Rumblings for Fair Negotiations with Iran Increasing

More and more people are seeing what should’ve been plainly obvious to everyone by now: sanctions on Iran have failed to bring a solution to the situation and a very different route is needed.

An article on the CSM’s site today shows the growing call from various groups studying the situation to change tactics and present more lucrative packages to Iran in exchange for more transparency in their nuclear program.  In other words, it’s time to start offering to get rid of sanctions on Iran so they will be more open with their facilities.

Time for the U.S. to make a real offer to this man despite what we have been led to believe.

One of the biggest problems pointed out in the article is that sanctions are what the U.S. ‘knows’ in terms of dealing with countries deemed adversaries and calling for more benevolent policies are politically difficult.  No one wants to be the politician saying we need to offer real relief to Iran because opponents will use that against them even though it would likely bring about a successful end to the situation.

And Iran’s leadership can’t cave in to sanctions either or they look weak to their people.  As pointed out in the piece:

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated in February that pressure and sanctions are akin to the US “pointing a gun at Iran and say[ing] either negotiate or we will shoot.” In March, Khamenei said, “if the Americans sincerely want” to resolve the nuclear issue “they should stop being hostile towards the Iranian nation in words and in action.”

So, we have reached this point where two bulls are running at each other and one has to give.  And considering what has transpired, it would seem the U.S. is the one that has to bend.

Iran’s leader has called for a fatwa against making nuclear weapons.  The U.S. has admitted it has no intelligence suggesting Iran is pursuing nuclear technology for weapons purposes.  Iran also reduced its stockpile of material that could be converted into weapons recently showing it is moving in the direction apparently wanted by the rest of the world.

Iran has seemingly done what it needs to do in terms of showing the world it is ready for the sanctions to be lifted.  Now is the time for the United States to do what more people are recognizing is the solution: offer real relief on the sanctions and treat Iran as their actions have shown they should be treated.

Even some from the usually hawkish right see this as the solution.  From the piece:

“I think the answer is probably pretty simple. We’re going to have to sweeten the offer on sanctions relief,” former US assistant secretary of state under the George W. Bush administration and veteran troubleshooter James Dobbins said at the report launch. Sanctions should be suspended, not dropped, he said, until Iran also demonstrates it can hold to its side of any bargain.

The time for change has come.  The question now is: has the will for change made its way to the top levels of the U.S. government yet?

Iran, Israel, and the Necessity of Political Boogeymen

No matter where or when a politician runs for office, the one thing they will always need is a political boogeyman.  They must have some real or imagined evil taking place that they believe they could fix if we just give them our vote at the polls.  And this is natural since the opposite would sound rather ridiculous.  “Please elect me because things are perfect and I want to continue that by not changing anything and doing as little as possible.”  Despite the fact it probably seems like many politicians do close to nothing at times, they certainly couldn’t win an election with that platform.  (Except maybe in the gerrymandered and uncompetitive districts in America.  They could probably still win those.  Only half kidding, sadly.)

The boogeymen usually have two key characteristics.  The first is that the politician sees the evil being performed as an abnormality from their perception of societal norms.  The second, typically, is that the boogeymen have little to no political power, preferably no voting power.  Take for instance illegal immigrants, criminals, foreign country/ideas influences, or the poor (since their voting turnout is lower than the shrinking middle class and the getting wealthier wealthy).  If you haven’t heard a politician angrily talk about these evils, you haven’t heard a politician talk.

Most will remember Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Looney Tunes-like diagram he held up during his speech at the United Nations last September when he suggested Iran would be most of the way to a nuclear bomb by early-to-mid 2013.  The potential prospect suggested seemed a bit scary while at the same time the presentation was a bit unintentionally humorous.  But Netanyahu was just doing what he needed to help himself as a politician.  He had an election coming and he needed to show why he was the one Israel should choose to continue its fight against its enemies.

In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Jacques E. C. Hymans addresses the overall situation between the West and Iran and particularly the numerous failed intelligence assessments by both the U.S. and Israel, at least failed when reality is compared to the rhetoric of each country’s politicians.  Hymans points out the move could be political but strangely dismisses the idea for the exact reason it should, in fact, be seen as political.  Hymans argument:

A second hypothesis is that Israeli intelligence estimates have been manipulated for political purposes. This possibility is hard to verify, but it cannot be dismissed out of hand. Preventing the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran is Netanyahu’s signature foreign policy stance, and he had an acute interest in keeping the anti-Iran pot boiling in the run-up to last month’s parliamentary elections, which he nearly lost. Now, with the elections over, perhaps Israeli intelligence officials feel freer to convey a more honest assessment of Iran’s status. This theory of pre-election spin is not very satisfying, however, because it fails to explain why Israeli governments of all political orientations have been making exaggerated claims about Iran for 20 years — to say nothing of the United States’ own overly dire predictions.

The reality that Israeli claims about Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been overblown for over two decades now should reinforce the idea these claims have been political.  The idea that the length of time this has been going on nulls the possibility it is political bears no resemblance to history.  Take almost any other common political boogeyman.  Railing about illegal immigrants in the U.S. has gone on since long before anyone reading this was born.  Politicians are still debating the use of marijuana while some states are legalizing it.  Look at the era of Prohibition.  The Red Scare.  The list goes on and on.

In fact, there is an obvious clue in the article that should have tipped the author off to this being political.  Hymans points out Israel has backed off its claim Iran will have a nuclear weapon this year and now projects they will have a weapon around 2015 or 2016.

Take a wild guess when the next parliamentary elections in Israel will likely take place.

The West’s Failed Dealings With Iran Continues

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.

Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

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.

Iran will press on with enrichment: nuclear chief | Reuters

Iran will press on with enrichment: nuclear chief | Reuters.

The situation with the West’s concern over Iran’s plans to enrich uranium continues and the head of Iran’s nuclear energy program stated they are moving forward.  A few important points should be made regarding this article.  The first is the fact Iran, at least on the surface, is trying to be rather open about their nuclear plans to the rest of the world.  If they were trying to build a nuclear weapon in the shadows of what they are doing, they are the worst hiders of their actions in the history of the world.  Just compare Iran’s actions to North Korea on this issue, for example.

The other important factor from this article has to do with a declaration the nuclear chief is making:

But he (Iran’s nuclear chief) also said Iran would continue and possibly raise its output of reactor fuel using 20 percent enriched uranium – which suggests that less of it might be available for use in what the West suspects is an attempt to develop atom bombs.

In other words, Iran is using their material, at the moment, for non-weaponized purposes and they want to increase that usage.  Iran has a finite amount of nuclear materials so the fact they are looking to use up more of it for energy purposes only should be encouraged by the West.  The faster they use their material up, the better for peace in the long run.

At this point, Iran has done nothing to show they are wanting to use their nuclear material for a nuclear bomb and there is seemingly no reason to begin a war over their actions.  This could change in the future, no doubt, but the fact remains there is still no evidence Iran is a true threat to the world and the guns and missiles currently aimed at them should be holstered for now.

Still No Evidence Iran is a Nuclear Threat

As we move closer to the Presidential election in the Unites States, talk will no doubt heat up surrounding military action against Iran.  Since Mitt Romney has now officially locked up the Republican nomination, the talk will begin to be more amplified in the coming weeks as both candidates must show they are tough on foreigners.  There’s just one big problem with that rhetoric: there is still no evidence Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and is a threat to the U.S.  (And high level intelligence officials in the U.S. have acknowledged this as I mentioned recently.)

An article appeared in Reuters today that suggests Iran might possibly, kind of, somewhat, sort of, could be, might be doing something at one site that could be taken as suspicious.  It sounds potentially fishy.  But likely not when we couple one piece of information from this article with another.  The snippet of info from this article:

Parchin, which Iran says is a conventional military complex, is at the centre of Western allegations that Iran has conducted experiments – possibly a decade ago – that could help it develop nuclear bombs. Iran denies any such ambition.

The key phrase here is “possibly a decade ago.”  So, they may have been conducting experiments in 2002.  I guess we could still be scared…if we didn’t know Iran stopped their nuclear weapons program in 2003.  If we do find they tested something a decade ago, so what?  What exactly does that prove and what does it matter as long as it was stopped?

Additionally, think of this from the Iranian government’s perspective.  What do they really have to gain by abdicating to Western demands without getting anything in return?  If you are Iran at this point and you know you have no nuclear weapons or anything that shows you are pursuing them, you should be pushing for any and all sanctions to be lifted before letting the West in to inspect.  That is the way they win the most in the end and they are clearly holding out for a deal along those lines.

The question is: will we get to that point with such an aggressive U.S. policy toward Iran before war breaks out?  We found out last week the U.S. has used cyber-attacks on Iran in recent years.  This action sets the world up for a volatile situation concerning these methods:

Senior U.S. officials agreed the benefit of stalling Iran’s nuclear program was greater than the risks of the virus being harnessed by other countries or terrorist groups to attack U.S. facilities…Last year, the United States also explicitly stated for the first time that it reserved the right to retaliate with military force against a cyber-attack.

So the U.S. is using cyber-attacks but states it will counter any cyber-attacks with a military strike.  Quite a boon for the military industrial complex and a great way to justify actions in the future by claiming someone attacked through cyberspace.  I mean, we looked bad when we couldn’t find WMDs in Iraq after invading but showing info about a cyber attack will be so much easier, even if it has to be faked.  Should we start discussing the morality of preemptive military actions to stop cyber-attacks before they allegedly start?  Nah.  We stand to lose too much defense spending if we go there.  I can’t imagine how this situation could possibly get out of hand in any way!

One fact through all of this remains: we still have no evidence Iran is a threat or is pursuing nuclear weapons.  We should all try to remember that as the presidential candidates’ rhetoric ramps up in the coming months.