Pseudo-Realistic Expectations at Iran Nuclear Talk
Ahead of the new round of multilateral nuclear talks between Iran and the representatives of the so-called "5 + 1" nations (i.e., UN Security Council's Permanent Five plus Germany), the US is leading a ferocious global campaign to maximise the pressure on Iran in order to solicit a favourable concession at the negotiations, scheduled for mid-April, 2012.
Thus, while the US is using the long stick of oil and other sanctions to enlist a longer list of nations to go along, e.g., with cutting back on their oil imports from Iran, this is conjoined with veiled threats of military action under the guise of a diplomatic impatience, reflected in the statements of both US President Barack Obama and his secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, that the "window of diplomacy" is closing and that this may be Tehran's last opportunity to avoid a war.
But, Iran is not easily bullied by such coercive tactics that have met resistance by, among others, China, Russia, and Pakistan, who have opposed the unilateral western sanctions; a clue to Iran's ability to withstand the sanctions, the country's oil sale to its Asian market actually jumped higher during the month of march, to roughly 600,000 barrels a day, much to the chagrin of US and Israeli policy-makers who seek a total oil embargo on Iran.
Even with respect to Europe, which has nominally committed itself to an oil embargo as of July, 2012, the US has already given waivers from the oil sanctions to 11 countries, 10 of which happen to be Europeans.
Signs of internal fissures and bickering among the European Union member states over a prudent Iran strategy can be found aplenty, and although some countries such as France and England sheepishly toe the US's ship of coercion toward Iran, other EU states such as Italy, Spain, and Greece, the three largest importers of Iranian oil, sing a relatively different tune; in a word the myth of a united Europe vis-a-vis the Iran nuclear crisis is empirically untenable and contradicted by divergent voices, some of which counsel a more prudent approach that recognizes Iran's nuclear rights under the non-proliferation treaty. Yet, the latter are practically buried under piles of scaremongering noise and a well-orchestrated Iranophobic media campaign that is full of disinformation and designed to shape and mould the public opinion regarding the Iran "nuclear threat," even though various US intelligence officials have openly admitted that there is no evidence that Iran has made a decision to build a nuclear bomb.
In the absence of any evidence of military diversion, which can be detected by the IAEA surveillance cameras at the Iranian enrichment facilities, not to mention the regular and often short-notice IAEA inspections, there is no justification for sanctions on Iran, which has an "inalienable right" to possess a nuclear fuel cycle much like other nations such as South Korea, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, and Germany.
Tehran has already made it clear that it will not negotiate those rights at the upcoming talk, irrespective of the arbitrary demand by US officials that Iran "must prove that its program is not military," to paraphrase US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Secretary Clinton's statement recalls the similar US statements prior to the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003, when the false pretext of Iraq's WMD was conjoined with the demand from the Iraqis to prove a negative, that is, the absence of an active nuclear program.
But, Iran is not Iraq and the US officials are up for a rude awakening if they somehow think that they can repeat their past diplomatic shennanigans with impunity, this while the Israelis conveniently side-line the Palestinian issue by their overzealous hype of "Iran's existential threat." Fact is that Israel's oppressive policies toward the Palestinians is the real "existential threat" that has turned the idea of a two-state solution into a near impossibility by the relentless land grab and Zionist expansionism in the West Bank, coinciding with the Iran war hysteria in Israel that constantly de-prioritizes the need for reinvigorating the Middle East peace process. As a result, Israel has a vested interest in burning the furnace of Iran nuclear crisis and to torpedo any decent chance for a mutually-acceptable resolution of this standoff.
Consequently, thanks to their army of lobbyists in Washington, the pro-Israel interest groups in US are keen on preventing the Obama administration from showing any signs of flexibility and compromise at the coming talk, such as moving away from the impractical "zero centrifuge" demand to a more realistic scenario, whereby Iran would keep its enrichment program in exchange for a ceiling on low to medium enrichment levels, enhanced transparency, and the resolution of the existing "ambiguities" regarding its program cited in the recent reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Indeed, enhanced nuclear transparency and increased cooperation with the IAEA are the only thing that Iran is willing to consider and it would be better if the US and its western allies adopted the Russian "step-by-step" proposal that calls for the gradual removal of Iran sanctions in return for Iran's cooperation and removal of issues of concern by IAEA.
Unfortunately, this does not seem likely since the US and Israel have a vested interest in perpetuating the Iran nuclear crisis, which is a crisis of opportunity for both these two countries, in part because it allows the perpetual security dependency of Persian Gulf oil states on the US protectorate power, in light of Secretary Clinton's latest tour of the Gulf Cooperation Council states and her pitch to provide an American shield against Iran's missile threat.
Notwithstanding the above-said, it is hardly surprising that the US is now leading a western campaign to confront Iran with extra-legal and exceedingly high demands -- of immediate and full suspension of all enrichment activities -- that are bound to be rejected by Iran as fundamentally unacceptable and an infringement on its nuclear and national rights.
Despite the US official rhetoric, the actual US policy toward Iran is inherenty wedded to preventing a resolution of the Iran nuclear crisis, one that is artificially inflated in order to serve the hegemonic interests of the US superpower and its key allies in the region and beyond.
With all the compliant US media's talk of "realistic expectations" at the coming round of nuclear talk with Iran, the reality of functional necessity of this crisis for the declining US superpower presents a diametrically different picture, that is, of a US built-in tendency to obviate an immediate and short-term resolution of the Iran crisis, neatly hidden by the familiar laments of Tehran's "defiance" and rejection of the good-faith negotiation posture of US and its western partners.
Such benign self-portrayals of US power and its intentions at the negotiation table are meant to create a Chomskyian "manufacturing consent" on Iran, irrespective of the wide gulf between the rhetoric and intentions and actual policies that are by now glaringly obvious to scrutinizing eyes. Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Ph.D.
Former advisor to Iran's Nuclear Negotiation Team (2004-2006), author of Iran's Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction