Sunday, September 30, 2007

Presentation by Gary Samore on Iranian Nuclear Issue

I found this link through Arms Control Wonk. A blog that strikes me as generally connected with and reflective of the US foreign policy community on the issue of proliferation of non-conventional weapons. The presentation is by Gary Samore, who has held various high positions in the foreign policy establishment and is as connected as it is possible to be while still able to speak publicly.

Watching the presentation on youtube, several things strike me.

1 - This guy uses "nuclear weapon" and "nuclear weapon option" also "nuclear armed" and having a "nuclear weapon capability" interchangeably. Outside of the US foreign policy establishment, they really are very different concepts. Different in the same way "sexually active" is different from "pregnant". I've seen this described as groupthink. Being in a community that has trained itself to conflate the terms until I have doubts that he is aware of when he goes from one term to the other.

2 - He says that a consensus is forming that Iran will end up with domestic enrichment. Umm. If Condoleeza Rice was to say that Iran would accept whatever safeguards Samore says would be necessary and this "crisis" such as it is would be over. But sanctions actually are the point. The US has found an issue that Iran won't back down on that it can use to get other countries to join the sanctions the US had been imposing unilaterally since the revolution, and that really is the point of this exercise.

3 - He says Russia's view is that once Iran answers the questions, it is entitled to nuclear technology like everyone else, but he says Russia agrees with the US that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. Russia is not part of the US establishment that has turned "nuclear armed" and "nuclear capable" into the same term and Samore's failure to see the contradiction comes from the blurring of terms that Samore has accepted.

4 - He also says the US is betting that Iran will not answer the questions. I expect there to be a difference of opinion, meaning I expect the US to say whatever Iran said is not enough, but since the issue at hand is capability, not an actual weapon, Iran really has nothing to hide. Now, Iran will balk before giving coordinates to any p2 research facilities so they won't be bombed. Other than that, Iran has no reason to be anything but open. Again this comes from not making a distinction between weapons option and weapon. Iran doesn't have to hide a program just because it could give it a weapons option.

5 - I've never seen this point made but Israel cannot attack Iran without flying over US controlled airspace. It is just not possible so the US has a veto over an Israeli attack, and everyone in the region knows it. So regardless of how dire Israel perceives the situation, the most it can do is ask the US for permission to attack, and if that permission is denied, Israel has to wait. Samore, like most US commentators on this issue seems to view Israel as more distinct from the US than it is in practical terms when it comes to bombing or threatening to bomb Iran.

6 - Samore says that for the Europeans, the aim of the sanctions was to separate Rafsanjani from Ahmadinejad. How silly is that? To split the two, the West would have to make a demand that Rafsanjani might accept that Ahmadinejad might not accept. The demand for a suspension of enrichment is rejected equally by both. How could sanctions for failing to suspend create a split? Samore is speaking of it as if it makes sense. He must realize that makes no sense.

7 - Answering a question about carrots, Samore says that Iran knows what incentives are on offer but does not want what is on offer. I've posted earlier to explain my belief that the Iranian perception is that literally nothing is on offer. If that belief is wrong, and sanctions are not the whole point of the exercise, then putting a specific deal on the table, as opposed to an offer for talks, would be productive.

8 - The case Samore makes for suspension as a basis for negotations is "negotiations without a suspension wouldn't work, from North Korea we see that unless the program is suspended the West would have very little leverage." That's not a strong case unless you are already convinced. In North Korea's case would a requirement for a verified suspension before negotiations have gotten a verified suspension or would it have just prevented negotiations? North Korea would be poorer, with more people starving but with more nuclear devices today if an Iranian strategy had been followed. In other words, a lot more dangerous and threatening to US interests in that region.

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