Kicking the Iran can past election day (NEW YORK POST OP-ED) BENNY AVNI 04/11/12)
NEW YORK POST
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Hope springs eternal that diplomacy will end Iran’s nuclear-weapons
quest, but the latest talks with Tehran seem aimed more at kicking
the atomic can down the road — preferably until the fall.
Iran hopes to stall so that it can advance its nuclear-weapons
program. The West still flinches at confrontation. And President
Obama isn’t eager to risk a major foreign-policy crisis before
Starting Friday, diplomats from America and five other leading powers
will powwow with their Iranian counterparts in Istanbul, resuming
negotiations that last collapsed a year ago.
Obama’s aides say the Iranian regime will sooner or later realize
that the only way to save itself from collapse, as world pressure
rises, is to abandon its nuclear project.
As proof, they point to signs that Iran is already buckling — or at
least that some elements within the regime can pull Tehran in the
desired direction. For example, ex-President Ali Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani, still influential, is criticizing current President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s extremist anti-American stance.
Then there’s a slight change of tone in the voice of Iranian nuclear
chief Fereidoun Abbasi. He said this week that Tehran might consider
suspending some enrichment of uranium to the 20 percent level, while
continuing enrichment to 3.5 percent “for scientific purposes.”
That, an AP dispatch claimed on Monday, suggests “that sanctions-
battered Iran is ready to bargain.”
Sorry. Iran is always ready to bargain. Bargaining — while honing its
nuclear expertise and amassing enough nuclear fuel — is what Tehran
does best. The question is for how long we will allow futile talks to
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday, “It is important
for Iran to understand that the window is closing.” He added: “Our
bottom line is the cessation of uranium enrichment.”
But will ending all enrichment, as the UN Security Council has long
demanded, remain the “bottom line” during this (or the next) round of
talks? If so, then why have administration officials been leaking (or
trial-ballooning) possible compromises we might offer Iran?
And how long will it take that window to finish closing — if Iran
comes up with new (or even recycled) ideas for “compromise”?
After all, sanctions are biting now, and may bite more after a
European ban on the purchase of Iranian oil kicks in this summer.
Make what you will of Ahmadinejad’s claim yesterday that Iran can
survive for years under such sanctions; the fact is that Iran’s
economic crisis is only going to deepen — and the regime’s corruption
Menashe Amir, director of Israel Radio’s Farsi service, predicts that
the mullahs indeed will present some kind of compromise at the first
round of negotiations — “just enough to assure that this won’t be the
last round, and that the dialogue will continue.”
But the sole decision-maker on the issue, Supreme Leader Ali
Khamenei, has spent billions of dollars on the nuclear project; he
plainly thinks that nuclear status is essential for establishing Iran
as a regional, if not global, superpower. That’s why many Iran-
watchers reject the idea that the current pressure is enough to push
him into abandoning the project.
Sadly, Washington — and to a lesser degree the Europeans and everyone
else — is also playing for time.
The president plainly thinks the status quo is good enough to let him
highlight his national-security credentials on the campaign trail. He
just needs Iran (and other potential crisis points) not to erupt
That, more than any supposed shifts inside Tehran, is why we can
expect “encouraging” progress reports from Istanbul.(Copyright 2012
NYP Holdings, Inc. 04/11/12)
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