We just had another week of a new round of negotiations with Iran concerning their nuclear program and concerns whether it is designed to simply produce energy, as Iran claims, or working towards nuclear weapons, as Israel fears. The P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) had varied claims concerning the results of these initial talks, with President Obama’s spokesman James Carney was quoted claiming these talks showed a “level of seriousness and substance that we have not seen before.” The European Union spokesman Michael Mann said, “We have come here with a sense of cautious optimism and a great sense of determination because we believe it’s really time now for tangible results.” Both of these statements indicate the optimism and hopefulness by the Western leaders to find something, anything positive on which to pin their hopes and desires to avoid any situation which might necessitate their need to take actions to prevent the Iranians from reaching the goal of nuclear weapons production. Meanwhile, the intent of the Iranians was probably best represented by their new President, Hassan Rouhani, who said Saturday that his country is pursuing “a win-win game” in its talks with the West. Additionally, President Rouhani said meeting with Giulio Haas, the new Swiss ambassador to Tehran, “I believe that during the Geneva talks, the political will of the Islamic Republic of Iran became evident to both sides.” The duplicitous meanings of his statements is as apparent as they were when similar position statements and intents were couched in diplo-double-talk where each listener is able to take from the statements either assurances or suspicions while the speaker has actually not made a definitive statement defining anything.
The truth of these meetings is that the main agreement they actually were able to reach was to agree to meet again in Geneva on November 7th and 8th. If anyone is able to remember, a feat that appears to be beyond many Western politicians and negotiators, back to the previous initial meetings before President Rouhani was elected and the face of Iran was President Ahmadinejad, then you will recall that at those initial meetings also ended with the Western leaders finding great hope, promise, and a “new honesty” coming from the Iranian negotiators, especially when the Iranians had appointed a new lead negotiator, and these meetings too only honestly resulted in the sides agreeing to meet again sometime in the ensuing six to eight weeks. So, we once again find ourselves at the stage of the Iranian nuclear negotiations where hope springs eternal, Iran has just outlined a new honest approach showing a real sense of sincerity and willingness to make real progress towards allying the fears that they are seeking to make nuclear weapons. They have intimated their willingness to allowing inspections at all of their nuclear sites, the end to enrichment to or above 20%, conversion of current enriched Uranium into fuel rods (a technology that many believe may be beyond Tehran’s abilities to produce), snap surprise inspections by the IAEA, and a slew of other goodies all of which were stated with the design of whetting the appetites and spurring on the hopes of the Western leaders that a new dawn was at hand. All of this has such a “Peace in our time” feeling to it that is just downright scary. I am almost expecting one of the Western lead negotiators to deplane holding a piece of paper above his head as he walks up to the waiting press and a cluster of microphones to announce the great breakthrough and the end of all suspicions over the obviously innocence of the Iranian nuclear program and the mechanisms which will assure all but the most cynical disbeliever. Whether or not they add Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s name as that disbeliever or not, we here can add Beyond the Cusp as that disbeliever.
These new promises and revelations of the Iranians desire for openness and an honest deal which will ally all fears is nothing new. At the November meetings the Iranians will begin backpedalling from those positions as they start to define them back away from the optimistic interpretations currently all over the press coverage and new sticking points will soon begin to appear as those same optimistic Western leaders are faced with the reality that Iran was playing chess while they were engaging in tiddlywinks. It is the same old pattern but this time instead of the contorted screaming madman face of Ahmadinejad the Iranians have the new, improved, smiling face of President Hassan Rouhani to reassure that Iran is sincere and this time is truly different. When it comes to believing such all we can say is, not so much. Let’s see what you say down the road as we have seen this song and dance before. We have all taken the pony ride of the new Iranian negotiator and this new Iranian President has very much the same old feel of that previous game. The only sane approach to this new level of excitement and expectations of a great new beginning is to honestly admit that we have all seen this before and we will judge by what the Iranians are not only willing to sign on to in an agreement but furthermore, how well they abide by those same terms when the surprise inspections begin and the enforcements of the other stipulations. But first things first, we still have a long road to traverse before we even get to the first stages of writing the actual agreements, let alone signing and implementing them. We must do as was promised by President Reagan in his arms treaty with the Soviets, “Trust but verify!” That has to be our minimal demand before we can celebrate the new Iranian attitude.
Beyond the Cusp