...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

May 30, 2006

Iran News

From AP:

Iran's foreign minister said Tuesday that Tehran is ready to restart negotiations with the European Union on its nuclear program, but he ruled out direct talks with the United States.

"I announce that Iran is ready to respond positively to the call" made by the Nonaligned Movement "for resuming the negotiations on Iran's nuclear issue without any preconditions," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters.

"Accordingly, I would announce our readiness to restart immediately the negotiations with the EU Three to resolve the issues," he said, referring to Britain, France and Germany.

The announcement raised hopes that Iran would react positively to a planned package of incentives meant to convince it to abandon uranium enrichment. The package has been put together by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

Come on. "Raised hopes?" Among who? I hoped that Santa Claus existed, but it didn't happen. Iran is not going to stop enriching uranium, and they are playing everybody for fools. They also announced that bilateral talks with the U.S. are out. Like that was going to do any good anyway. But maybe we can stop hearing about how we're the bad guys 'cause we don't want to talk to them.

You wait. Negotiations will start again, then in a few months the Iranians will either break it off or do something that will cause us to stop talking and spend another five months ramping up for a security council meeting. This cycle can go on as long as they need it to. Diplomacy alone cannot succeed here. If the goal is to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, only regime change can solve the problem.

Here is the real reason why the Iranians want to talk now. They have run into some technical problems that they need to sort out.

Diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the topic's political delicacy, say that Iranian engineers stopped pouring a raw form of uranium, called UF6, into arrays of centrifuges after just 12 days, even as the nation erupted in celebrations of the enrichment feat. The reports, which have now been widely circulated, say the Iranians kept the empty centrifuges spinning, as is standard practice because slowing the delicate machines can cause them to wobble and crash.

. . .

[O]n April 11 . . . the Iranians announced that they had enriched uranium to the low levels needed to fuel a nuclear reactor. They depicted the achievement as just the start of a sprint. "Our young scientists are working day and night," Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who is in charge of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, told an Iranian television interviewer the next day. "People are shocked and surprised that this has happened so quickly."

Then, on April 28 in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that the Iranians were assembling two more cascades, or strings of centrifuges, each consisting of 164 machines. On May 17, David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a research group in Washington that tracks the Iranian program, told Congress that those cascades were expected to start operating in May and June, respectively.

But in an interview last week, a diplomat close to the international watchdog agencies disclosed that the atomic agency would report soon that the Iranians had made little progress on the new cascades.

That would be a setback, at least as measured by Iran's declared intentions. It has said the pilot plant is to hold a total of six cascades made up of 984 centrifuges — a goal nuclear analysts expected Iran to achieve later this year. They see that as roughly the minimum number of centrifuges Iran would need to enrich enough uranium to make a single bomb. Analysts say that if the complicated plant worked reliably and efficiently, and if Tehran decided to throw out the inspectors and abandon its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, using the cascades to make fuel for a nuclear weapon would take a little more than two years.

Whoa, what happened to the ten year estimate everybody's been throwing around?

And here's the quote of the day, from a German:

"They've cracked the code," one senior German official said last week. "We're kidding ourselves if we think we are going to deny them the knowledge" of how to produce nuclear fuel.
He's right. That's why regime change is the only answer.

Iran is clear on one thing. They will not stop enrichment, even if the negotiations begin anew, and even if the EU offers the incentive package that's been floated.

"They say that they want to give us incentives. They think that they can take away our gold and give us some nuts and chocolate in exchange," hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said earlier this month.

"We don't need incentives. There is no need to give us incentives, just don't try to wrong us," he said.

"Or stop us," he might have said.

Update: Tod Lindberg of the Washington Times makes the case for negotiation. The central focus of any negotiation with Iran is to answer to these questions:

Is there anything Iran wants more than a nuclear weapon? If so, is what Iran wants instead in any sense reasonable? If what Iran wants is not reasonable, is there anything reasonable that Iran would accept in exchange for a verifiable end to its nuclear program? The answer to those questions may be "no," "no" and "no." But we would be better served by demonstrating that the answers are "no" than simply by assuming and asserting they are.
Put me in the camp with those who think negotiation is futile. Ultimately futile, but worthwhile if we use it to our advantage like the Iranians are currently doing. You see the Iranians negotiate in bad faith to buy time. But we need time too. We need it to stir up internal unrest, promote internal division and opposition to the mullahs, and then covertly support a counter-revolution. It's the only way, short of the military option, that we can ever be sure of stopping the Iranian bomb.

So I say yeah, negotiate. Put on a good show, but we sure as hell better be doing something else too while we still have options. I worry that the Bush administration is not able or willing to multi-task like the Reagan administration was. A linear strategy like: "First try diplomacy, then if that doesn't work try sanctions, then if that doesn't work..." is a losing strategy. Reagan's offensive was multi-faceted and complex. We don't think of it that way because we only remember the brouhaha over the missiles. But the Bush administration really ought to be studying the Reagan model more closely.

Posted by annika, May. 30, 2006 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: annikapunditry


Regime obliteration works as well, or better than, regime change.

Posted by: shelly on May. 30, 2006

Thank you Jimmy Carter, who made all of this possible. Yes the Shah was SUCH an evil man.

Posted by: Casca on May. 30, 2006

Three thoughts:

Excellent Annika.

Iran knows that EU can be bribed and US can't.

With hindsight, we can say that the Shah of Iran was one of the most enlightened leaders ever to exist in the modern Islamic world.

Posted by: Jake on May. 30, 2006

"I announce that Iran is ready to respond positively to the call"


If this were truly a free democracy -- and not the near sham with "approved" candidates who get elected -- then I'd hold that hope. Iran's population is composed of great people; anyone recall that theirs was the only Middle Eastern nation to hold candlelight vigils to mourn 9/11? But given it's current government... *sigh*...

Posted by: ElMondoHummus on May. 30, 2006

Good perspective on the matter; you've got a solid handle on the basic gaming down, now watch for the 3rd and 4th levels of indirection.

Posted by: will on May. 31, 2006

Link to news story

Well... looks like the US is heading into talks.

Don't know what to say about that, other than I hope they follow a course like you described.

Posted by: elmondohummus on May. 31, 2006