Iran 'Reaches Out' With Shahab-3 Missile Launch
With the backdrop of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s visit to Washington and meeting with President Bush, Iran test-fired a Shahab-3 missile. The Shahab-3 is believed to have a maximum range of between 1,000 and 1,350 miles and capable of delivering a first-generation nuclear warhead with Tel Aviv within range.
What’s most important about the missile test is not statistics or new developments. What’s most important is its true inspiration: Grandstanding while Israeli and American leaders meet in Washington. In fact, the Jersusalem Post reports that the test itself was deemed only partly successful. There are no indications that this firing had any other purpose beyond media generation.
The anticipated EU light-water reactor offer in exchange for their enrichment program is expected to be center stage among the United Nations Security Council Permanent-Five(P5 - US, Russia, China, UK & France) and Germany today. The considered offer is expected to guarantee Iran a nuclear reactor supplied by the EU and a steady supply of civilian nuclear fuel pending approval from the US, Russia and China.
There is pressure among some European circles for the United States to give a security guarantee to the Iranian mullahcracy, vowing that it will not topple the regime. As they have with various other offers seeking to trade away the Iranian enrichment program, Tehran has dismissed any American security guarantee as untrustworthy.
Nonetheless, the United States is likely to back the pre-rejected EU proposal, but it is seeking first from Moscow an endorsement of a binding Chapter Seven resolution that adds consequence to official Iranian rejection.
Curiously, the Financial Times notes that “US ‘hawks’ led by Dick Cheney” are attempting to derail the EU ‘Nukes for No Nukes’ deal. While the headline reads ”US hawks ‘hinder moves’ on Iran nuclear incentives”, the opening paragraph reads as a grievance against such a bullish position, quoting unnamed sources. Yet, it is not until the tenth of eleven paragraphs that the Financial Times article mentions the lede again to explain that the uncooperative ‘hawks’ “fear a repeat of a similar agreement reached with North Korea in 1994 which did not stop the communist regime from pursuing a secret weapons programme.”
That does not seem an unreasonable objection and hardly one deserving of the dismissive tone delivered by the Financial Times.
Iran’s intermediate game is to win direct talks with the United States, talks which would likely take on the circus atmosphere that surrounded the Iranian direct talks with the EU-3 over the past two years. Iran has nothing to lose with another round of talks (read: time), and everything to gain rhetorically with public and direct US talks on the nuclear crisis, allowing them to demonize the US and drive a wedge between EU-American partnership.
There is in fact little evidence to support a genuine “sign of changing strategy” from the Iranians, as former Iranian government official Saeed Laylaz is quoted by the Washington Post. He added, “They realize the situation is dangerous and they should not waste time, that they should reach out.”
It is doubtful they realize anything of the sort, no matter how badly many crave direct talks with the Iranians.
Launching a Shahab-3 within the same news cycle is a less than amusing way of reaching out.