Getting to the Endgame With Iran
Image Credit: Office of Iran's President

Getting to the Endgame With Iran


Why did it take so long to secure a date for talks between Iran and the P5+1?

After all, in the weeks before the presidential election in November, it was reported that the United States and Iran had already tactically agreed to convene private, one-on-one talks. And since then the United States, the European powers, Russia, and China, all sought to arrange another round of negotiations, first in December and then in January. It now appears that Iran, which is about to enter its presidential election season, has finally agreed to what will be the first round of negotiations with the P5+1 since the last round in Moscow seven months ago.  On Tuesday, Tehran announced that it will join talks on February 26 in Kazakhstan.

The negotiations will be a serious test for the Obama administration and for John Kerry, the new secretary of state. Previous rounds have all faltered because neither side was willing to make concessions to the other, and so far there is little sign that the United States and the P5+1 have improved their offer to Iran very much. As the talks were announced, the Washington Post reported: “The P5+1 powers have made only mild revisions to a proposal that Iran flatly rejected last June.” Until now, the United States has been unwilling to acknowledge Iran’s right to enrich uranium on its own soil and to suggest that some economic sanctions might be lifted as part of a deal, and Iran has refused to agree even to a limited deal called “stop, ship, and shut” – involving the suspension of its enrichment to 20 percent purity, shipping its existing stockpiles of 20% uranium to a third country for processing, and shutting down its underground facility at Fordo, near Qom – without an agreement to lift sanctions.

After the reelection of Barack Obama in November, there were great hopes that the president would have greater political freedom of offer concessions to Iran. Yet, publicly at least, the White House isn’t signaling that it is ready to make a more generous offer to Iran, and in fact Obama in January signed into law yet another round of draconian economic sanctions.

Perhaps as a result, Iran allegedly dragged its feet on setting a date for talks. Despite prodding from the P5+1 – including urgent efforts by Russia — in January Iran reportedly went silent about talks. Russia, increasingly frustrated by the inability of Tehran and the West to negotiate seriously, vented its frustration. “Some of our partners in the six powers and the Iranian side cannot come to an agreement about where to meet," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference. "We are ready to meet at any location as soon as possible. We believe the essence of our talks is far more important (than the site), and we hope that common sense will prevail and we will stop behaving like little children.”

Reverend Spooner
February 14, 2013 at 22:52

Iran will never attack Israel and Israel knows this. It was in 1996 that Israel first accused Iran of trying to develop nukes. For Israel it's about being the sole regional power with nukes and diverting attention while building illegal settlements. The US stance is akin to a bully who is being stood up to and finds this difficult to accept. Big oil companies also have a vested interest in seeking regime change .And like always, all this talk about human rights and nuclear profilication is just a smoke screen. 

CJ Kohn
February 10, 2013 at 03:28

Michael Guy,

You need to be better informed. Lybia is a Sunni state. Iraq under Saddam was a Sunni state, where the Shia were suppressed. Syria is ruled by a small Shia minority and the Sunnis are revolting for being oppressed for many decades.

You are right that the Saudis have financed and enabled radical Sunni Islamist. However, the same is true of the financing by Shia Iran of radical Shia Islamists. Hence, the common enemy of the West is political Islam in all its forms.

Your attempt to blame "Zionist plutocrats" for age old hatreds in the Muslim world proves only that you are a classic antisemite bent on classic conspiracy theories.

Michael Guy
February 9, 2013 at 18:39

Ever since 9/11 the United states has acted like a compliant vassal to the Sunni sheiks in Saudi Arabia in their efforts to eliminate, eradicate or enslave  every shia rival to Riyadh. Even though it was Saudi Arabian , Sunni wahabi jihadist that attacked New York and the Pentagon, America has attacked or destabilized every Shia led nation like Iraq, Libya, Syria and soon Iran and turned it over to the Sunni wahabi Jihadist like those in the Muslim Brotherhood.    It is ironic tha America refuses to criticize the ever perpfidious and treacherous Sunni governments in  nuclear armedPakistan, Egypt and Afghanistan  It is if kaffir America is a vassal to the Saudi sheiks. When the Zionist plutocrats of Manhattan , AIPAC and Tel Aviv also seem to clamor for a war against Iran, it sems America will spill gentile blood and give billions in aid  to Israel  the same way the Founders of the Federal Reserve Bank influenced Wilson to aid England so that the Balfor agreement would be implemented,

The best course would be to obey George washington's sagacious advice and not become entangled in foreign alliances .  No money, aid, arms etc to any islamic nation, ditto for Israel.

  I have to admire Vladimir Putin's refusal to betray the sovereignty of his country to some foreign conglomeration of would-be feudal  bureaucrats.  The BRIC nations, like Russia and China, are led by nationalists patriots who strive to advance the security and prosperity of the citizens of their own nations.   .

John Chan
February 8, 2013 at 11:04

@Don Rae,
USA nuked Japan with the knowledge that Japan was seeking ways to surrender unconditionally officially. USA nuked Japan was not only targeting Japan, it had one eye aiming at the USSR. Realpolitik, hegemonic design, shortening the war to save lives, vengeance, racism, dislike, etc. are all part of the decision to nuke Japan, not once but twice even after the USA confirmed the bomb worked and the horror it made. The second nuke is nefariously intended and 100% convictable in the ICC.  
Given the opportunity, USA will do it again to whomever the unlucky one.

CJ Kohn
February 8, 2013 at 04:13

Prafmatist is not very pragmatic.
First, it must be clearly stated that Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferarion Treaty which specifically enjoins signatories from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran as a sovereign freely state adhered to the NPT and is now obligated by its terms.
Second, contrary to the claims of Pragmatist, the vast majority of nations do not pursue the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
Third, Israel has never threatened Iran. Quite to the contrary, Israel and Iran were allies until the Islamists seiized power in Iran through an illegitimate power grab.
Fourth, Iran does not have the right under international law to "to increase regional power and cementing the legitimacy of the regime" by the illegitimate means of acquiring nuclear weapons.
If the regime wants to increase its regional power and cement its legitimacy, then the regime should do so through diplomacy and democratization at home.
A nuclear armed Iran will only engender resentment,, nuclear proliferation among states of the Middle East and thereby threaten regional stability and world peace. Iran must realise that the states in the region do not want to live under Shia Iran's hegemony.

February 7, 2013 at 20:23

The problem is that the US has no endgame in Iran, while the iranian leadership has a very clear endgame. 
American politicians obsess over nuclear weapons like they are the endgame. Weapons are not an and, but a means to an end. In the case of Iran, a means to even out the power balance with Israel, increasing regional power and cementing the legitimacy of the regime. And why should they not have the right to seek that when every other nation on the planet does exactly the same thing, particularly the US and Israel?
Nuclear weapons have, after the Nagasaki attack, been for having, not for using. Their use would in the eyes of the world remove any legitimacy of the regime that used them. Iran knows this. The also know that nuclear forensics can trace the composition of any nuclear weapon back to their source, so detonation one through a proxy will similarly undermine any regime and facilitate regime change from the outside. 
People in power want either more power, or at least to stay in power. That is what the iranians want, and every overreaction from the US strengthens their grip. What the US and EU should do is envision a middle east where Iran is a legitimate power and bring them into the fold. That is the only way to secure peace.

CJ Kohn
February 7, 2013 at 18:17

Iran will never give up its nuclear weapons program peacefully. Sanctions have never worked against any totalitarian regime since such regimes do not care for their people, and are not accountable to their people.
Sanctions have failed in North Korea, much poorer than Iran, in Syria, in Iraq.
Hence, the only two possibilities are allowing Iran to become a nuclear armed power, or a military intervention to take out Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile sites.
Whatever Obama decides, it is doubtful that Israel will be able to accept a nuclear armed Iran. The Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Khameini told former Spanish PM Aznar that:
"Israel was a historic cancer and an anomaly, a country to be put into flames and condemned to disappear."
It is inconceivable that Israel will live with a continual existential threat on its borders. Hence, even if Obama decides that he can live with a policy of containment, Israel will most probably take military action. Such military action might take many forms. 

Don Rae
February 7, 2013 at 15:41

I'm unaware that any country has invaded Iran, or taken tens of thousands of prisoners from them of which 38% are summarily executed or otherwise mistreated until they die. The analogy with US/Japan/WWII is shallow and inaccurate. Japan had repeatedly refused unconditional surrender, had fought to the death on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, had sacrificed thousands of suicide bombers and had refused to surrender even after the Dresden-like fire-bombing of Tokyo and even again after Hiroshima. So yes, that bombing was justified as it saved more lives than it claimed. The US did not use the bombs simply because they didn't like Japan and disagreed with their policies.

February 7, 2013 at 14:40

Wouldn't that be awesome if the U.S. and Israel went to war with each other?
Realistically, it's unlikely that will happen. The U.S. will probably just have to clean up Israel's mess via American soldiers and weapons while they sit and laugh at the situation.
If Israel was to bomb the U.S., the U.S. will probably have to clean that mess up too by bombing itself out of existence.

Vinay Prasad
February 6, 2013 at 14:01

When America used the weapons against Japan, not once but two times, vaporizing tens of thousands of innocent Japanese, it was justified. Because they bombed Pearl Harbor. And even today America again will not hesitate to use them if there is another Pearl Harbor. America can use the weapons and annihilate people and others cannot? My foot. A sovereign country like Iran WILL USE the same reasoning like America WITH NO ONES APPROVAL REQUIRED. And if Israel jumps the gun and attacks Iran, America will bomb Israel, yes Israel, just before Israel starts to strike. Because this will be the safest way to avoid a world war.

February 6, 2013 at 12:32

If U.S is serious about shifting most of its military power to the pacific to deal with China, they had better clear up the loose ends in the middle east like the Palestinian/Israeli problem and the nuclear issue with Iran. If they tie themselves up in areas like the middle east, there will be less resources and energy to deal with China's threat to the U.S unipolar system.

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