Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Rice Offers Talks over Iranian Nuclear Program, but with Conditions

Earlier this week I reported that Condoleezza Rice was considering negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program, a step which I feel is important, though I doubt it will slow their nuclear program at all. Still, I felt (and feel) that resuming negotiations with Iran after 25+ years of silence is important since they are quickly becoming our chief adversary, and we have far too little knowledge of Iran and what they’re capable of.

Today Rice did put forth an offer for talks with Iran, but in a format which Iran will be unable to accept. The offer basically says that Rice will join multilateral talks with Iran and the EU3 provided that I Iran suspend their nuclear enrichment and reprocessing program, and that they do so in a verifiable manner.  

"As soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table with our EU colleagues [France, Germany and Britain] and meet with Iran's representative," Rice said.

The message sent by Rice also included a backhanded slap of the present Iranian leadership:

Although it offered the diplomatic opening, Rice's speech also contained strong rhetoric. "Iran can and should be a responsible state, not the leading state sponsor of terror," Rice said.

Based on Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s multiple declarations that Iran will not be deterred in enriching Uranium in their quest to create an energy source for the country, accepting these terms would be represent a major loss of face in the Middle East for Iran. What’s more, Iran has already disabled all of the cameras and IAEA equipment in their nuclear facilities, meaning verification would be nearly impossible today.

Perhaps this is the perfect move. It puts the US in a position where we can say that we wanted to talk with Iran and they were unwilling to meet the conditions we set forth, giving the United States leverage with China and Russia, as well as with the EU3. But it also means that we lose an opportunity to open a dialogue with Iran, an opportunity that may not exist in a short amount of time.

Only time will tell if we made the correct move here.  Certainly, this approach helps ease the fears of Bush and Cheney that Iran will publicly reject their offers of talks.  Our President and VP fear that this would be seen as a snub of the administration both at home and abroad, since there is no way Iran will take this offer.

But it also eliminates the possibility of sitting across the table from our adversaries, and learning more about them.  If we do engaged in an armed conflict with Iran, I’m afraid that we will see this as a lost opportunity, and a valuable one at that, to determine what Iran’s present regime really values, how far they would go to attain it, and where they are most vulnerable. Only time will tell, but I think the ultimatums will not benefit us in the long run!

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Posted by Scottage at 11:53 AM / | |