Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Our New Iran Strategy

Laud Rice for deft diplomacy - in D.C.
jun 06 2006
nuclear iran-Give Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice credit for winning the battle within the Bush administration over U.S. policy toward Iran.

Now, all she has to do is keep together the fragile coalition of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany - and get a belligerent Iran to negotiate constraints on its nuclear development program.

Rice would not be facing those challenges had she not been able to persuade President Bush to offer direct talks with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. It is a refreshing change to see the State Department triumph over Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who, as usual, wanted to impose a single-track strategy of threatening military action.

Sound familiar? It should - it is the poorly thought out policy that has led to the Mesopotamian maelstrom in neighboring Iraq.

Bush must have winced when he agreed to let Rice make the offer last week to join with the Europeans in talking to Iran, a long-time U.S. foe. Nor has Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad established credentials as a rational statesman by calling for Israel to be eliminated and saying the Holocaust never occurred.

Add to the combustible mix that Iran is the world's prime sponsor of terrorism - and you see why that country should not be allowed to produce a nuclear arsenal.

Ahmadinejad says his country wants only to reprocess enough uranium to develop nuclear energy, not go further and make a bomb. Lights out on that claim: Iran already has natural resources that could be used to generate nonnuclear power.

Iran wants power of a different kind - one that gives it greater regional influence and puts it on par with neighboring Pakistan, which already has nuclear weapons.

So, as earlier European-led talks stalled and Iran claimed progress in enriching uranium, some dramatic act was needed.

Rice's deft diplomatic move puts the onus on Iran. It needs to show it is willing to consider the incentives now being dangled by the Security Council members and Germany in exchange for ending the reprocessing.

If Iran refuses, penalties are more likely now with the change in U.S. policy about direct talks.

China and Russia, permament U.N. Security Council members and business partners with Tehran, seem more open to sanctions that will grow in severity if Iran shuns talks that include the United States.

Every option, including economic sanctions, should be tried to avoid a military confrontation with Iran.

One problem shadows Rice's offer. She said the United States will participate only if Iran permanently gives up reprocessing uranium. Isn't that supposed to be the goal of talks? Iran won't come to the table that way.

That may well be Rice's strategy - back Iran into a corner and then have more leverage in the Security Council to press for sanctions.

But Russia and China won't stay on board for long with the United States if that happens. Rice should give Iran a way to agree to talks without losing face by saying the United States will participate if Iran stops reprocessing while negotiations are ongoing.
posted by ali ghannadi-irannuk


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