Thursday, June 01, 2006

US policy change on Iran condemned by analyst

The World Today - Thursday, 1 June , 2006 12:19:00
ELEANOR HALL
nuclear iran- The Bush administration's offer to enter into direct talks with Iran on nuclear issues is being greeted in Washington as a major policy change for the United States, which has not had diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic for 26 years.

The offer is conditional on Iran suspending its nuclear program and there's been no official response yet from Iran.

But already one foreign policy analyst close to the Bush administration has condemned the policy shift.

Michael Rubin is a former member of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and a former adviser to the US Defence Secretary on Iraq and Iran, and he says this offer by the Bush administration is dangerously naive.

And he predicts that rather than launching into a new era of diplomacy, the United States and Iran could be at war within a year.

Michael Rubin spoke to me from Washington earlier today.

MICHAEL RUBIN: Well, it's dangerously naive because there's the issue about whether Iran is trying to run down the clock on its nuclear program.

Look, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Iran has threatened to use nuclear weapons.

The question is: is Iran running out the clock on this? Are we in injury time, to use a football metaphor?

ELEANOR HALL: But the proposed talks that Condoleezza Rice has offered are conditional on Iran suspending its nuclear activities. And the Bush administration says it's not taken the military option off the table.

MICHAEL RUBIN: Well, on the one hand this goes to the whole nature of one step forward, two steps back. The… Iran has been conditioned to seek concessions for intransigence. So, we're willing to recognise them.

We're willing to sit down with them after 25 years of basically not recognising them. We're willing to throw the European deal out the table in a way, to start from scratch, which is basically what it would mean if we go into more direct negotiations.

The question is: what happens if six months later they get up and walk away? We've already signalled to the Iranian people that we're not with them anymore, and it will be hard for us to step back.

ELEANOR HALL: So what is the solution?

MICHAEL RUBIN: What I would argue is that… there's a couple of different solutions that could be tried short of military action.

The issue here is that Iran is in noncompliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran… that decision has nothing to do with the United States. Iran has got to decide to come into compliance with it. It shouldn't be rewarded for noncompliance. That's number one.

Number two. The real problem isn't the Iranian people. The real problem is that the Iranian Government isn't accountable to the people.

What would I suggest? We should be supporting independent trade unions. We should be supporting independent press. We should be trying to make the Islamic Republic more accountable to its own people. That's the way out of the situation.

Iran is one of the only countries that's threatening to go nuclear which has threatened on numerous times to actually use nuclear weapons. That's a very, very dangerous situation.

And we go back to the whole question: is Iran sincere in its diplomacy? Is it sincere in its process? Or is it just trying to delay, delay, delay until they're able to achieve some sort of nuclear capability?

ELEANOR HALL: Do you think that military action is ultimately going to be required?

MICHAEL RUBIN: I fear that it may. The way I put it is this: an Iran going nuclear would be like dying of a stroke. Iran getting military action would be like having a heart attack. I just find it unfortunate that we can't take more effective medicine ahead of time.

ELEANOR HALL: But what would that medicine be? Isn't this an attempt to do that?

MICHAEL RUBIN: No. I mean, put it this way. If someone is completely noncompliant the last thing you want to do is reward bad behaviour.

And what example does it set to the rest of the world? For the rest of the world it says: "Proliferate all you want, because that's the way you're going to get rewards." That's a very dangerous dynamic to be in. It's a triumph of short-termism over long-termism.

ELEANOR HALL: So at what point would you advise the Bush administration that it's time to take the military option?

MICHAEL RUBIN: This is the big unknown, because the timeline of Iran developing nuclear weapons is unknown.

Now, there's something called a National Intelligence Estimate in the United States.

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran says that Iran is perhaps five to 10 years away from developing nuclear weapons. That's if Iran develops its own nuclear fuel.

If they import it, for example, from North Korea all bets are off.

So at some point the United States and the international community is going to need to make a guess as to how close Iran is to nuclear weapons, and that's why we're going into a very, very dangerous period.

ELEANOR HALL: How soon do you think it might be before that decision is made? Your best guess?

MICHAEL RUBIN: My best guess is within a year.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's the former Adviser to the Defence Department, who's now scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Michael Rubin, who was speaking to me from Washington.
(posted by ali ghannadi-irannuk)

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