Iran nuke talks miss the point

Iran nuke talks miss the point

IN an ideal world, détente between neighbors should be everyone’s aspiration. Surely, getting along, enjoying the benefits of peace, including free trade, investments, tourism and cultural exchanges is a worthwhile goal. Iran has been out in the cold since 1979 revolution and the ensuing US Embassy hostage crisis, so one could be forgiven for believing it’s beyond time to welcome Tehran back to the regional and international fold upon certain pre-conditions being fulfilled.
But our world is far from perfect, and neither is the Obama administration’s template to achieve this objective, which has echoes of the deal with the Syrian regime to rid that country of its chemical weapons. That arrangement basically sends the message that while it’s not okay to kill civilians with airborne poisons, there’s a de facto green light for the use of bombs, missiles and tank shells to do the same job. Now, the US is treading a similar path with Iran.
The true threat from Iran is not that it may or may not have the intention of manufacturing nuclear bombs. Why? Because even if the Supreme Leader’s fatwa against such weapons turned out to be a red herring, Iranian nukes would only act as a deterrent; a first strike would incur such devastating repercussions from Israel, the US and its western allies that it’s likely that most of Iran would be wiped from the map. And, until now, no Iranian leader has displayed suicidal tendencies.
For instance, the relationship between nuclear powers Pakistan and India has long been extremely tense, but the idea that one side or the other would resort to sparking a nuclear war is remote. It’s certainly the case that a nuclear-free Iran is desirable from the perspective of just about every country in the region for obvious reasons. For one thing, if Iran were seen to join the nuclear club, there is a likelihood that others would rush to follow suit. So as desirable as divesting Iran from the wherewithal to enrich uranium to fissile purity may be, the P5+1 nations may be barking up the right tree without taking into account there are many more trees in the Iranian forest that require cutting-down to size.
Secondly, although Iran now has a president who is keen to make concessions in order to get crippling US, EU and UN sanctions lifted and appears to have the blessing of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in essence no elected Iranian president holds the reins. According to the DebkaFile, President Hassan Rowhani is showing signs of being frustrated with the intransigence of his “boss” and is quoted as telling associates, “That person thinks he knows everything and lays down policy without considering all the facts.”
Indeed, Khamenei is ostensibly on board but at the same time, just days ago, Tehran boasted that it had successfully replicated a captured US pilotless aircraft (drone) with the promise that they would shortly make a test flight, which was tweeted by the Supreme Leader.
And even as Rowhani is doing his diplomatic-utmost to make all the right noises in Vienna, Khamenei warned, the “powers should know that the Iranian nation will not bow.” He was probably referring to the P5+1 insistence that Iran’s ballistic missile capability is also up for negotiation, a condition he describes as a “stupid, idiotic expectation.” To make his point, he’s called upon the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to go all out with their mass production.
On the missile question, Israel and others among Iran’s neighbors are concerned that the P5+1 is pressing Iran to limit its long-range missiles, capable to reaching the US and Europe, while agreeing to leave the Shahab-3 that poses a regional threat off the table. The English expression “We’re alright Jack” fits here.
Another sticking point during these faltering talks is Iran’s wish to employ up to 50,000 state-of-the-art centrifuges to replace the 19,000 older models currently being used. Nevertheless, there will be three more rounds of talks between now and the current July 20 deadline. Everyone involved admits it’s complicated and no one is raising expectations, especially at a time when the atmosphere isn’t, let’s say, as healthy as it once was. If talks fail, there will be sighs of relief in Israel and elsewhere in the area. Iran’s nuclear program is one thing, but any negotiations should be far broader in scope. If Iran wants to be a good neighbor it must quit its destructive interference in Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen before all else. And any talks should not just be between Iran and the P5+1 but should also involve the leaderships of this part of the world so that their concerns can be taken into account. Anything less will amount to a mere fig leaf covering a host of festering sores.
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