Thursday, November 22, 2007

Time May Be On the US Side in Iranian Nuclear Dispute

The US refusal to enter discussions with Iran now does seem to me to be a stalling tactic. Not a good stalling tactic, because it is just as easy to stall during negotiations as without, while negotiations offers at least the possibility of moving towards an agreement. But it is the type of stalling tactic we can expect from the US today.

One interesting development is that Ahmadinejad is relaying what he claims are specific offers made to Iran by the EU.

"They want to get a small concession from us — for instance, that we won't go beyond a certain point within the next four years or we annually make just a certain amount of progress," he said. "This will become a legal precedent. Then, they will come and threaten us to obtain another concession."

If an offer like this was made, it would be interesting to know, according to the proposal, what is to happen after the four years. Four years is enough time for the US to be in a less vulnerable position in Iraq. At which point threats to attack Iran's nuclear program will be more credible.

The US objective today is to impose as stringent sanctions on Iran as possible until it can attack Iran militarily. Iran's objective is to make as much progress as it can until when the US is able to attack, Iran' s program will be more immune. Iran is also using this time to ensure that after the US hostages in Iraq are gone, Iran has alternative deterrents.

While the US is in Iraq, I can't think of a better time for Iran to accomplish the most provocative elements of its nuclear program. If Iran is to make concessions later, it is better to do so with a bigger stock, or with more of a program to partially climb down from.

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