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1001 Circular Persian Charades

by Peter Huessy

nuclear-iran“The details of the deal are not important. Iran will or will not make nuclear weapons as it sees fit. The significance of the deal is the deal itself, especially the fact that it is being concluded while Iran is busy digesting another country (Yemen). The deal will make Iran the richest and most powerful country in the Middle East, eventually dominating it – all this with US blessing (and eventually with restored diplomatic relations, see Cuba). I cannot but agree with the NY Times that this is part of Obama’s vision of disengaging from the Middle East. No wonder the Saudis and the Gulf States are in fear for their lives.”

So writes a colleague from Israel reflecting almost exactly what former US Secretaries of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger explain in sharp detail in the Wall Street Journal on April 8, 2015 when they explain “The framework agreement will…enable Iran to become a significant military power…and…to weaponize at a time of its choosing.”

But won’t the new Iran deal prevent this? Won’t the threat of “snap back” sanctions do the job?

Well, not really.

The administration says tougher sanctions now would not be useful to secure a better deal. In fact, during the interview just recently with NPR, the administration said sanctions didn’t work to stop the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons in the first place. The Arms Control Association head Mr. Daryl Kimball, echoed this point saying during the sanctions period Iran dramatically increased its operating centrifuges from a few hundred to near 20,000.

True, but one is tempted to ask whether without sanctions the growth would have been zero.

But supporters of the Iran deal—not even written down yet—say their way is the only way. Diplomacy they call it, but not war and not sanctions. They say there is no other choice.

But what is the solution proffered by the administration should disputes remain over what Iran is doing? And when “diplomacy” doesn’t work?

Sanctions will “snap” back we are promised. You mean the sanctions that didn’t work to stop the Iranian nuclear program in the first place now will do the job?

Sanctions never “snapped” into place in the first place. Many took years to put into place. No business will invest in the Iran oil and gas sector, for example, without some long term prospect of success–such projects take a longtime often to materialize.

Sanctions that “snap back” would easily put such investments in jeopardy.

And sanctions could “snap back” in just a matter of weeks or months we are told.

But we should not count on it. National governments and their business allies determined to protect their new deals with Tehran won’t be there with us.

So if not sanctions or military pressure, what’s available to leverage diplomacy?

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski gave us all a clue a few years ago.

When asked whether sanctions would work on Iran he said “No”. But then he was asked should we continue to try and secure the help of China and Russia to get UN sanctions approved?

“Yes”, said President Carter’s former national security adviser. We did indeed have to limit the effect of sanctions on Iran, otherwise China and Russia would not agree at the UN to vote for them but we needed a positive UN vote to prove “the international community” is doing something.

Dr. Brzezinski may have been right that sanctions, weak as they have been, would not ultimately have ended the Iranian nuclear program. But without such “international cooperation” on sanctions, he warned, the only option was war.

Thus we had to maintain the charade of international cooperation even though this work on sanctions–weak as the cooperation often was–would not stop the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons.

What did this charade stop? It stopped us from doing what was necessary to stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. And it allowed Iran to continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

This contradictory pickle we are in is of our own making. It’s called “smart” power or sometimes “soft power”. So smart we outwit ourselves and so lacking resolve it’s accurate to call it “soft” diplomacy.

So let’s end with a question.

What concession did Iran make before we said they had a “right to enrich”?

Well, they agreed “To talk”.

That’s it.

But talk is cheap and the supporters of this deal are simply stretching credulity when they equate the new call for United Nations and the Vienna based International Atomic Energy Administration monitoring with anything other than what has been the history of such previous efforts. Yes the current leadership of IAEA for sure, is better.

But it was a disaster under the two previous IAEA Directors-General.

One of them, Hans Blix, told me during a briefing he gave on the Hill for Senate defense aids that the U.S. had no more right to nuclear weapons than Sweden or Iran. He would later go on in retirement to claim that global warming far exceeded nuclear proliferation as a serious threat to humankind.

After all, did IAEA under his and Mohamed ElBaradei’s misdirection discover the nuclear programs in Pakistan, North Korea, Libya, Iraq, Syria or Iran?

No. They repeatedly did their best to downplay the threat of nuclear proliferation among this rogue gallery.

They were such wonderful watchdogs, usually face down in their bowls of Viennese Alpo, sound asleep.

Disputes will arise over Iran’s actions–repeatedly.

The key is how they are meant to be resolved.

Everybody says we go to the UN, to the IAEA, to sanctions as part of this new deal if disputes are not “resolved”.

Is not that exactly how we ended up where we are now?