Thursday, August 24, 2006

Give War a Chance: Iranian Offer Rejected

Things are moving along briskly now towards our next splendid little war or what Arthur Silber calls, "Our Date with Armageddon". Yes, our theme continues unabated as Dear Leader and his accomplices continue their intentionally tone-deaf "diplomacy".

Iran offers West 'serious' talks

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, has said his country is ready to start "serious talks" with six world powers on Wednesday.

Iran has submitted a written response to the
demand by the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany to suspend uranium enrichment.

It has until the end of August to suspend enrichment in exchange for incentives, or risk possible sanctions.

Iran denies Western claims that it is developing a nuclear weapons programme.

Tehran has always maintained that it has a right to civilian nuclear technology, and Supreme leader Ali Khamenei made it clear on Monday that Iran would reject international pressure.

Although Mr Larijani has spoken of "serious talks", what the Security Council needs to know is whether Iran is willing to
suspend uranium enrichment by 31 August or not, says the BBC News website's world affairs correspondent, Paul Reynolds.

The passage above is best considered in the context of certain illuminating facts. First, Iran, is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the international agreement by which nations agree to limit the spread the of nuclear weapons technology and to disarm themselves of whatever capability the may already have. Contrast this to the standing of India, a nation that refuses to ratify the treaty yet is able to reach an agreement with the Bush administration to receive nuclear technology by the boatload in return for compliance to NPT-styled safeguards. Yet Iran, despite having already agreed to these same standards, is deemed unworthy of pursuing the same technology.

Secondly, it should be noted that Iran has every right to pursue a civilian nuclear program. This is not merely an assertion by the Iranian government as it is presented in the article above. It is a verifiable fact under the terms of the NPT. It is not uncommon for this fact to be treated this way, as if it were a debatable Iranian claim, by our news media (if it is mentioned at all) . It fits very nicely into our pre-established war narrative that way. But the fact remains that Iran does have that right under the NPT and there is no legal argument that supports demands that it refrain from exercising that right.

Even so, Iran acquiesced to the legally baseless demands of the US and Europe and suspended it's uranium enrichment program until intrusive inspections could assure that no NPT violations were taking place there. Since that time the IAEA inspections, which had already been taking place for two years, turned up no evidence at all of a nuclear weapons program, although it could not rule out the possibility that one exists (stop me if this sounds familiar).

So this all sounds pretty reasonable, doesn't it? Iran is acting legally and no evidence of prohibited activity was found. So how did the US react to that? Why, by continuing to refuse to negotiate with Iran, of course.

This seemed odd enough at the time because that refusal, coupled with a stream of not-so-veiled threats of military action, eventually caused Iran to balk and restart it's enrichment activities. But it seems even odder today with President Bush again refusing to negotiate until Iran -- can you believe it? -- suspends its uranium enrichment activities again.

Didn't they do that once already, sir? Couldn't we have already moved beyond this point two years ago?

And remember, this is all happening in the context of the previous offers Iran has made earlier in Bush's presidency to negotiate with the US, not only on its nuclear program but on everything, including its support of militant groups like Hezbollah, its recognition of Israel, normalizing relations between us and their annoying habit of calling us names like "the Great Satan".

Still it wasn't until just this May that Bush finally opened up to the idea of any talks under any condition at all. Even then some members of the administration admitted that this was done only as a last resort.

Think about that. Participating in a negotiation is a "last resort" to these people. They have to be pressured by allies to interrupt their war plans for a peace negotiation.

So now Iran has until the end of August to do again what it has already done once only to be rewarded with increased threats.

Last, but certainly not least is the question of who really has the better reason to feel threatened here. Just for a moment, free yourself of the oft-repeated, fear-mongering assumptions that permeate our media, and approach the issue on strictly pragmatic terms. Search your memory for a single instance in which Iran has invaded/attacked/bombed any nation since the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979.

If you can't think of any there's a simple reason for it. They've invaded no one in all that time. The infamous 7-year war with Iraq was initiated by Saddam Hussein acting as a proxy for the US government. The Iranians fought that war in self-defense so that doesn't count (sorry). Even extending the parameters beyond 1979 what do we come up with? Anything? Have they fought a war of aggression against anyone since they were called Persia?

Now, what happens when one asks the same question about the US? The mind races. Images of war flood your consciousness, there are so many from which to choose. For the sake of brevity, however, one need look no further than the two most recent for proper context. Right on Iran's western border is the world's most powerful military force laying waste to its neighbor, Iraq. That hasn't escaped the notice of Iranians. They are equally aware that before that invasion took place, President Bush named Iraq as a charter member of the mythical "Axis of Evil" in what I believe to be one of, if not the, most ridiculously stupid Presidential speeches ever given.

In that same speech Iran was also named as a member of this supposed "axis", an "axis in which none of the members are actually allies. It is in that context that they now see our huge military force based to their immediate west.

What's going to the east? Oh, there we are again! The US invaded it's eastern neighbor as well, peppering the whole of Afghanistan with a huge, made-for-TV aerial assault. To this day we also have a smaller force sitting right there.

Finally, are those American warships in the Persian Gulf I see? Isn't that immediately south of Iran?

Again, who should really feel threatened here?

The US has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world and has openly talked of using them against nations that pursue nuclear weapons. Is this not exactly what they're accusing Iran of doing now?

Meanwhile, the US has also stepped up it's threats against Iran by using the Israeli offensive in Lebanon as an additional pretext to its hostility. The American press is filled with right-wing commentary about the need to rain bombs on Iran with impunity and without mercy, all for the good of Israel, we are told. In our media such calls are left virutally unchallenged or even presented as conventional "wisdom".

So, if Iran looks scary to Americans, imagine how scary America must look to Iranians. We have the nuclear arsenal, they don't. We have a track record of aggressive, interventionist militarism, they don't. We have a force of nearly 150,000 servicemen on their their border, a force that just annihilated their two next-door neighbors, not the other way around. Now they see us refusing to negotiate on reasonable terms with them. Try to understand whose existence is truly at risk here.

We continue with the US response to Iran:

Iran nuclear offer 'falls short'

An Iranian offer to negotiate on its nuclear programme falls short of UN demands, the US has said.

Iran had offered "serious talks" in response to a package of incentives offered if it halted uranium enrichment by 31 August.

But the US said suspension of research was required first, echoing French comments. China and Russia said earlier that talks were the only way forward.

Iran could face sanctions, amid claims it is making a bomb - which it denies.

Surprised? You shouldn't be.

Understand this. There is nothing Iran can do that will derail the war plans. If we learn nothing else at all from the Iraq experience let us learn that. Again, the demand to suspend all research and enrichment has no basis in law or treaty. This is an important point to keep in the back of one's mind as you read or listen to these reports. The only reason this demand is insisted upon as the only condition by which punitive action can be averted is precisely because it is known to be wholly unacceptable to the Iranians. This is why the Iranians are now asking for "serious talks". They recognize that what's happened so far has not been a serious, good faith attempt to maintain the peace. The US side is trying sabotage the negotiations with unreasonable terms. When the Iranians reject those terms our leaders will tell us that diplomacy failed and they were left with "no choice" but to act militarily (stop me if that sounds familiar).
Coming again to your TV screen soon...

Bush Ensured Iran Offer Would Be Rejected
Analysis by Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, Aug 22 (IPS) - Even before Iran gave its formal counter-offer to ambassadors of the P5+1 countries (the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China) Tuesday, the George W. Bush administration had already begun the process of organising sanctions against Iran.

Washington had already held a conference call on sanctions Sunday with French, German and British officials, the Washington Post reported.

Thus ends what appeared on the surface to be a genuine multilateral initiative for negotiations with Iran on the terms under which it would give up its nuclear programme.
But the history of that P5+1 proposal shows that the Bush administration was determined from the beginning that it would fail, so that could bring to a halt a multilateral diplomacy on Iran's nuclear programme that the hard-liners in the administration had always found a hindrance to their policy.

Britain, France and Germany, which had begun negotiations with Tehran on the nuclear issue in October 2003, had concluded very early on that
Iran's security concerns would have to be central to any agreement. It has been generally forgotten that the Nov. 14, 2004 Paris Agreement between the EU and Iran included an assurance by the three European states that the "long-term agreement" they pledged to reach would "provide...firm commitments on security issues."


The partners of the United States in the P5+1 made one more effort to convince Rice to reconsider the U.S. position at their final meeting in Vienna Jun. 1 to reach agreement on a proposal. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed in a talk with Russian media the following day,
the issue of security guarantees for Iran was raised by the negotiating partners of the U.S. at that meeting.

But the Bush administration again rebuffed the idea of offering positive security incentives to Iran. In the final text of the proposal, the European scheme for a regional security system was reduced to an anodyne reference to a "conference to promote dialogue and cooperation on regional security issues".

The Europeans, Russians and Chinese knew this outcome doomed the entire exercise to failure. In the end, only the United States could offer the incentives needed to make a bargain attractive to Iran. A European official who had been involved in the discussions was quoted in a Jun. 1 Reuters story as saying, "We have neither big enough carrots nor big enough sticks to persuade the Iranians, if they are open to persuasion at all."

Despite the desire of other members of the P5+1 for a genuine diplomatic offer to Iran that could possibly lead to an agreement on its nuclear programme, the Bush administration's intention was just the opposite.

Bush's objective was to free the administration of the constraint of multilateral diplomacy. The administration evidently reckoned that,
once the Iranians had rejected the formal offer from the P5+1, it would be free to take whatever actions it might choose, including a military strike against Iran. Thus the Jun. 5 proposal, with its implicit contempt for Iran's security interests, reflected the degree to which the administration has anchored its policy toward Iran in its option to use force.

As Washington now seeks to the clear the way for the next phase of its confrontation with Iran, Bush is framing the issue as one of Iranian defiance of the Security Council rather than U.S. refusal to deal seriously with a central issue in the negotiations.
"There must consequences if people thumb their noses at the United Nations Security Council," Bush said Monday.

There so much to comment on here but I'll try to wrap this up quickly (if it's not already too late for that). Lets just summarize what we've seen here.

First the US has demanded that all their objectives be secured before there can be any negotiation (i.e. "Buy the car, then we'll negotiate the price"). Iran must stop all it's perfectly legal nuclear activities before it can be allowed to negotiate on whether it should have to stop its perfectly legal nuclear activities. That's first and foremost.

Next, in return for giving up the entire farm before negotiations even begin Iran gets to give up on it's primary concern too, i.e. protection from the superpower massing at it's borders. So what the US is telling them in essence is this: "If you give in to all our demands immediately we'll be willing to discuss with you the manner in which we'll give you nothing in return. Oh, and I almost forgot, we might decide attack you after that anyway. Deal?"

Designed... to... fail.

More: Iran and the invention of a nuclear crisis

UPDATE 1/29/2006: I added a link to a recent BBC story on the White Houses refusal to entertain Iran's offer to suspend it's uranium enrichment activities. See "previous offers" link.


Reuben Yakobovich said...

There's a very good reason why Iran is being treated differently than any other country. Their leader's pronouncements and actions are the most threatening of any other nation since Nazi Germany, and it completely appropriate for President Bush to aggressively confront Iran.

Whether by accident or by design, President Bush has succeeded in almost completely encircling Iran, a brilliant move that will be appreciated long after he leaves office.

Take a moment to study a map of the Persian Gulf, Middle East and Central Asia. President Bush has assembled an array of allies that should keep Ahmadinejad in his box. To Iran's west lies US and coalition forces in Iraq, across the Persian Gulf are Saudi Arabia and other US friendly Gulf States, to the east are Pakistan and US/NATO forces in Afghanistan. Other than the less reliable northern border area of Central Asia, Iran's madman is contained.

Just as important as the bordering states is the fairly new key strategic ally of India. In July of 2005, India and the US made a joint statement, that among other things said that they would "combat terrorism relentlessly and everywhere". As we all know, the US gave India a pass at that time with regard to its nuclear programs as well. This couldn't have happened without the quiet cooperation from Pakistan.

Why is Pakistan turning a blind eye to its traditional foe upgrading its nuclear capabilities? Because the Pakistanis know very well that the real threat emanates from Iran and its terrorist puppets, and India acting as a long range deterrent against Iran is very useful. Being a predominantly Muslim nation, Pakistan cannot be publicly seen taking a lead in confronting Iran in the event of a nuclear confrontation.

Iran's only strategy to deal with the mess is to find ways to force the US to leave, to destabilize allied regimes in the area and to find friends in Central Asia and Syria/Lebanon. That is why they sponsored Hezbollah's actions in Lebanon, why they are fomenting Shiite resistance in Iraq, why they are funding terrorist organizations around the world and why they are courting Syria and Central Asian states.

Although, Bush must work harder to bring the Russians into the fold as they could be helpful in bringing the Central Asian states more reliably into the West's camp, he really has achieved a master-stroke of brilliant geo-political significance. And for these reasons alone, the US cannot leave Iraq and if anything, should be building its forces in the region. That is the only way to prevent Iran from becoming dangerously adventurous.

Brian said...

I have to partially disagree with the above comment. I do not see much briliance going on at all. Yes, action does speak... but Iran has only stalled and the US has let this happen. I do not believe the US should carry out any kind of military options against Iran. The reason is that the Iranian administration can probably fall apart on its own.

They way the administration will fall apart is if we isolate the country... sanction the heck out of it, and enforce the sanctions. The Iranian people will take care of the rest. They do not want isolation, and will blame their administration for it.

I understand that the police are already breaking/cracking home-owner's satellite dishes in super large quantities. If I lived in Iran, that action would be the straw that breaks the camel's back... I love my TV!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant Move?? Surely you don't think that this administration has the ability to look at anything more than 1 move ahead on the chess board. The main issue is that Iran (with a bomb)would have the ability to throw the world into absolute chaos with very little effort. A small raidoatcive weapon has the ability make any major city in the middle east uninhabitable for centuries. Oil fields could be useless ect...Why shouldnt we be concerned about this. Hmmmm and isn't it interesting that China could really careless. The more we expend our resources in "fighing terrorist" the less attention we're paying to China's massive growth.