What confirmed my decision is the failure “diplomacy-talks” in Baghdad on negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program in May. Although the talks were to resume this month in Russia, I know it will amount to nothing. Not because I believe in Israel’s propaganda that the Iranian government is absolutely blood-thirsty and determined to annihilate Israel (which I can dispute in another blog post, and perhaps will) and will never negotiate, but because I know that Israel has no interest in negotiating. The US and Israel have adopted a 0-enrichment tolerance, and have put sanctions on Iran and bullied countries around the world to do the same until Iran buckles and rids its nuclear program.
I won’t be going to Iran this summer, and a lot of people I know are also following the same path. It was hard enough to return to Iran considering the restrictions the government has put on the society, but now that we have the threat of an Israeli strike, the consequences outweigh the benefits. We don’t blame the Iranian government however for this dispute between the United States and Israel, which has made Iranians’ lives not only in Iran, but around the world harder. If it’s one thing most Iranians can agree on, it’s that Iran has a right to enrich uranium and obtain nuclear power like 14 other countries around the world do. This right is established within the International Atomic Energy Agency. For the same reason people justify Israel having nuclear weapons is the best argument for Iran to have nuclear weapons. Iran is in the middle of a hostile Arab World who face the constant threat of an attack.
That argument doesn’t jibe for the United States and Israel however. Israel has always maintained a 0-enrichment position toward Iran, and the US has always followed Israel’s demand to take the same position. However there have been times when the US has creatively tried diplomacy with Iran in hopes to make both sides happy to avoid a conflict. Right before the Iranian Presidential elections in 2009, the Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA requested to buy fuel pads to use for Tehran’s medical research reactor that would address the shortage of medical isotopes. Medical isotopes are used for kidney, heart and cancer patients, and Iran was badly in need of them. Instead of going ahead and enriching their own uranium, Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh avoided conflict with the West and reached out to the international community for assistance. Iran took advantage of this opportunity and proposed that Iran’s enriched uranium would be sent to Russia where it would be processed and turned into fuel pads. It was considerably a win-win situation: Iran would get its fuel pads, and the US would get the uranium out of Iran.
A major obstacle in this negotiation talks that came up was the discovery of Iran’s nuclear reactor. The mistake Iran did make was not inform the IAEA that it was constructing its first (and only officially on record) nuclear reactor, and was a clear violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). At the same time, it’s nothing that hasn’t been violated and gone unpunished before: Israel has 200 nuclear warheads and it never informed the IAEA before its construction of its several thousand arsenals. The Israeli government still denies, or ignores, any questions on whether it has nuclear weapons, in fear that it delegetimize its fight to stop Iran from obtaining the same nuclear weapons. However, despite this setback, the talks continued. However they began to crumble because of technical concerns: Iran did not want to risk sending all of its uranium in a single batch to Russia and (now France) in fear that they would never receive it back in the form of fuel pads, or another country would confiscate it. Iran also began questioning why the US was so heavily involved in these talks if it was not in anyway directly a part of the swap. The US, France and Russia refused to address many of Iran’s concerns with the swap (although it ultimately did advocate for the swap). The talks failed. What would have been the conflict in allowing Iran’s uranium to leave Iran in different phases, as opposed to one batch? The US has acted as if it was doing Iran a great favor by agreeing to diplomacy instead of military action, but instead, we need to look at it the other way around: Iran could have practiced their right and enrich uranium and develop their own fuel pads to produce medical isotopes. It didn’t need to go to the IAEA. This isn’t the only instance in which Iran was the first to reach for diplomacy, and the US led to their failure.
Brazil and Turkey, two rising global superpowers decided to take advantage of the situation to prove their rising influence. It was also meant to show that they could be viable members to join the security council. In 2010, through diplomacy not only between Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA, but also through the Majlis Parliament, the Ayatollah, President’s office, Turkey and Brazil were able to get Iran to agree to the fuel swaps. The main difference in the agreement was that instead of sending their low-enriched uranium to Russia, it would be sent to Turkey. Turkey and Brazil thought for sure that the US would not only support the agreement, but would be thrilled. They were quite wrong. The Obama administration immediately shot it down, mainly to an inability to politically maneuver around the Israeli influenced US Congress, AIPAC, Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia, and powerful politicians who had 0 interest in diplomacy with Iran and believed military action was the ONLY answer.
What most Americans don’t realize, is that in 2003 the Swiss Ambassador to the US traveled to Iran to hold indirect diplomacy talks between the two countries. The proposal the Iranian government (even with the blessing of the Supreme Ayatollah) astonished the then Bush administration. The proposal included Iran committing to end their support for Hamas, and instead would use their relationship to pressure them to end attacks on Israel. In addition, they would push Hizbollah to be strictly a political power and move toward disarming them. Their nuclear program would be allowed to be heavily inspected. Iran would continue to play an active role in combatting Al Qaeda. Iran wanted little in return. The US needed to hand back members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization who Iran wanted to trial for themselves, in addition to Al-Qaeda operatives Iran had captured, and again, wanted to trial themselves. Most importantly, the US needed to end the then called “crippling” sanctions (which now have been turned to “targeted” sanctions, a euphemism). If this was put forward in 2003, then why has the US gone through these tensions and fights with Iran since? Well, Bush maintained the US mentality of diplomacy that diplomacy is only rewarded to countries that deserve it, and to him, Iran, a country he had just put on the axis of evil, was not one of those.
Since then, Congress, AIPAC, Saudi, and the anti-Iran politicians have gotten their wish. Sanctions toward Iran at been at an all time high. These “targeted sanctions” are indeed still crippling sanctions, not for the Iranian government but for the Iranian people. The value of the Iranian currency, the Rial, has dropped drastically, and imports that were once a common good for most Iranians to have are now seen as a luxury. What the Obama administration has done is distance the once (and perhaps a few remain) western-loving Iranians, and make the Islamic Republic angry and reluctant to reach out to Tehran again, like it has throughout the past two Presidencies.
I implore that everyone read President of the North Iranian American Council’s new book, A Single Roll of the Dice about Obama’s diplomacy with Iran. All talks and diplomacy from the Bush to the Obama administration are discussed, and what you’ll read (as you’ve seen highlighted in this blog post) will shock you. Trita Parsi continues to be the main advocate against sanctions against Iran, and advocate for diplomacy. We need more Trita Parsis in this country, enough to make an Iranian lobby powerful enough to convince the US Government that it needs to take the painful step of reaching out to Tehran after all of these years of clenching their first.