Less Than Zero
Making his rounds in the midst of an 11-day jaunt through the Middle East, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan met Sunday with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seeking to find a solution to the Iranian impasse with the West and, presumably, the UN Security Council.
As well as seeking Iran’s cooperation with UN Security Council demands that it cease its uranium enrichment program, Annan lightly criticized Iran’s Holocaust exhibit, an art contest in Tehran doubting the deaths of six million Jews in World War II that is still on public display. Though he could have seen the exhibit for himself in his two-day stay, a spokesman offered that “From what he heard, he would find them pretty distasteful, as he did the Danish cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad, which he strongly condemned at the time.”
But Annan was sent away with less than zero, for Ahmadinjead reiterated his demands that negotiations precede any enrichment and defended the exhibit. Not only did the Iranian president refuse to participate in Annan’s post-meeting press conference, he followed it by announcing that Iran will host a conference bringing into question the Holocaust.
This is why Iran lauded Kofi Annan’s two-day visit as ‘positive’. Iran ceded nothing and in the process got a smile and a handshake from the leader of the world body that can determine how difficult Iran’s path to nuclear weapons will be.
The EU is having more success in attempts to forge the way once more for talks with Iran over its nuclear program, be those talks wise or ill-advised.
Spain’s Javier Solana, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union, is due on Wednesday to meet with Iran’s nuclear chief, Ari Larijani. Expected are initial talks that may lead to further negotiation, though Iran has repeatedly insisted that its nuclear enrichment program is non-negotiable and an inalienable right.
Like Solana, German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed further talks with the Iranians. Said Merkel, “The deadline has passed and things cannot continue as they are. Diplomatic pressure should increase. But I say clearly ‘diplomatic’. There is no military option here.”
But things have been ‘continuing as the are’ for three years running.
And even though the Security Council’s deadline of August 31 has passed and Iran’s enrichment program continues unfazed, little has changed on either side. Iran still insists on continuing - and indeed has continued uninterrupted - its nuclear enrichment program. The West still insists verbally that it shut down that program and UN sanctions remain discussed but are far from being materialized. Even though they voted for the UNSC resolution that set the deadline for Iran’s program at August 31, China and Russia both continue today to adamantly oppose economic sanctions listed as a consequence.
Yet, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made it clear to German diplomats that further talks with Iran are pointless if Solana’s coming talks with Ari Larijani fail to be successful in bringing the Iranian enrichment to a halt. Calling to mind what many are referring to as an embarrassment, Steinmeier said bluntly, “We agreed that Solana will have another meeting with the Iranians, but we have to be skeptical about whether it will work after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s meetings in Tehran.”