Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's Official! Iran Publicly Says it Fooled U.S. and Europeans in Geneva, Offered Nothing

By Barry Rubin

And now it's official! Iran's Supreme National Security Council has announced that the main "concession" it supposedly made in the Geneva meeting with the United States never happened.

It has no intention of sending off its enriched uranium to Russia to be turned into someting fit only for medical research at all. This supposed pledge made by Iran was the alleged big development that set off so much optimism after Iran met with the United States along with China, France, Germany, Russia, and England).

No, says the Iranian government. This is merely an old idea--Tehran offered the same plan back in 2007 and then, after using it to stall for months, rejected it--which it has been planning to discuss on October 18 in yet another meeting with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Not only did it not offer anything new in Geneva, the Iranian government maintains it offered nothing at all.

Of course, the Iranian regime will never actually give up the enriched uranium it plans to use for making nuclear weapons. But now they have not only fooled the U.S. and European governments, Tehran openly says so!

Don't hold your breath, however, for the Obama Administration to admit that engagement has failed and it was bamboozled.

For those of us who want U.S. foreign policy to succeed and still hope President Barack Obama will do good things as president--not what he wants to do but rather policies that have a good result for the United States—it’s disconcerting to realize that this administration is every bit as bad as we feared.

Before the Obama Administration took office, someone who since then has been appointed to a high foreign policy post sneered that, unlike the Bush Administration, the new government would be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

But it has failed to do so. In the case of Iran this means the administration has failed to advance toward increased sanctions at the same time as it pursues engagement. Having stopped the sanctions’ train dead in its tracks, Obama will have trouble restarting it.

Then it fell for Iran’s obvious ploys in Geneva. Officials are now reduced to the kind of talking points just made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: After the “worthwhile meeting” in Geneva, “There is much more to be done. We expect much more,"

Well, you’re not going to get it because when it comes to Iran you still don’t “get it.”

As I have noted continually, the administration doesn’t understand the need to keep up pressure, credibility, deterrence, showing a willingness to use force, and all the other diplomatic tools needed. Instead it has depended on the “soft” arsenal of making apologies, throwing out concessions, taking radical dictatorships at their word, and even joining the other side on some issues.

For example, the U.S. government is now stopping funding for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center just as this group is starting to examine post-election human rights’ violations in Iran. Apparently, the rationale is that if you criticize Tehran it won’t like you and might not let you give it lots of goodies in exchange for nothing.

Meanwhile, the British government—unlike its U.S. counterpart—is complaining that by delaying international inspections for three weeks, Iran is giving itself plenty of time to hide all the evidence of nuclear weapons’ work at its newly revealed enrichment plant. Iran has also announced it is installing new, more effective centrifuges there.

And also meanwhile, not content to have a wanted terrorist as its minister of defense—an issue on which I have yet to see a single complaint from the U.S. government—the Iranian regime has now appointed Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi as head of the Basij militia. This group, now part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC, the group which would control the nuclear weapons once they are built) has been the frontline force in beating up and in some case killing peaceful demonstrators.

Naqbi was also involved in previous repression and has been accused of involvement in torture. But most significantly for Western policy he is on the list of those involved in organizing the nuclear program’s cheating on treaty commitments and violating UN sanctions.

So there you have it: It is not a problem for U.S. policy that Iran’s regime has stolen an election, repressed peaceful demonstrators with violence, put on trial non-violent political opponents, appointed a wanted terrorist as minister of defense, broken its commitments repeatedly, been caught lying about constructing a massive enrichment facility, sponsored international terrorism, been proven to be killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq by sending bombs and terrorism advisors there, calling for genocide against Israel, etc.

After all, they are willing to talk to America.

Or in the words of Bronwen Maddox in the London Times:

“Iran has again proved world-class at spinning the West’s red lines and deadlines into more months in which to move its [nuclear weapons] work forward....If you look at the gains on either side in the past fortnight, the West has a promise without numbers. Tehran has a few solid more months to spin its uranium centrifuges.”

Iran, unlike the Obama Administration, cannot only walk and chew gum at the same time, it can chew up and spit out American policymakers as well.

For background on this article and the Geneva meeting, see here and here.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books: http://www.gloria-center.org/ To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports: http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.

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