A LOT has been happening the past two weeks relating to US-Iran relations, much of it catalyzed by President Obama’s NowRuz Address to Iran. Scott Peterson summarizes major developments in this CSMonitor article. Note especially Farideh Farhi’s comments, explaining what’s potentially different from previous Bush and Clinton era approaches.
In the same realm, Roger Cohen continues to make waves with his extraordinary NYTimes opeds, variations on the taboo theme of how the “treacherous alliance” involving the US, Israel & Iran needs… rebalancing. Who wags this dog? Today’s Cohen essay entitled “Realpolitik for Iran” features memorable quotes from an interview with IAEA chief Mohammad El-Baradei, like these two:
“I don’t believe the Iranians have made a decision to go for a nuclear weapon, but they are absolutely determined to have the (nuclear) technology because they believe it brings you power, prestige and an insurance policy….
Israel would be utterly crazy to attack Iran,… I worry about it. If you bomb, you will turn the region into a ball of fire and put Iran on a crash course for nuclear weapons with the support of the whole Muslim world.”
Now for the higher math: And it likely won’t quite make the headlines, but it matters: 5+1…+1 => 7 equals. My turn to explain:
Last week, the Obama Administration announced that the “5+1 Group” – the UN Security Council permanent members, France, Britain, Russia, China and the United States, plus Germany – had invited Iran to join direct talks on its nuclear program. That in itself is news — a substantive first step giving potential flesh to the recent rhetoric change, that the US was willing to engage Iran directly on the nuclear issue.
Today (April 13th), Tehran Radio (VOIR) reported that the Secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, Sa’id Jalili, had “welcomed constructive talks between Iran and the six countries” — and indicated a fuller Iranian response to the proposal is forthcoming.
Yesterday, the Iranian News Agency (IRNA) quoted the Chair of Iran’s Parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi , proposing a name change for the process:
“From now on, instead of Group 5+1 which is involved in talks with Iran on the country’s peaceful nuclear program, the term of ‘7-party group’ should be used.”
Here’s the explanation for Iran’s sensitivity, as explained in a March 5th Tehran Radio commentary,
“Even though in various statements, the 5+1 Group has always called for contact with Iran, it reduced our country’s role as a negotiator to that of a country which should answer questions. This is while Iran has always asked to join the 5+1 Group and take part in this group’s meeting as an equal partner and member.”
It’s a reasonable idea, involving the not so foreign concept of “respect.” Ok. “group of seven” it is. Now (and to continue my parody of Michael “faster please” Ledeen), “get on with it.”
Update Insert: (12:25 a.m., April 14th) In Tuesday’s NYTimes, we learn that the Obama Administration may be preparing to drop the Bush era insistence that Iran cease all enrichment before negotiations can begin. That approach had insisted that the Iranians agree to US demands before talks began, a non-starter that went nowhere.
Footnote: More Cohen pearls, from the ending of his April 8th oped regarding Israel’s proclivity to cry wolf (about Iran):
What’s critical right now is that Obama view Netanyahu’s fear-mongering with an appropriate skepticism, rein him in, and pursue his regime-recognizing opening toward Tehran, as he did Wednesday by saying America would join nuclear talks for the first time….
The core strategic shift of Obama’s presidency has been away from the with-us-or-against-us rhetoric of the war on terror toward a rapprochement with the Muslim world as the basis for isolating terrorists.
That’s unsustainable if America or Israel find themselves at war with Muslim Persians as well as Muslim Arabs, and if Netanyahu’s intense-eyed attempt to suck America into a perpetuation of war-on-terror thinking prevails.
The only way to stop Iran going nuclear, and encourage reform of a repressive regime, is to get to the negotiating table. There’s time…..
Sourcenote: Translated Iranian publications quoted above available via Open Source Center. (FBIS)