Fruitless Negotiation Strategy: Iran Reverts to Form
By Steve Schippert
Late in the week, Iran was once again referred back to the UN Security Council amid persistent rejections from Iran of the July 12 deadline for accepting the ‘P5+1' proposal that called for Iran to halt its enrichment program in exchange for Western-built nuclear reactors, atomic fuel and lifted US sanctions.
Today, running contrary to the unwavering stance that any proposal that calls for the cessation of enrichment is unacceptable, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, declared that the unchanged P5+1 offer is now deemed an “acceptable basis” for negotiations. Said Asefi, “We consider this package an appropriate basis, an acceptable basis . Now is an appropriate opportunity for Iran and Europe to enter detailed negotiations.”
But what is it that Iran wants to negotiate?
Asefi’s next sentence reveals Iran’s motive for this sudden apparent change of heart, as he states that "Sending the dossier to the U.N. Security Council means blocking and rejecting talks."
Iranian president Ahmadinejad insisted that Iran would offer a response to the P5+1 proposal no sooner than mid-August. Suddenly, Iran gives a response well ahead of that date that on the surface is intended to appear conciliatory and inviting.
The reason for this is clear. The intent behind Ahmadinejad’s adamant statement that Iran would not respond to the P5+1 nuclear offer was not for review, as Iran claimed. They knew and understood full well the contents and details of the offer. The reason was simply to buy time. Time utilized by the Iranian mullahcracy to continue their nuclear progress unhindered by inspections or interference. The reason for the sudden declaration that the proposal is now an “acceptable basis” to begin talks is precisely the same: To buy time.
Though much of the world expends considerable energy condemning the Israeli response to Hizballah's attacks, Iran is concurrently being openly called to account as well for its funding, arming, training and direction of the Lebanese Shi'ite terrorist group. It’s recent denial of supplying missiles and rockets to Hizballah in response to the charges have been laughed off by all involved as a tragic comedy.
Also, this pressure accompanied by the relatively swift Security Council resolution on North Korea, demanding that Iran's missile technology partner halt its ballistic missile tests and requiring members to prevent North Korea's proliferation, was a sudden jolt to the Iranians.
These pressures have spurred the mullahs and Ahmadinejad to abandon their current strategy of delay through inaction and revert back to one of delay through fruitless negotiation, thereby regaining positive control of the process.
While Asefi was instructed to proclaim that it is now time for “negotiations,” it is absolutely important to recognize that he was decidedly not instructed to declare that Iran’s uranium enrichment program is now deemed negotiable. Iran has consistently said for several years that its right to nuclear enrichment was non-negotiable. That position has not changed regardless of Asefi’s call for negotiations.
Short of such a position, any negotiation will prove meaningless insofar as resolving the nuclear crisis is concerned, as Iran watches the clock throughout while its sprint for nuclear weapons continues unabated.
Further indicating that Asefi’s general comments are disingenuous in nature, it was only one day prior to his statement that Ali Larijani's deputy secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council telegraphed the Council's true views on halting enrichment. Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said that “In the West’s proposal, two preconditions are raised: suspending nuclear activities and responding to [IAEA] questions. The leadership has reached the conclusion that it will not accept the precondition set by the Europeans.”
The West, already strapped to an unthinkable offer of their own design to the principal state sponsor of terrorism, would be well advised to reject any offer of negotiation short of an express declaration that their enrichment process is on the table. Further, any such negotiations, ill-advised as they are, should be accompanied by a very short timetable.