Saturday, November 24, 2007

Would Iran Suspend Enrichment?

First, obviously somebody somewhere in Iran has hacked into the account of prominent young liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias:

And, indeed, it's not clear that a policy of appeasement would be wise. True, we've seen rational leadership even from vicious dictators like Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, but the contemporary United States is led by religious fanatics, which introduces a new element into the equation. What's more, the USA is the only country on earth to have ever actually deployed nuclear weapons. Indeed, current political elites are so war-crazed and bloodthirsty that they not only engineered the 2003 attack on Iraq -- a country that tried to appease the Americans by eliminating its nuclear program and allowing IAEA inspectors to certify that it had done so -- but they continue to deny regretting it to this day. And that includes not only radicals like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, but so-called "moderates" like Hillary Clinton as well.

I guess there comes a point where the truth is the truth. I wouldn't have written that post any better. But Yglesias also points to a McClatchy article entitled "Iran hints it could halt nuclear enrichment for a quid pro quo":

Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday that his country could suspend uranium enrichment if the United States and Western Europe agreed to acknowledge that its nuclear program was peaceful.

But Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said there was a "serious confidence gap" between his country and the United States and Western Europe and that he saw little point in trying to "build confidence" with an American administration that had none in his country.

"We don't trust the United States," he told McClatchy Newspapers after the IAEA Board of Governors finished its latest round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. "We could suspend nuclear enrichment. We did it before for two and half years. But it wasn't enough then, and wouldn't be enough now. We will not suspend enrichment again because there is no end to what the United States will demand."

I don't think Soltanieh was clear about what Iran would expect for a suspension and the McClatchy reporters may have heard something that was not quite what was said.

The quid pro quo Iran would expect is more than that the US acknowledges that Iran's program is peaceful. The US is willing to acknowledge a program that does not enrich uranium and does not have other technologies that can produce fuel for weapons is peaceful, as the US says consistently.

Iran would expect, not this year or maybe even next, but at a committed time or after objective milestones comparable to those of other countries have been reached, to be in the position of Brazil, Argentina, Romania, Taiwan, South Korea, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands - which is that Iran would have technologies that could in theory be used to produce weapons.

In this scenario Iran would not be using the technologies to make weapons even though in theory it could. Having technologies even if not using them would offer strategic advantages to Iran that the US wants to deny Iran as long as its primary dispute with Iran and the people of the Middle East continues - the dispute over the legitimacy of Zionism.

So while McClatchy's headline is that Iran offers a halt, the truth is that Iran said that it would be willing to enact a limited suspension with a set time or at least set objective conditions for resumption. The word "suspension" suffers because for a long time the US side of the dispute has been using "suspension" as a code word for an indefinite cessation of enrichment, to be resumed only if a US veto is lifted. The US version of "suspension" is closer to a "halt". A "suspension" in that sense is just as unacceptable to Iran as ever but the definition-creep that occurs on a lot of terms in this dispute may have distorted the perception of McClatchy's reporters and editors.

Not only is the Iranian position not new, but it would be common knowledge and commonly understood if there was public two-way communication between the foreign policy establishments of Iran and the US.

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