their arsenals of thousands of nuclear weapons, Iran and other potential proliferators will point to this hypocritical stance as yet another reason to pursue their own weapons programs.

The latest offer to Iran includes spare parts for Iranian aircraft, assistance in developing light-water nuclear reactors in partnership with other nations, and a commitment by the United States and Europe to support Iranian membership in the World Trade Organization. In order to trigger these potential benefits, Iran would have to freeze its nuclear activities, most importantly the use of centrifuges to enrich uranium. The offer also holds out the hope that Iran might one day be allowed to enrich uranium on its own soil, if it meets UN Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency standards of proof that it is not seeking nuclear weapons -- a process that Bush administration officials suggest could take years, if not decades.

It should be no surprise that this new package has not convinced Iran to suspend its nuclear program. If it really wants to make progress, the U.S. should give the negotiating process months or years, not weeks, to bear fruit. Non-aggression pledges by the United States and Israel should also be part of the mix. Given that an Iranian bomb is at least five to 10 years away, there is plenty of time to talk.

But U.S. talks with Iran should involve genuine diplomacy, not political maneuvering designed to set the stage for U.S. military action.

(William D. Hartung is a Senior Research Fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School for Social Research and the Director of the Institute`s Arms Trade Resource Center (www.worldpolicy.org/projects/arms).

Copyright 2006 by United Press International
posted by ali ghanandi-irannuk

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