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Iran requests direct talks
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, May 24, 2006

This is a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned:
Iran has followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent letter to President Bush with explicit requests for direct talks on its nuclear program, according to U.S. officials, Iranian analysts and foreign diplomats.

The eagerness for talks demonstrates a profound change in Iran's political orthodoxy, emphatically erasing a taboo against contact with Washington that has both defined and confined Tehran's public foreign policy for more than a quarter-century, they said.
In terms of foreign affairs, this is considered "blinking". That's usually good. It normally indicates something has dramatically changed on one side. In this case it may have been caused by the real power in Iran (the mullahs) to reconsider it's path. Or it could all be an elaborate scheme to delay the possibility of international sanctions. Regardless, we should take advantage of the opportunity.

We've discussed at length the problems confronting Iran's nuclear ambitions bring. Most understand that in all likelyhood, a military incursion is not at all the best choice for this particular scenario. It is definitely something we need to avoid if possible (whether Israel feels the same way is another subject altogether).

One of the primary suggested ways to "confront" Iran has been to help the dissident factions within Iran to overthrow the regime internally. As Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute claimed, "The people hate [the regime]. It's a revolution waiting to happen".

But is it? A May 1 Newsweek report casts serious doubt on the efficacy of any such strategy. According to six sources they site (anonymously) no such revolution is possible. As one Pentagon source states flatly, an attempted revolution in Iran "wouldn't succeed".

John Negroponte, in testimony before Congress earlier this year said, "Hard-liners have regained control ... and government has become more effective at repressing the nascent shoots of personal freedom that had emerged earlier in the decade". Or said another way, the time has passed for the fomenting of internal regime change.

Then there is the nuclear question. According to Newsweek's 6 intel sources, the Iranian nuclear program is very popular among the people of Iran. Per the article (and I apologize for not having a link, but it is the May 1st issue, page 10 in the "Periscope" section), "Iranians of all political stripes believe nukes would bring their country "prestige"."

And as we all know the Middle East, as a whole, suffers from a vast inferiority complex. So it is the contention of these analyists that any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would only "rally popular support for the regime and the nuke program".

Lastly, the sources make the point that most analysts agree that should there be an attack on Iran or an attempt to overthrow the government, Iran would turn to terrorism by proxy, using groups like Hizbullah to make strikes against Americans and American interests.

So, given all of that is true, it narrows our options with Iran quite a bit. Naturally then, when an unexpected opportunity such as this presents itself, it seems, as I've termed it, a 'no-brainer' to do all that is necessary to take advantage of it.
U.S. intelligence analysts have assessed the letter as a major overture, an appraisal shared by analysts and foreign diplomats resident in Iran. Bush administration officials, however, have dismissed the proposed opening as a tactical move.
The question is, will we?
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Geez, better be careful, McQ. That’s your second post in a row in which you and talkingpointsmemo.com are on the same side of an issue.

Do it a third time and the endtimes may be upon us :).
-mithras
 
Written By: Mithras
URL: http://mithrastheprophet.blogspot.com
Geez, better be careful, McQ. That’s your second post in a row in which you and talkingpointsmemo.com are on the same side of an issue.
Lord help us, the Devil is reporting the formation of icicles in hell. ;)
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I don’t think it’s a good ideer, politically and possibly diplomatically. It cuts out the UN and the EU, drives a wedge between the shaky coalition that exists. Internally when Iran says, "We’re not giving up our Nukes, whatcha gonna do?" and the US responds, militarily Kerry, Pelosi, Kos et. al. will merely start on the unilateralist boat again. I’ts a "D@mned if you do, D@mned if you don’t situation for the White House" BUT if we adopt it now we split off our partners and provide cover for the more hesitant to complain about the result, "If ONLY you had kept us in the loop...".

Bottom-line: No help at home, either way Pelosi, Reid, and Kos complain aobut our choices, but externally may weaken an already weak coalition.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
If the Iranians are "blinking" why would you concede direct talks to them?

What you do is explain that direct talks would follow any EU-3 agreement. (Which they know would happen anyways.)

I would suspect they want direct talks because if those fail, the Europeans will not back us up and require another round of multilateral talks to bring the matter to the UNSC.

We need multilateral talks because the solution and/or the punishment will have to be multilateral as well. Unless you think the Frogs will agree to sanctions after our bilateral talks break down...right....
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
I guess I’m more results orientd than worried about the formalities. Unilteral, bilateral, multilateral, polylateral (ok I just made that one up), I don’t care ... do the one which gets the results desired.

And if our bilateral talks fail, tell me how that’s worse than where we are now.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Because McQ IF your wife sleeps around on you and you find out you really don’t return to the status quo do you? Your trust has been betrayed, so too if we go bilateral, excluding any of the current coalition. The US will have said, "it’s Ok to cut a deal on your own." Why wouldn’t the French and Russia then take that opportunity?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Joe, I understand it is about "trust", but this isn’t my "wife" ... we have no relationship with Iran.

If the point is to negotiate with an eye toward stopping their nuclear weapons program, and the path on which we are now embarked is showing nothing in terms of results, why, for heaven sake, is the conventional wisdom to ignore this opportunity and stay on the same fruitless path?

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
The name of the game (from the Iranian POV) is delay, delay, delay. Do you think that those centrifuges aren’t whirling away as long as they talk? Remember, "Diplomacy is the art of saying ’NIce Doggie’ while picking up a big stick". The talks are "Nice Doggie" and the end result will be the big stick of operational nuclear weapons.

Bilateral talk scenario:

To us, "Well, that sounds like it may be of use, but we’ll have to get the EU to agree. Our meeting with them is two weeks from now. Why don’t we schedule a meeting the week after that to discuss it further?"

To the EU, "That doesn’t agree with what the US wants, so we’ll have to discuss it with them. Our meeting is scheduled for next week, and the week after that is some obscure holiday, so why don’t we pencil in three weeks from now to clarify this issue?"

Rinse, lather, repeat ad infinitum, or at least until they have 9 or 10 warheads mounted on missiles that will reach most of the EU.

Get them to invite us to the EU multi talks (or invite ourselves) - yes.

Bilateral talks? Just another page from the NK playbook.

email is human readable - aloud.
 
Written By: bud
URL: http://
Joe, I understand it is about "trust", but this isn’t my "wife" ... we have no relationship with Iran.
You misunderstand the analogy. The "relationship" in danger is between the EU and US, not between the US and Iran. We have worked out a strategy with the EU over this issue. To suddenly abandon it midstream would be a slap in their faces and would play right into Iran’s hands.
If the point is to negotiate with an eye toward stopping their nuclear weapons program, and the path on which we are now embarked is showing nothing in terms of results, why, for heaven sake, is the conventional wisdom to ignore this opportunity and stay on the same fruitless path?
You are right about one thing above: we have no relationship with Iran. So why can’t you see that it is INCREDIBLY suspicious that they suddenly want to instigate unilateral talks with the US, who actually has been the "hardliner" or "bad cop" in the current negotiating strategy? Do you really think they believe that they are going to get a better deal with us than with France? Or do you think that maybe they are just trying to do what Lil’ Kim in NK is trying to do with those multilateral talks: trying to cut somebody out of the herd?
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
Terry, you didn’t even attempt to answer the question.

I’ll rephrase it.

How successful, using the apparently prefered strategy, have we been with Iran to date?

Since we both know the answer, what is there to lose in trying a different approach?

I mean, if the intent of all of this is to actually accomplish something instead of summarily ruling out even trying because the ’form’ is wrong or we’re "highly suspicious".

If you’ve ever bought something, you know that whoever is selling, if they wish to make the sale, quickly zeros in on the person making the buying decision.

Iran has figured out who is making the ultimate decision on this side of the negotiating table. I see it as progress that it is the US to whom Iran wants to talk.

Apparently the "bad cop" bit is working.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Since we both know the answer, what is there to lose in trying a different approach?
First you postulate that somehow Iran has "blinked," so obviously the current approach has gotten us somewhere.

Then when Iran insists on changing the approach that got us this far, you insist we do what they want us to.

It almost seems as if you think Iran has the same goal in this negotiation as we do.
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
I agree with you, McQ.

Of course, it’s easy to agree to the idea of talks. What positions you’re willing to take in them is another story.

It would probably take some form of normalization offer with Iran, along with explicit, public secruity guarantees, to even make a real start at tempting them.



Terry, your paradigm is false. Our current strategy has not and isn’t about to give us what we want: a suspension of the nuclear program. So no, we aren’t getting anywhere with the current plan.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Terry, your paradigm is false. Our current strategy has not and isn’t about to give us what we want: a suspension of the nuclear program. So no, we aren’t getting anywhere with the current plan.
Pardon me if I refuse to trust your crystal ball.

The question you and McQ need to answer is this: What can we offer Iran in unilateral negotiations that we cannot offer them, maybe in spades, in multilateral negotiations?

The answer is NOTHING.

Given that, Iran has some OTHER reason to want unilateral talks.

Better make DAMN sure we know what those other reasons are before we, the "Great Satan," agree to throw Iran into the briar patch.

 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
The question you and McQ need to answer is this: What can we offer Iran in unilateral negotiations that we cannot offer them, maybe in spades, in multilateral negotiations?
Well that’s why you have the negotiations, Terry ... part of it is to find out what they want. Obviously they think there is something only we can offer and thus the desire for said negotiations.

Putting aside your unfounded assumptions, can you tell me why that’s the case? Of course not. And neither can anyone else until they sit down and talk.

I mean, is the world going to end if we sit down at a table with Iran and say, "what do you want?"


 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
First you postulate that somehow Iran has "blinked," so obviously the current approach has gotten us somewhere.
Yes ... its gotten them past the BS stage and into identifying where the real power in the negotiations lays. That’s progress for heaven sake.

So are we going to ignore that because we want to insist on multilateral negotiations form?

That’s worked so far, hasn’t it? And since it hasn’t done squat, does it make sense to insist on going back to step one and starting over?

The negotiations are evolving. That’s the nature of negotiations. We either keep up or we can insist on maintaining the status quo and I can promise we’ll fail.
I agree with you, McQ.
OK that makes me want to rethink the entire thing. ;)
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I have no idea how those two comments ended up in reverse order ... ah the joys of blogging.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Well that’s why you have the negotiations, Terry ... part of it is to find out what they want. Obviously they think there is something only we can offer and thus the desire for said negotiations.
Come on.

Do you honestly think that there is something that they are too shy to ask for in front of France, Germany, etc.? Or that they couldn’t find some way to communicate whatever that thing is to us short of asking us to tell our allies that they are now merely hindrances and should get out of the way to let the REAL world power negotiate?

Anything that we can offer, we can offer in the current negotiations format. ANYTHING.

As for their specific reasons, perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that it will just be easier to flip off the Great Satan individually when they finally get their nukes than it is for them to include the entire Western world. Hell, then France, Germany, et. al. can even agree with them ("If only those cowboys hadn’t run off on their own!" etc., etc., etc.).

That’s sure a lot more rational explanation for the sudden desire for unilateral talks than the idea that they suddenly realize that the Great Satan is "the real power" in the negotiations and therefore they should only talk to it.
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
Anything that we can offer, we can offer in the current negotiations format. ANYTHING.
They may not agree and that’s kind of the point.

We can do this 50 more times if you wish, but it appears we’re at an impass and will have to agree to disagree.

Amiably, of course. ;)
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Amiably, of course. ;)
Of course.

Especially since it appears that (for the next three years at least) it appears I’m gonna get my way on the issue! :-)
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
LOL!

Yea, we’ll see how that turns out.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Terry, a multinational format looking something like, say: Iran, Britain, Germany, US, or something like that, in such situation, you’d have a point.

That’s not what is currently being offered to Iran.

Currently, the negotiation format is as follows: Britain, Germany, other Europeans, Iran.

You see the problem with this? Obviously, it’s that the US isn’t bound in any way whatsoever to agree with or cooperate with the Europeans. We can change our mind anytime we like. We can let accords be made, sit on the sidelines, then uniterally decide that the Iranians have breached and craft any response we choose. We love this tactic. It’s plausible deniability.

The difference between multilateral negotiations that the US was actually partcipating in, and unilateral negotiations, would be smaller. It would be about things like prestige, and confidence, rapprochment, and a subtle enhanced ability to control the agenda in multilateral negotiations where everyone but one party is on one side. You’d have a better case then.

But currently, Europeans are negotiating with Iran, saying, "don’t worry, we’re sure the American will go for this." And America... isn’t giving anything remotely like signals that they agree.

The Bush admin is very good at creating the illusion that a policy is happening when it is not, to relieve political pressure. One of the best ever, perhaps.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
The question you and McQ need to answer is this: What can we offer Iran in unilateral negotiations that we cannot offer them, maybe in spades, in multilateral negotiations?
Actually, that’s a very good question. As an aid to understanding, you might try to think of some answers to that question yourself.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net

 
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