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January 12, 2006

What Is The Goal Of Diplomacy?

There was quite a lengthy question and answer period yesterday with State Department spokesman Sean McCormack at his daily press briefing. The key quote is that the admistration now believes it is "more likely than ever" that Iran will be referred to the U.N. Security Council for resuming their nuclear research program.

I'll excerpt some of the press conference in detail because Mr. McCormack expanded on a question I had been pondering myself regarding the diplomatic option: Assuming we get Iran referred to the U.N. Security Council, what good is that going to do? You tell me if his answer makes you feel any better.

QUESTION: When you say this is likely to go to the Security Council, what is the goal of . . . sending it to the UN Security Council? Is it an effort to institute some punitive measures against Iran? Is it an effort to increase pressure on Iran to get it back to the negotiating table? I mean, what is the aim of actually moving it to the Council?

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks for your question. As we have talked about, the goal of these diplomatic activities is to address Iran's failure to live up to its international obligations. Under -- countries sign treaties and under those treaties they say that they have certain rights. Well, along with those rights come certain obligations, to live up to the -- what you have signed up to in the treaty. In this case, it's the Nonproliferation Treaty.

The IAEA Board of Governors has found that Iran is in noncompliance with its treaty obligations. The goal of this diplomatic exercise is to bring Iran into compliance with its treaty obligations.

Now, what they say is that they want to be able to develop a peaceful nuclear program to provide energy for the Iranian people. Now, put aside the fact that they have some of the world's largest hydrocarbon reserves, and I think it's a legitimate question to ask why they need nuclear energy when they have all these energy reserves. Put that aside.

So what the international community has done, the Russian Government in particular, they have laid out for the Iranian regime a proposal that addresses their desire to have peaceful nuclear -- to develop peaceful nuclear power while giving objective guarantees to the international community that they will not use the activities -- their peaceful nuclear power activities to develop a nuclear weapon. That is what the international community suspects that they are doing right now, that for the past 15-plus years, they have, under the cover of a peaceful nuclear program, sought to develop, systematically, a nuclear weapons program.

Now, finally, these activities have come to light. The IAEA has a long list of questions concerning these activities. The EU-3 has grave concerns about Iran's activities. Russia has serious concerns about Iran's activities. We have gotten to the point now where the world understands that Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. That would be a destabilizing event.

So, over the past year, the international community has come together. They have come together to try to send a clear, strong message to the Iranian regime to negotiate in a serious manner, to get Iran back in compliance with its NPT obligations. And the EU-3, as well as the Russian Government, have laid out serious, fair proposals to achieve that. Thus far, the Iranian Government has chosen not to take them up on those offers, so we now find ourselves in the position where, because of Iran's actions, it is more likely than ever they will find themselves before the Security Council on this issue.

QUESTION: But to what end? I mean, I know you said you --

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I just went through a long --

QUESTION: No, no, no, but -- I mean, are you trying to change Iranian behavior or are you just trying to cite them for noncompliance? I mean, you can do that at the IAEA.

MR. MCCORMACK: That’s what this has been about, changing their behavior.

QUESTION: So -- but through negotiations or through punitive measures?

MR. MCCORMACK: We have sought diplomatic -- to achieve a change in behavior and still seek to change Iranian's -- Iran's behavior through diplomatic channels.

QUESTION: So you still think there's a chance? (inaudible) made a rather strong speech about a month ago to a university in Virginia, I forget which, and -- you know, he was quite -- it was a quite ominous speech, that they have one more redline to cross. There are reports now that they got 5,000 centrifuges to go. There’s already platforms built for them and a nuclear weapons center. Do you really think there's still a way to keep them from developing nuclear weapons?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's why we're working so hard on this, Barry.


MR. MCCORMACK: That's why the President and the Secretary and a lot of other people in this government are spending so much time on this issue, because it is so important. It's serious business and that is, I think, the shared realization and the shared view of the -- many European countries and a number of other countries on the IAEA Board of Governors. That's why we're working so hard at this, Barry.

QUESTION: How does getting Iran into the Security Council further your goal of bringing them into compliance?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it is a diplomatic next step, Saul. They've already been found in noncompliance and the hope is that once they have now found themselves before the Security Council, that that would be an incentive for them to engage in serious negotiations on this issue. There have already -- as we talked about at length yesterday, there have already been consequences for Iran, in the fact that they find themselves almost completely isolated from the rest of the world on this -- most of the world on this issue.

You want to account for the fact that perhaps they have miscalculated in the steps that they have taken, their failure to engage in serious negotiations. So, the thought, again, as it always has been with the possibility of referral to the Security Council, is to send an even stronger diplomatic signal to the Iranian regime that they need to comply with their international treaty obligations. And the world will not stand aside as they drive towards building a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: But Sean, they did everything they possibly could to push it to the UN Security Council, because you said that if they don't come back to the negotiations, that's exactly where it's going. And they did exactly what they said they were going to do, knowing that you were going to refer them to the Security Council. So, what makes you think moving it to the Security Council is going to change their behavior when they knew all along it was going this --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, we have not gotten to that point, but if, in fact, Iran does end up at the Security Council -- the very fact that you are there, that they have crossed those lines that have caused the international community to put that issue before the Security Council, perhaps that is a signal that is strong enough to the Iranian regime that would get them to the negotiating table, in a serious way, to address these concerns.

. . .

QUESTION: . . . So, if I'm interpreting you correctly, the short-term goal is, get them referred to the UN Security Council so that they realize they've miscalculated -- so that they realize the international community really is serious about this and the consequence of that is, they go back to the negotiating table.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our hope has always been, Saul, to resolve this through diplomatic means through negotiation, so that -- and our hope is that Iran will change its behavior. That's why we go through these diplomatic processes. The process is not an end in and of itself. It's a means to an end. The end -- the desired end is to change Iranian behavior.
[emphasis added]

I think the unnamed reporter had it correct. Iran knew that the consequence of provoking the international community on this issue might be a referral to the Security Council. They also know that the wheels of international law move very slowly and uncertainly. The Iranians need time, and the diplomatic option gives them time.

Posted by annika, Jan. 12, 2006 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: annikapunditry


But, also keep in mind that this is a State Department spokesman. He is obligated by his job description to champion diplomacy. He may have wanted to scream "I know, I know, it's a fruitless effort and we'll be bombing by next tueday, but, look, we gotta dot the i's and cross the t's otherwise the howling moonbats will scream that we wanted a war, not a peaceful resolution."

Also, interesting that, instead of "petroleum", he used the word "hydrocarbon". I haven't heard that word in yeeeeeeears!

Posted by: Tuning Spork on Jan. 12, 2006

somebody once said that diplomacy is like talking-nice to a mad dog until you are able to kneel down and grab a rock.

Posted by: reliapundit on Jan. 15, 2006

And, if President, you would do ....?

Posted by: will on Jan. 20, 2006