Friday, October 30, 2009

Iran Rejects Deal on Nuclear Weapons’ Issue: Engagement is Dead but the Obama Administration Won't Admit It

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By Barry Rubin

The great experiment of engaging Iran seems to be over but the Obama Administration refuses to admit it.

This shouldn't be a surprise. As the Iranian regime's record shows, it stalls, maneuvers, gives vague promises and then doesn’t deliver, but only after they’ve taken your concessions. Do you know how many years the talks with Iran have gone on without yielding fruit and letting Tehran develop nuclear weapons every day? Answer: Seven.

Do you know when the “deadline” originally was for Iran to stop its nuclear program “or else”? Answer: Approximately September 2007.

But the Obama Administration doesn't want to admit that the new Iranian counter-offer is unacceptable because it would have to give up its dreams of a deal and actually do something in response.

Even the New York Times headlines its story: Iran Rejects Nuclear Accord, Officials Report

Here’s the best article on the subject of the current deal/no deal from the sober Financial Times. The headline is “Tehran seeks big changes to nuclear deal.”

It concerns Iran’s response to questions about whether it would transfer two-thirds of its enriched uranium outside the country to make into a special non-weapons material that can only be used for medical purposes. (Note: it can be changed back into weapons-usable uranium in about four months or so.)

After interviewing officials, the newspaper concludes that the Europeans are ready to reject Iran’s demands now as “unacceptable” but the United States isn’t. It writes:

“The comments indicate the US remains more willing to show patience than either Britain and [sic] France. While London and Paris have at times made known their reservations about the agreement, it is seen in the US as a test of President Barack Obama's policy of engagement.”

In other words, the U.S. government is now lagging behind Britain, France, and presumably Germany on this issue. So who is the United States trying to keep on board if the key European allies are all saying: forget this nonsense, we have to put on more pressure!

I suggest there are three answers:

--President Barack Obama’s world view which insists that all problems are resolvable by talking and making concessions, and which fears confrontation.

--The president’s domestic constituency and colleagues (not all of them) who simply don’t comprehend that Iran and radical Islamism are threats.

I am positive, given some of her public statements, that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton knows this is all sheer nonsense. And just as the U.S. government has fallen behind its European counterparts, the White House has fallen behind the State Department.

--Someone else. Here’s the hint:

"We remain unified with our Russian and French partners in support of the IAEA draft agreement - it is a good and balanced agreement," said the US, signaling Washington's hope that Iran could yet agree to the original deal.”

That’s right, Russia. But we know that Russia won’t ever agree to sanctions and serious pressure on Iran. For one thing, everyone in the world but the Obama Administration knows that the Russian leadership wants America to fail internationally. And for another thing, Russia is Iran’s ally.

So America’s policy is being held hostage by a president with no experience or understanding of international affairs, a set of ideas that makes failure inevitable, trying to please a country which is an ally of the adversary, and a dictatorial regime whose president believes that his country is going to conquer the whole Middle East (and on some days, the world).

And here’s a good joke: It was only--what?--four years ago that U.S. officials under the Bush Administration were making fun of Europe as wimpy and incapable of taking a tough stance on international issues. Now the goo is on the other foot!

What a mess. BUT how long into 2010 can they spin this before Washington is going to have to recognize the talks are going nowhere?

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. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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