Nuclear jawboning for knuckleheads
Source: Asia Times
by Allen Quicke
Stop the presses: there has been an important development in the ongoing negotiations between six world powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, Germany) and Iran over the latter’s uranium-enrichment program. The “six” have offered to help Iran purchase medical isotopes on the international market.
Let’s take a look at the lead-up to this breathtaking development.
Oct 1, 2009: Iran accepts in principle a proposal by the “six” (hereafter, “the US”, as Washington is the prime mover) to send 75% of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia and France to be enriched to 20% for use in a special reactor making medical isotopes.
Oct 30: Iran tells the International Atomic Energy Agency that it wants fresh nuclear fuel for its medical reactor before it will agree to ship out its LEU. (Around about now, Israel calls for crippling sanctions against Iran.)
Nov 18: Iran says it will not send its LEU abroad but could consider swapping it for nuclear fuel within its borders.
Nov 19: US President Barack Obama issues a strong warning to Iran of the consequences of its failure to respond to the proposal.
Nov 24: Iran says it could consider sending LEU abroad. (Around about now, the US threatens crippling sanctions against Iran.)
Jan 19: 2010: Iran formally rejects key parts of the deal. (Around about now, the US and Israel call for crippling sanctions against Iran.)
Jan 29: The US Senate passes a bill enabling harsher sanctions against Iran.
Feb 2: Iran says it is now ready to send its LEU abroad. The US dismisses this as a stunt.
Feb 7: Iran announces that it will begin enriching uranium to 20%, while saying it is still open to discussing the original proposal. Two days later, the enrichment process is under way.
Feb 10: The six powers offer to help Iran purchase medical isotopes on the international market.
Now, let’s cut to the chase. Iran is not going to simply hand over its LEU on the six powers’ terms, but more importantly, it is not going to surrender its right under international treaty to enrich uranium. The US is not going to acknowledge Iran’s right to enrich uranium. Neither side is going to budge from these fundamental positions. Both have made this very clear many times.
So Washington is now offering to help Iran purchase medical isotopes. The offer has the appearance of magnanimity, compromise and an eager search for a breakthrough. Obama says: “I think that we have bent over backwards to say to the Islamic Republic of Iran that we are willing to have a constructive conversation.” Unfortunately, medical isotopes have absolutely nothing to do with the fundamental issues and the offer is no more than a negotiating ploy, with potential propaganda value if later it can be spun to make Tehran look bad.
All this ongoing talking at each is not intended by either side to lead to any kind of compromise. Its purpose, on the US side, is to try to demonstrate Iran’s intransigence so that if or when military action becomes “unavoidable”, Washington can spin it thus: “We tried everything [except compromise] and gave them every chance. Now our patience is exhausted. Iran is a threat to world peace …”
On Iran’s side, it buys time as it gets on with actually enriching uranium – the very thing that the US wants to avoid. And if Tehran’s goal is in fact nuclear weapons, such weapons come closer to reality by the day. (And why wouldn’t Iran want nukes when the West allows Israel and India to have them, in contravention of international treaty? Still, there is not a scintilla of evidence that Iran has a weapons program – hence the need for Washington’s shenanigans.)
If Washington is not intending war as the ultimate and inevitable response to the perceived threat of Iranian nukes, all the above is merely laughably dumb diplomacy. There’s no point “negotiating” if you are not prepared to bend, unless the aim is to manufacture consent for going to war. The latest offer of medical isotopes is simply another step in this direction.
But what is really amazing is that neither side has yet played the “poor Iranian cancer patients dying because of the lack of isotopes” card – a real joker in the pack. It will come. This is not to say the cancer sufferers don’t have our sympathy; it’s just that there are likely to be many more people dying of many other things – like shrapnel wounds or radiation sickness – before this farce is over.
Allen Quicke is Editor of atimes.net.