Hoping that Iran finally plays ball with their nuclear program, the White House hinted that they’re open to direct talks. President Barack Obama was slammed by former GOP presidential candidate in 2008 for daring to suggest he’s hold direct talks with Iran or North Korea. With six-party talks, including the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany more problematic, direct talks with Iran’s Shiite government may give the best chance of averting war. Barack has stated for the record that he will not allow Tehran to develop or acquire a nuclear device. Iran responded positively to Vice President Joe Biden’s suggestion for direct talks. “We take these statements with positive consideration. I think this is a step forward . . . but each time we have come and negotiated it was the other side unfortunately who did not heed . . .its commitment,” said Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
Since the beginning days of the George W. Bush administration, Iran has resisted U.S. attempts to contain its growing nuclear program. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaking through his 56-year-old mouthpiece Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists Iran’s nuclear program is non-negotiable. Several series of U.N. sanctions has sent Iran’s economy into a nosedive. Iranian officials have stubbornly resisted U.N. monitoring of its nuclear activity, refusing unrestricted inspections by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. Salehi rejects the idea that the White House says “all options are on the table.” Calling them “contradictory signals,” Salehi accused the U.S. of “bullying” tactics, trying to impose inspections or punish Iran with current U.N. sanctions or possible military action. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey warned Iran that the U.S. has the means of preventing Tehran from getting the bomb.
Finishing his confirmation hearings Feb. 1, Obama’s Defense Secretary pick former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) was blasted by Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for suggesting that the U.S. could contain a growing Iranian nuclear threat. Senators objected because Barack’s strategy is one of “prevention” not containment. While there are subtle differences, Hagel was making the same point as 69-year-old former Army Chief-of-Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki who said Iran could be contained like any other nuclear power. U.S. officials must decide whether or not it’s worth risking another Mideast war to get Iran to back off its nuclear program. Iran bristles when the U.S. or Israel hint they’d use military force to stop Iran’s nuclear program. With Ahmadinejad saying he’d like to see Israel “wiped off the map,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets nervous.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Iran has not decided whether or not to purse a nuclear weapon. “But every indication is they want to continue to increase their nuclear capability,” said Panetta. “And that’s a concern. And that’s what we’re asking them to stop doing,” passing the torch to his successor, 69-year-old former Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Announcing that six-party talks would resume in Kazakhastan Feb. 25, Salehi hinted that his government was prepared to makes some concessions. Prior six-party talks have ended in frustration. European Union officials are skeptical that Iran is serious about ending their nuclear program. “We still are very hopeful. There are two packages, on package from Iran with five steps and the other package from the (six-powers) with three steps,” said Salehi, offering no real hint whether or not his government will make nuclear concessions.
More time that ticks off Netayahu loses patience with Tehran. Iran announced last week it intends to employ new enrichment equipment, intended to reduce the time it takes to weaponize uranium. Iran has not offered to halt its uranium enrichment program, with all indications pointing to exactly the opposite. Iran’s Mullah’s believe that only the bomb will give it the leverage to neutralize the West. They watched Pakistan in 1998 contain their archenemy India by getting the bomb. Pakistan’s chief nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan firmly believed the A-bomb was the great “peacekeeper,” keeping India at bay. “We must not accept his process,” said Netanyahu, rejecting the Iranian’s attempt to weaponize uranium, on the one hand, while, simultaneously trying speed up the enrichment process. Israel’s rapidly losing patience with Western powers making excuses for Iran.
When six-party talks begin Feb. 22, the clock will be ticking on possible military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Ripping Hagel in confirmation hearings over the word “containment,” Obama is dead serious about “preventing” Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. However much the West—and Israel—exaggerates Iran’s nuclear ambitions, there are still grave concerns about Iran’s attempt to accelerate enriching uranium. Public statements by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad clearly indicate they want recognition as a “nuclear power,” not simply generating electric power or making radioactive medical isotopes. Iran rejects the West’s “bullying” attempts to control their nuclear ambitions. Without submitting to unrestricted U.N. inspections, there’s little chance of ending punishing economic sanctions or avoiding a future military answer to Iran nuclear program.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.