Thursday, October 29, 2009
Gigantic coup for Iran
Obama’s insistence on ‘engagement’ responsible above all for Iran’s recent triumph
The recent announcement of an agreement reached between Iran and the World Powers in Vienna amounts to nothing short of a gigantic coup for Iran, with the tacit approval of the Obama Administration. After seven years of negotiations with the EU, three UN Security Council Resolutions, and most recently three weeks of discussions, the Iranians have agreed to have “most” of their acknowledged low-enriched uranium transferred to a third country for further processing and open up the recently discovered Qom facility for IAEA inspection.
This is all positive news, especially for the Iranians, who can now boast at having masterminded another negotiations victory against the West. Any urgency towards swift action on Iran has now been diffused, and Tehran can continue to flaunt UN Security Council Resolutions with impunity.
Iran is cooking up an age old Middle Eastern recipe for its discussions with the West, a Persian Shakshuka if you like, and its ingredients are amazingly simple: they will transfer the enriched uranium they admit to having to a third party, while they continue to enrich uranium secretly in facilities which they deny exist. Furthermore, under an “agreement in principle” the Iranian regime will allow inspectors into the facility in Qom but without specifying under which conditions.
The focus on Qom is in itself a coup for Iran. The French and Americans planned on announcing the facility’s existence to the world at a joint session in the UN General Assembly, but were beaten to the punch by the Iranians, who seemed to have gotten wind of the plan. By doing so, the Iranians once more illustrated their uncanny ability to control the substance, scope, and timing of discussions concerning their nuclear program. Furthermore, by focusing on the facility of their choice the Iranians were able to turn world attention away from its other facilities.
It is obvious by now that Qom is only a small part of a vast network of clandestine enrichment facilities the Iranians have built and perfected over the years. The Iraqi experience has taught them that in this kind of business it is best not to keep all your eggs in one basket. By agreeing to enrich their “declared” uranium through a third party and “sacrificing” one facility for the good of the rest, the Iranians can continue their march towards the bomb with little interference. Meanwhile, any call for action against Iran has been diffused and the West is doing what it loves to do most – they are talking, and this they assure us, is a very important thing indeed.
Glowing personal victory
In fact, it is Obama’s insistence on “engagement” that is responsible above all for Iran’s recent turn of fate. It was the Obama Administration, famed for its insistence on the application of International Law, which nudged the other parties to the talks to abandon any mention of the three UN Security Council Resolutions that demand Iran terminate its uranium enrichment program. Any mention of these resolutions is now off the table. The discussions themselves do not request a scaling down, let alone termination, of the nuclear program.
Obama’s courting of the Iranian Republic against all odds is also the reason why the US remained silent during the post-election violence in Iran. It is also why Obama personally intervened to insure that the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, which would impose sanctions on the exporting of fuel to Iran, would not pass in Congress.
Furthermore, Obama delivered President Ahmadinejad a glowing personal victory as a consequence of the talks. Until recently the most unpopular president since the 1979 revolution, Ahmadinejad has been much criticized by his detractors at home for his radical policies which they warned would wreck havoc on Iran. Now, however, he can argue quite persuasively that it was his radicalism that delivered the results.
Indeed, the talks prove that with this US Administration at least, it pays to be the bad guy. After all, no country would consider an attack while these talks continue. And continue they will, since they are designed to go on perpetually. Apparently, Iran’s foreign minister is already planning a summit of the World Powers with Ahmadinejad in 2011.
At this critical juncture, the world must ensure that in "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples"(as the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s decision states), President Obama does not end up championing the first Fundamentalist Islamic bomb.
Michael Hessel is a banker, and the Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists