Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Ahmadinejad’s Tricky Proposal

Posted in Iran by Dan on September 26, 2009
October 1 is the next step in the nuclear drama

The next episode of the nuclear drama is coming up on October 1

One week to go before the U.S.-Iran nuclear drama either becomes part of the history books or escalates into a brand-new Middle Eastern conflict.

As everyone already knows, October 1 will be the beginning of a new phase in the whole issue of global nuclear proliferation.  In fact, this symbolic date could be the last chance for the United Nation’s Security Council to convince Iranian representatives to dismantle their clandestine nuclear program.  With this being the case, do not only expect long and tedious meetings between the two parties; expect the month of October to be one of the most historic moments for Barack Obama’s presidency.  After four years of stalemate with the Iranians, Washington and its allies will finally reach the breaking-point that so many policymakers have been hoping for since George W. Bush’s administration.

Unfortunately, the talks are set up in such a way that the Islamic Republic only has only two possible alternatives to choose from: 1) please the international community by abandoning its uranium-enrichment program, or 2) continue to stonewall the International Atomic Energy Agency by improving its homegrown enrichment capabilities.

So far, both sides remain steadfast in their proposals.  The United States and the Security Council are demanding Tehran’s full compliance through improved disclosure and a willingness to constructively engage for the sake of peace and security.  The Iranian leadership, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are remaining resilient in the face of western pressure…arguing that the “Iranian nation” possesses a sole-right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful use.  President Obama certainly has his work cut out for him.  So far, his policy of unconditional dialogue has failed to materialize anything beneficial or worthwhile.

However defiant Ahmadinejad has been in the past, it appears that he is willing to concede to some of the international community’s demands.  According to The Washington Post, Tehran has agreed to let the United Nations Security Council question its nuclear scientists as a good-will gesture preceding next week’s talks.

On a more controversial note, Ahmadinejad has also told reporters that he will be asking the United States to sell Tehran enriched uranium for medicinal purposes.

Both developments, however trivial, seem like a step in the right direction.  After all, Iran is making compromises on issues that were previously viewed as nonnegotiable.  Exposing the country’s nuclear talent to representatives from the United States, Great Britain, Russia, China, France, and Germany could be perceived as an attempt to show the world that Tehran wants conciliation rather than confrontation.  Unfortunately, this type of sentiment is exactly what Ahmadinejad wants you to believe.

What others see as a show of good-grace I see as another campaign of passive-aggressive coercion from the Islamic Republic.  What Tehran has essentially done (by asking the United States for enriched uranium) is successfully boxed President Obama into a corner that will be extremely difficult to get out of.  If the President agrees to this concession (which I hope he does not), the decision would expose his passivity and weakness in the eyes of America’s adversaries…exposing to the rest of the world that the most powerful man on the face of the earth will capitulate if enough pressure is mounted against him.

On the other hand, if the President rejects the Iranian offer, Ahmadinejad would be given an ample opportunity to continue Iran’s nuclear development.  The Iranians would use this rejection as a much-needed excuse to toil towards uranium with a 20 percent enrichment rate…as opposed to the 3-4 percent that Tehran has produced in mass quantities for the past four years.

In a more catastrophic blow to the United States, Iran would be able to spin Mr. Obama’s rationale as yet another American administration disregarding the health of other people.  The United States would be painted as a jealous superpower opposing the progression of the developing world, namely for the sake of its own international agenda.  Such a declaration would do nothing but broaden anti-Americanism in the Middle East, at the same time President Obama is desperately trying to salvage his doctrine of “mutual interest and mutual respect” with Arab Governments.

When it comes down to it, Iran’s show of good-will is not necessarily the package being advertised.  Hidden behind an eagerness for international engagement and a rosy-picture of diplomatic outreach is a disguised version of noncompliance and resistance.

Here is my prediction as the month winds down: the October 1 talks will go nowhere, Iran will remain defiant despite the threat of additional economic sanctions, and the United States will be compelled to respond in ways that could have lasting consequences for the entire Islamic world.  One can only guess as to the magnitude of this response.

-Daniel R. DePetris

-Information from Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post contributed to this blog.  His full article can be read at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/23/AR2009092304168_pf.html


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