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June 3, 2006
Iran Takes The Bait

If the Bush administration used the Condoleezza Rice offer of talks with Iran to seal the deal on sanctions, Iran so far has played directly into their hands. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confirmed their refusal to stop uranium enrichment -- as required by both the IAEA and the UN Security Council -- as a precondition for direct talks with the US:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday defied pressure from foreign leaders to accept a package of incentives in return for ending all nuclear activities, saying Iran will pursue its legal right to develop a peaceful nuclear program.

"Any pressure to deprive our people from their right will not bear any fruit," he was quoted as saying on state-run television.

"Their opposition to our program is not because of their concern over the spread of nuclear weapons," he said. "They are worried that Iran would become a model for other independent countries, especially Islamic countries, for access to advanced technology."

The details of the incentive package — approved at a meeting of foreign ministers from the United States, Germany, Britain, France, China and Russia in Vienna on Thursday — have not been made public, but the proposal is expected to be presented to Iran in the coming days. In a statement, the six countries warned that "further steps" would be taken by the United Nations Security Council if Iran did not comply, but avoided any mention of sanctions or other specific punitive measures.

Diplomats emphasized the unanimity of the major nations in drafting a compromise proposal, and in Vienna on Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of a shared commitment to the offer. "We also have an alternative path if Iran doesn't negotiate," she said.

Obviously, the entire point of drafting the package and offering talks was to get the other nations on board a sanctions regime if Iran did not comply. Russia and China have spent the last few months claiming that diplomacy could resolve the standoff. They implied that the US would not provide the flexibility needed to offer an honest set of incentives for Iran to budge, and therefore would not agree to escalate the response, regardless of the stakes involved.

Now we have called that bluff. And predictably, Russia and China have become very vague on the consequences of continued defiance, which of course encouraged Ahmadinejad to pursue just that course. Putin ruled out any military force to resolve the standoff, and said it was "too early" to discuss sanctions. He claims that the question is completely hypothetical at this point. "If a grandmother had certain gender characteristics," he said, "she would be a grandfather."

And if Moscow were Tel Aviv, Red Square would have an entirely new meaning once Iran had the bomb.

The gambit played by the White House in their agreement to this incentive package, including talks, is not just to flush out Iran as a rogue nation. It also aims to reveal the nature of the UN Security Council. If Russia and China will still refuse to take any kind of punitive action in support of the UNSC's own resolutions, then it will give us the flexibility to move without the dubious imprimatur of Turtle Bay. Again, that may not mean direct military action, but it will mean gathering a large enough coalition to make sanctions hurt not just Teheran, but also Moscow and Beijing. At the least, it might result in the US Navy taking control of the Straits of Hormuz as a countertactic to any Iranian thoughts of petro-extortion.

That result would clearly disturb the two nations, especially China, whose dependence on oil delivered through the Strait has rapidly increased over the past decade. If the two nations continue to block progress at the UN, however, the US will not stand idly by while the Iranians complete work on the bomb. Their own intransigence will unshackle the US from the limits of the UNSC, the result that Russia and China fear most.

Expect to hear something a bit more welcoming from Ahmadinejad in the near future. His Russian and Chinese allies do not want to risk losing the limits on American power imposed by the UN over Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 3, 2006 8:54 AM

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» The Twists and Turns of International Diplomacy from Ninth State
The negotiatins have to be unconditional, but they’re willing to suspend large-scale uranium enrichment to ease tensions, which is the main condition put forth by the U.S., the EU, China and Russia, even though they don’t want any conditio... [Read More]

Tracked on June 3, 2006 11:28 AM

» Deal or No Deal? from Ninth State
The ball is in now Iran’s court, and that’s a scary place to be. And as just about everyone on Earth is saying, today is 6/6/06. Prophetic? God, I hope not. ... [Read More]

Tracked on June 6, 2006 9:46 AM


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