Iranian Doublespeak (WEEKLY STANDARD) BY THOMAS JOSCELYN / Blog 04/18/12)
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A key feature of the negotiations with the Iranians over their
nuclear program is doublespeak. To be more precise, you’ll notice
that Iranian officials offer different accounts of what they are--and
are not--willing to consider. Moreover, the meaning behind their
words is often left obscure.
Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Monday: “If the West
wants to take confidence-building measures it should start in the
field of sanctions because this action can speed up the process of
negotiations reaching results.”
“If there is goodwill, one can pass through this process very easily
and we are ready to resolve all issues very quickly and simply and
even in the Baghdad meeting” in May, Salehi continued.
Sounds encouraging, right? (The Reuters account these quotations were
taken from is titled, “Iran says ready to resolve nuclear issues.”)
The problem is that Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, rejected
the possibility of trading nuclear concessions for an easing of
sanctions just two days before. Jalili said that “suspending Iran´s
nuclear activities in return for the removal of sanctions is a
literature which belongs to the past.”
And Salehi’s comments, as noted by Reuters, left it “unclear” as to
whether he “was suggesting the lifting of sanctions prior to Iran
taking steps to reassure the West over its nuclear activities.” The
Obama administration “has said that would not be acceptable.”
So Salehi could easily be putting the cart before the horse.
According to Reuters, Salehi also “hinted that Iran could make
concessions on its higher-grade uranium enrichment.” This is the
issue of Iran’s 20-percent purity uranium, which gets Iran much
closer to weapons-grade uranium.
Prior to Salehi’s comments, which merely “hinted” at the possibility
of Iran giving up the 20-percent enriched uranium, two Iranian
officials said they would not even entertain this idea. The Fars News
Agency reported that the aforementioned Jalili “rejected a suspension
of Iran’s 20-percent uranium enrichment” after this weekend’s talks
had concluded. The head of Iran´s Atomic Energy Organization,
Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, also rejected the Obama administration’s
demands as “irrational” earlier this month. Davani said that Iran
would not shutter the Fordo enrichment facility, which is built into
the side of a mountain on an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ base,
and would continue to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity. Those are
the two key goals put forth by the Obama administration for the talks.
We are left with at least three possibilities.
Possibility #1: The Iranians don’t have the foggiest idea what they
are willing to give up, or the price they would demand for such
concessions. This is unlikely given that they’ve had plenty of time
to prepare for the talks.
Possibility #2: There is internal dissent within the Iranian regime
and some are willing to compromise on the Obama administration’s two
demands while others are not. This is a possibility, but the man
doing the actual negotiating has thus far decided to side with those
who are unwilling to compromise. And Salehi’s comments are soft
enough that they can’t be read as a sign of firm dissent.
Possibility #3: The Iranians are employing doublespeak. Salehi’s
comments are intended to muddy the waters just enough to make it
appear as if the Iranians are willing to reach a meaningful
compromise when they really are not.
Given the Iranians’ track record, possibility #3 seems likeliest. But
time will tell.
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