Exploitation Week: The August 22 Iranian Kickoff
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi made the Iranian position clear as he reiterated that Iran wants to negotiate everything…except enrichment. Said Asefi, “Everything has to come out of negotiations. Suspension is not on our agenda.”
He went on, doing nothing to clear the muddied waters that have served Iran so well on the international stage thus far. Adding that “the proposal has had several dimensions, our answer will be multi-dimensional too,” Iran may hope to exhaust the muddy waters strategy even in refusing both the West’s incentives package and the UN Security Council demands that Iran halt all enrichment activities by August 30. Whether Iran finds enough receptive audience members remaining to further the game is an unanswered question, yet Iran appears confident in their gamble that they will find useful interference once again.
The “multi-dimensional response” from Iran in the next 48 hours can be expected to be consistent with their past position that they are always willing to negotiate, but that enrichment is an ‘inalienable right’ and thus non-negotiable. There is little else the West cares to negotiate, considering the incentives package included more reactors and outside fuel supplies along with lopsided trade packages and the lifting of sanctions already in place.
Aside from an unobstructed nuclear weapons program, Iran continues to profit directly from the conflict they have a hand in stirring, as oil prices are once again on the rise. With 80% of Iran’s revenues generated from oil and natural gas export, fiery rhetoric translates into windfalls.
Little of that windfall, however, finds its way to the Iranian public, as it is largely used to fund the enormous expense of the Iranian nuclear weapons program and external forays, such as the ‘Hearts and Minds’ public relations effort currently being underwritten by the Iranian government in Lebanon in order to solidify public support for Hizballah going forward. As much as $12,000 per person is being handed out to Lebanese civilians for no more than producing identification and signing a receipt. That Iran ensured Hizballah once again delivered aid before the Lebanese government is a major reason for Hizballah’s popularity in Lebanon, with their Iranian-suppled handouts far more popular than the fanatical religious ideology that drives Hizballah’s incessant war with Israel.
While the Iranian government enjoys the windfall at least partially driven by their own rhetoric – an redistributes that windfall away from its own population – they will also enjoy more than a full week between their anticipated August 22 response to the West’s nuclear package and the actual August 31 deadline for enrichment cessation.
Iran’s response on August 22 can be expected to be a Muddy Waters approach, including a refusal to cease enrichment couched within calls for negotiation and diplomatic talks. Little if any change in position from any point selected at random over the past three years should be expected. In the week that will follow, Iran will be gauging the American and European response, looking to exploit cracks and weaknesses ahead of the August 31 UNSC deadline.
The Security Council handed Iran this exploitation buffer by naming their firm deadline only after Ahmadinejad announced his own August 22 intentions. For those suspicious of nefarious action by Iran on August 22, perhaps the date on the calendar to circle for vigilance is August 31 instead. Iran is likely to enjoy their gift-wrapped ‘Exploitation Week’ far too much to pass up.