As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Between A Rock And A Hard Place In Iran

In the next few weeks, expect to hear the Wurlitzer ramp up again for action against Iran. We got a taste of this already this week, when a US envoy to the IAEA claimed that the Islamic Republic had enough uranium to make a nuclear weapon. That's not been confirmed anywhere, but it's a sign that Washington is moving toward tougher rhetoric as a precondition to action. Engagement went out the window after the election chaos, I fear, and while Iran has delivered a document calling for a global nuclear freeze, which the US, despite President Obama's call for an end to nuclear weaponry, summarily rejected. The document isn't really much of a proposal; it doesn't mention Iran's nuclear program at all, and is generally vague about its offer to help fight terrorism and collaborate on energy issues.

The problem for the United States is that Russia seems to be satisfied with the document.

Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov on Thursday all but ruled out imposing new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, brushing aside growing Western concerns that Iran had made significant progress in recent months in a bid for nuclear weapons.

Mr. Lavrov said he believed that a new set of proposals that Iran gave to European nations on Wednesday offered a viable basis for negotiations to end the dispute. He said he did not believe that the United Nations Security Council would approve new sanctions against Iran, which could ban Iran from exporting oil or importing gasoline.

“Based on a brief review of the Iranian papers, my impression is there is something there to use,” Mr. Lavrov said at a gathering of experts on Russia. “The most important thing is Iran is ready for a comprehensive discussion of the situation, what positive role it can play in Iraq, Afghanistan and the region.”

Without Russian buy-in on sanctions, they won't happen. Either the Russians will block them in the Security Council or they won't participate, rendering them meaningless.

Obama, almost to a fault, seeks common ground, so I could see him accepting the Iranian document and moving forward with it. But there will be a lot of pressure on him to take action as well.

...True to my theory, the US did accept the Iran talks. They had little choice given Russia's intransigence, and I actually think it's the right move, not the least of which because it will piss off John Bolton.

In coordination with European allies, Washington said today it would accept Iran's offer of comprehensive talks, to test out if Iran was serious about negotiations.

The comments from the State Department came as China and Russia said they weren't prepared to support new sanctions on Iran at this time given Tehran's written proposal this week [...]

"The United States and five partner countries have decided to accept Iran's new offer to hold talks, even though Iran insists it will not negotiate over its disputed nuclear program," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley was cited by the AP.

"As the EU indicated today, Javier Solana is in touch with Iranian officials to try to set up a meeting as soon as possible," Crowley further said in an email.

They're basically calling Iran's bluff.

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