Iran’s latest ploy (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Zalman Shoval 02/26/12)
Israel Hayom Articles-Index-Top
National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon, a close associate of
President Barack Obama, and Director of National Intelligence James
Clapper – two of the most senior national security officials in the
U.S. administration – both visited Israel last week. Their mission,
if media reports are to be believed, was to dissuade Israel from
carrying out a military strike on Iran.
The officials’ visit was preceded by a New York Times op-ed authored
by former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, in which he claimed among
other things that the new, biting sanctions on Iran render the
chances for a successful diplomatic resolution more likely. Ross does
not believe that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, yet he believes
diplomacy could still persuade Iran to abandon its military ambitions.
In recent weeks Iran has indeed faced tougher sanctions. SWIFT, which
oversees worldwide interbank financial telecommunication activity,
joined the sanctions effort, a move that could paralyze Iranian
banks’ ability to conduct business on the global commercial stage.
Ross probably knew something was developing behind the scenes. In
fact, only several days later news agencies reported that Iran’s
chief nuclear negotiator and the head of its Supreme National
Security Council, Saeed Jalili, had sent a letter seeking to resume
talks “on all issues.” As far as Tehran is concerned, not only the
nuclear issue but “all problems” should be on the agenda. U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton have already expressed “cautious optimism.” But is
their cautious optimism too optimistic?
The crippling sanctions are working; the Iranian economy,
particularly its domestic activity, has been severely compromised.
But it is unclear whether the sanctions are making any headway on
their intended goal - ending the march toward nuclearization. The
sanctions may have brought Iran back to the negotiating table, but
this stems not from a willingness to stop its nuclear program but
rather because it wants to survive. Iran wants to engage in non-
binding negotiations to save itself. And indeed alongside its
diplomatic efforts Iran has been moving full steam ahead in its
Iran currently feels isolated and hurt: Syria, its only ally in the
region, is falling apart; Turkey has turned out to be a rival, rather
than a partner; and Hamas and Hezbollah, its loyal proxies, are
embroiled in their own problems. But this is precisely why Iran is
determined to move ahead with its nuclear program, which it believes
would secure its regional standing.
We can therefore assume that Iran’s offer to renew talks is merely a
ruse. Will the international community, and the U.S. in particular,
buy these damaged goods? The answer is unclear – and the scenarios
that could emerge are not necessarily encouraging.
Meanwhile, various U.S. officials have sounded the alarm on a
possible Israeli strike on Iran, which comes as something of a
surprise. U.S. field intelligence deserves much praise, as
demonstrated by the Osama Bin Laden assassination, but intelligence
analysts have a less impressive track record when it comes to
political assessments. The statements coming from Washington on Iran
are far from unequivocal. What is clear is that Obama appears to
prefer renewing talks, or as he put it the last time
around, “engagement” over the other options on the table. Whether
Iran’s bluff is called largely depends on him.
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