between US and Iran
By Azim Mahmoud Hanafia
Although sanctions have severely affected the Iranian economy, it seems that Iran is able to circumvent them in a number of ways, and meddle with U.S. interests in places where its negative influence has increased, such as Iraq, Syria and some Gulf states.
Translated By Jackson Allan
6 February 2013
Edited by Heather Martin
Kuwait - al-Seyassah - Original Article (Arabic)
In a letter dated Jan. 23, 2013, Iran warned the International Atomic Energy Agency of its intention to add dozens, perhaps hundreds, of new-generation centrifuges to its main uranium enrichment facility. The new centrifuges will be more powerful and better performing than the outdated IR-1 model that Iran is currently using, which has existed since the 1970s. This will allow the Iranians to increase the amount of enriched uranium produced by each apparatus by a factor of four. This step may greatly boost the plant’s ability to produce fuel used in nuclear power plants and, possibly, the manufacturing of nuclear bombs.
The U.S. administration under Barack Obama has employed the tactic of economic sanctions. Although they have severely affected the Iranian economy, it seems that Iran is able to resist and circumvent them in a number of ways and meddle with U.S. interests in places where its negative influence has increased, such as Iraq, Syria and some Gulf states. At the Munich conference, the U.S. vice president announced that Washington wants to instigate direct negotiations with Iran, meaning that the [P]5+1 talks will disappear into the background. The Americans and Iranians will stand face-to-face at the negotiating table and haggle, in a comprehensive manner, over all facets of the issue.
This U.S. policy, through which Obama has agreed to negotiations even as Iran continues enriching uranium, shows that the president has abandoned some of the permanent fixtures of the previous administration’s approach. The U.S.’s economic difficulty appears to have forced this change. It has given rise to an increasing number of voices advocating a return to old U.S. policies based on the belief that negotiation on deadlocked issues is a better course of action than trying to punish Iran without any regard for the consequences. It is time to apply to Iran the same policies that granted the U.S. victory in the Cold War, liberated the Warsaw Pact countries and reunified Europe: Those policies included detente and containment, communicating whenever possible and confrontation whenever necessary. In support of this perspective, advocates point to the fact that the U.S. had previously talked to Russia during the Stalin period and to China during Mao’s rule. In both those cases, direct talk eventually caused the leader to change his regime. The time has come to talk to Iran without any conditions so that the negotiations can be comprehensive.*
The question now centers on the main issue connected to Iran — the nature of the agreement that should be proposed. Most attention is being focused on how to increase the pressure on Iran and employ the carrot and stick at the same time. This constitutes a change from the strategy employed in the past, which focused on limited, trust-building measures and left the end game unclear. Neither the Iranian leadership, nor the public in Iran and around the world, was satisfied with the very modest incentives that were offered to Iran during the 2012 Baghdad talks. However, the “renewed” offer that the U.S. will, it is said, soon put forth is much more generous than the previous one. We must all await whatever big surprises occur as a result of the deals that the two sides are expected to make.
The author is an Egyptian expert in political and strategic affairs and manager of the al-Kinanah Centre of Strategic Studies firstname.lastname@example.org
*Translator’s note: The author is closely paraphrasing Daniel Pipes in his article “Using Cold War Tactics to Confront Iran” (The Washington Times, 1/9/2013). Pipes was, in turn, quoting a testimony by James Dobbins in 2007. See: http://www.danielpipes.org/12442/iran-sofaer-cold-war
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