The foreign policy debacle that is the West versus Iran continues as both sides plan to meet in Kazakhstan next week to discuss Iran’s nuclear enrichment goals. The countries trying to stop Iran’s activities are preparing to offer what they call “a substantial and serious” deal hoping to get their way with the Middle Eastern nation. Just one problem: they already know Iran isn’t interested in their offer. As reported by Reuters:
Western officials in Washington have told Reuters they plan to offer to ease sanctions barring trade in gold and other precious metals in return for Iran shutting its Fordow uranium enrichment plant – a proposal already rejected by Tehran.
So, the plan is to put something we know will be rejected on the table in order to look like we are trying to negotiate fairly. This, of course, comes after more economic sanctions have been imposed by the United States. Hard to see why a country wouldn’t want to jump at an offer they don’t want after being treated even worse in the meantime.
Kidding front and center, the West uses its tried and true method of economic sanctions expecting it will bring about the demise of the Iranian government and install a new regime more friendly to the United States. Economic sanctions have been so successful in the past there really should be no other way even suggested when trying to convince a foreign country to run their government the way the people who don’t live there want it operated. Just look at how quickly the trade embargo on Cuba took Fidel Castro out of power. Five meager decades and boom! A new revolution in Cuba sweeps into power headed by longtime guy-on-the-opposing-side…Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother. See how well it works!
And how are those sanctions now working in Iran? Well…they’re not. Some highlights from Reuters’ report on Iran’s economy:
Shops in the Iranian capital are crowded. Finding a seat at good restaurants can be difficult. And the ski resorts in the mountains north of Tehran continue to attract Tehran’s glamorous and well-heeled. “The economy has problems with the sanctions, yes. But it’s still working,” he says. “It isn’t as bad as people outside the country think.”
“The government had a long time to prepare for economic war,” said Mohammad Ali Shabani, an Iranian political analyst based in London. “If you’re talking about collapse, that is not happening.”
Iranians seeking to escape inflation and unable to move their money out of the country are building new homes, boosting the construction and carpentry industries. These mini-booms are reflected in flashy new cars cruising Tehran’s streets and luxury apartments going up in its affluent neighborhoods. The stock market hit a record high this week.
All of this sounds bad. But that’s not the worst part:
The rial’s depreciation has halved the savings of the middle class and destroyed some of their businesses, but “those at the top and bottom of the pyramid haven’t seen a dramatic amount of change”…This uneven distribution of the pain of sanctions is why, for Washington, they could prove counter-productive: they are doing most damage to a group that might be expected to push for political change in Iran.
Ouch! All of this coupled with the fact that we still have no hard evidence showing Iran is pursuing nuclear enrichment for anything other than peaceful medical research purposes. In fact, Iran has restarted the conversion of more of its stockpile in a way that makes it harder to create weapons in recent months, an act the West should view as rather conciliatory given the sequence of events. As noted by Julian Borger’s security blog at the Guardian:
At the time of the last IAEA report three months ago, Iran had a stockpile of nearly 135kg of 20% uranium and that figure was growing fast because it had stopped converting a portion of its production into uranium oxide powder for use as reactor fuel. That conversion resumed on December 2, the IAEA reports, and 28% was taken away from the 20% stockpile between in the two months since. Once it is converted into powder, it becomes much less of a proliferation concern.
This is not to say we shouldn’t be mindful of Iran’s actions. As with all nuclear material around the globe we should keep a close eye on it regardless of where it is located, which is what is happening. But if the West wants to negotiate with Iran, it appears it will have to do so on more of an equal ground instead of the talking down to the country that has been done for many years.
From an outside observer’s perspective, Iran has not backed-down to the West’s threats and it appears they have no immediate reason to do so. They have stood their ground and have tried to show they are wanting the material for peaceful means. It is time for the West to get serious about dealing with Iran if it wants to continue working with the country and closely watching its nuclear program through groups such as the IAEA.