After their president has spent most of the last few months trying to convince people that the Holocaust never occurred in order to gain support for ejecting the Jews from Israel, the Iranian government described Condoleezza Rice’s earlier offer for direct talks in exchange for a cessation in uranium enrichment as “propaganda”. The state-run news agency IRNA carried Teheran’s initial reaction to Rice’s offer within a few hours of her press conference today:
The official Iranian news agency said Wednesday the U.S. offer to join in direct talks with Iran about its disputed nuclear program was “a propaganda move.”
The American proposal, a major policy shift after decades without official public contact between the two countries, was made conditional on Iran agreeing to stop its uranium enrichment activities.
“It’s evident that the Islamic Republic of Iran only accepts proposals and conditions that meet the interests of the nation and the country. Halting enrichment definitely doesn’t meet such interests,” IRNA said at the end of a dispatch reporting the offer of talks by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“Given the insistence by Iranian authorities on continuing uranium enrichment, Rice’s comments can be considered a propaganda move,” IRNA said.
The Iranians insist that any talks be held without preconditions, but that still leaves them on the defensive diplomatically. With the US willing to meet Iran after three decades of enmity arising from their unlawful sacking of our embassy and taking our staff as hostages, suspending enrichment at least temporarily is a reasonable condition. After all, the entire point of the negotiations is to stop the development of nuclear material until we can have safeguards in place to ensure that the Iranians do not use it for weapons.
The Iranian refusal to meet the US on this rational basis can only lead to two non-exclusive conclusions: either the Iranian leadership is not rational, or they intend on building nuclear weapons regardless of their international agreements. Both are probably true. The only question that remains is what kind of action will effectively communicate global insistence on the end of the Iranian nuclear research program.
Towards that end, the US may have finally bought Russian and Chinese cooperation on sanctions with this offer. Both veto-wielding UN Security Council nations had insisted on negotiations rather than sanctions. Both had criticized the laissez-faire strategy of the US in allowing the EU-3 to conduct talks on its behalf. Now Rice and John Bolton can honestly report that the US attempted to start negotiations with Teheran, only to show that Teheran has no interest in negotiating on nuclear fuel development. Fox reported an hour ago (no link yet, heard it on the FNC through satellite radio) that sources at State have informed them that a sanctions package had received approval from all interested nations, which sounds like Rice brokered a deal.
The statement by Rice has put the diplomatic option back on the table. If the UNSC can get serious about its own resolutions and about nuclear non-proliferation — one of the main purposes of the UN — then the combination of world powers threatening Iranian isolation will force the government into conciliation, especially to protect themselves from their own people. If the permanent members continue to exploit the situation for economic and diplomatic gain, then Iran will continue to split the powers and drive towards the realization of its nuclear ambitions. The Russians and Chinese will then be responsible for the war that follows afterward.
UPDATE: Brant at SWLiP notes that the AP had some trouble earlier in comprehending the day’s events. The AP reported that the US gave a concession to Iran. One wonders at the color of the sky in the AP’s world.