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Iranian Two-Step: Talk About Talks

Finding truth in Iranian statements can be like finding Waldo from ten feet away, aided by blurred vision. The latest is another example. Saturday, Iranian spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said that Iran rejects any future nuclear talks with the Security Council and Germany (5+1).

"The issue of nuclear talks with the countries of the 5+1 is over," government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters. . . .

Mr Elham's comments confirm remarks made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month which suggested the Government was strongly against any new talks between Mr Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

"We will continue our path within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency as this is the only legal body for this issue," Mr Elham added.

Not so fast, Mr. Government Spokesman. Enter Sunday Mohammad-Ali Hosseini, with more clout from the Iranian Foreign Ministry than the aforementioned Gholam Hossein Elham. Lest we be confused by Iran's unwitting directness, Hosseini assures us that Iran most certainly seeks talks.

Iran has never said it would not talk over its peaceful nuclear activities, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said on Sunday. "We are ready to hold talks with Europe about issues such as nuclear disarmament and economic cooperation with Europeans," Hosseini stressed, according to IRNA.

So ready, in fact, that the Tehran Times implores us that our own Henry Kissinger even backs direct U.S. negotiations with Iran.

“One should be prepared to negotiate, and I think we should be prepared to negotiate about Iran,” Kissinger, who brokered the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur war and peace talks with the North Vietnamese, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. Asked whether he meant the U.S. should hold direct talks, Kissinger, 84, responded: “Yes, I think we should.”

There has been no response so far from Iran, he said.

“I’ve been in semi-private, totally private talks with Iranians,” he said. “They’ve had put before them approaches that with a little flexibility on their part would, in my view, surely lead to negotiations.” He didn’t elaborate on who was engaged in the talks.

The folly of it all is that talks have already been occurring. Kissinger himself acknowledges this. To the extent that 'talks' with Iran should achieve clarity of communication, it is a stretch to presume that Iran does not know where the lines that must not be crossed lay. (Whether you or I agree with where those lines are or are not is another question.) Likewise, it is not exactly a mystery what Iran's aims and goals are, either. Affording them direct (read: public) talks is to simply afford them another pulpit we need not cede.

The EU/5+1 forum on the nuclear issue is exploited by Iran as nothing more than a delaying tactic while their nuclear program proceeds unimpeded.

The IAEA, recall from its latest report, was powerless to do anything more than look on as Iran replaced P-1 centrifuges with new and advanced P-2 designs under IAEA “containment and surveillance.” All while Iran remains under UN Security Council sanctions and demand that Iran halt its enrichment program. Is it any wonder Iran prefers to deal with the IAEA and only the IAEA?

But of course, Iran is surely open to more talks and talks about talks. It keeps the IAEA gainfully employed doing what it can in Iran. Which, partly due to the agency's faulty leadership and partly due to its structure sans enforcement mechanism, remains just about zero beyond what Iran desires to be done.