Thursday, May 31, 2012

Iran Strengthens Its Hand at Talks

Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili takes questions at a press conference following nuke talks

How Tehran Is Outflanking Washington -Michael Singh

U.S. officials often seem more worried about the consequences of military action against Iran than about the Iranian nuclear program a strike would be designed to destroy. [T]here is ample evidence that the Iranian regime views normal relations with the U.S. as undesirable, even threatening, while it views a nuclear weapons capability as strategically vital.

Prolonging the talks serves Iran beyond merely buying time or delaying an attack. The talks enhance Iranian prestige by sitting as co-equal with the world's great powers and discussing the great issues of the day, while securing tacit acceptance of nuclear advances once deemed unacceptable. Iran's low-level uranium enrichment appears off the table for discussion, and Western analysts now frequently assert that insisting on the full suspension of enrichment and reprocessing by Iran is "unrealistic," even though it is called for in a series of UN Security Council resolutions.

The fundamental bargain offered by the U.S. asks Iran to trade something it apparently values enormously - the ability to produce nuclear weapons - for something in which it has no demonstrable interest and likely regards as threatening, closer ties with the West.

Iran must be presented with a different bargain: end its nuclear weapons work or face devastating consequences. Iran must be convinced that continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability will threaten, rather than ensure, the regime's ultimate survival.
The writer is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.
(New York Daily News)

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