Elizabeth Spiro Clark writes about the US-Iranian (non-)negotiations in Snubbing Iran TomPaine.com 05/23/06
Meetings that were to have been held Friday over Iran’s nuclear status between the “EU-3” (Germany, France, and the United Kingdom), the U.S., Russia and China have been postponed. It is no wonder that talks are in trouble. It’s not just that the Iranians have rejected the latest European “carrots and sticks” proposal: U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton stated that the U.S. reserves the right to reject the proposal as well. The U.S. already rejects negotiating with the Iranians, either directly or by joining the Europeans at the table—a course of action former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has recommended, as have European governments and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Why on earth would Iran accept a proposal when it knows the U.S. is waiting in the wings to up the ante? The EU “precursor” negotiations track is completely useless unless and until the U.S. joins for face-to-face comprehensive negotiations with the Iranians, including a discussion of security guarantees.
Clark reminds us that the Bush administration's current posture allows Iranian President Ahmadinejad to pose as a defender of the rights of Muslims and of developing nations against the American bully.
This may suit the neocons just fine if they think it will make him look even more sinister to the American public.
Clark points to the example of the Bush administration's agreement on nuclear weapons with Libya as an example of what could be done with Iran. The official administration and FOXist line on Libya's agreement to give up nuclear, chemical and biological weapons is that they were terrified at seeing the US invasion of Iraq. More sober assessments note that Libya was ready to make the agreement even before the invasion.
Writing on the occasion of the formal restoration of full diplomatic relations between the US and Libya earlier this month, Howard LaFranchi reported for the Christian Science Monitor on Why US restored ties with Libya 05/17/06:
Writing on the occasion of the formal restoration of official relations between the US and Libya earlier this month, Howard LaFranchi reported for the Christian Science Monitor on Why US restored ties with Libya 05/17/06:
For the Bush administration, awarding Libya this week with restoration of full diplomatic relations should be a lesson to Iran and North Korea. Give up your nuclear weapons programs just as Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi did, administration officials argue, and you too can reap the benefits of political and economic ties with the United States.
But for some experts in the Middle East and nonproliferation diplomacy, including some who worked on the Libya case, the lesson may be just as much for the US: It is direct talks and security assurances that underlie Libya's transformation from a rogue proliferator and purveyor of international terrorism, they say, not primarily a threat of force.
"Direct talks were crucial in getting Libya to change its ways, because that's how Qaddafi became convinced that if he did policy change, we would not do regime change," says Bruce Jentleson, who was a State Department official in the Clinton administration when secret talks were initiated with Libya. "The lesson here is that while it's useful to have force as a backdrop, this is really a story of serious diplomacy's success."
Dafna Hochman gives a more detailed account of US diplomacy over Libya's nuclear program and other weapons in Rehabilitating a Rogue: Libya’s WMD Reversal and Lessons for US Policy Parameters (US Army War College) Spring 2006. She writes:
The international community, including President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, immediately lauded Qadhafi’s decision to seek rapprochement with the West.4 The Bush Administration and analysts outside the US government cited two principal reasons behind Qadhafi’s decision. First, they argued that the United States had sent a strong message by invading Iraq in 2003, proving its willingness to use military force to deal with rogue states acquiring WMD. Libya must have been watching, they contended. Second, many argued that economic sanctions had successfully suppressed the Libyan economy. With a growing population, and potential revenue from undeveloped oil resources, Qadhafi might have decided to prioritize Libya’s economic survival over WMD procurement.
These two explanations, while plausible, have sidelined the role of deliberate, long-term US policies toward Libya that likely facilitated Qadhafi’s WMD reversal. Three additional factors affected Libya’s WMD reversal. First, in addition to the pressures exerted by the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Qadhafi had reason to foresee greater security benefits to be gained by closer ties with the United States and the West. In particular, Libya’s concern about al Qaeda influenced its desire to ally with the United States. Second, while seeking an end to the stifling US and UN sanctions for economic motives, Qadhafi also sought to end Libya’s pariah status. Qadhafi’s concern about his own reputation and Libya’s international image and credibility motivated his decision. Third, the Pam Am 103 victims’ families and their advocates on Capitol Hill wielded agenda-setting influence, strengthening the negotiating position of the United States vis-à-vis Libya. Each of these factors reflects one of three US foreign policy approaches applied toward Libya over the past 15 years. Each factor also yields implications for current and future US national security strategies, offering prescriptive lessons to policymakers confronting rogue regimes acquiring WMD programs. (my emphasis)
Currently, the US is saying, as Condi-Condi Rice did the other day, that we will offer no security guarantees to Iran. As Clark writes:
Administration hawks, however, have already gotten $75 million out of Congress to assist anti-regime forces inside and outside Iran. The U.S. has not renounced regime change in Iran; therefore it doesn’t want to talk about security guarantees.
It's a perfect loop for the Iran hawks. Iran is going to want security guarantees of some sort in exchange for settling on a range of outstanding issues, particularly their nuclear program. But since the administration's policy is regime change, it won't offer any security guarantees. And they're for regime change (supposedly) because Iran won't give up it's nuclear program.
Hochman elaborates on this point:
Disaggregating the approaches that cumulatively led to Libya’s reversal yields important implications for future US security policy toward rogue regimes possessing or attempting to acquire WMD. First, a security analysis suggests that Qadhafi conducted cost-benefit security calculations and concluded that destroying his WMD made security sense. Whether or not the US invasion of Iraq played a dominant role in his cost-benefit analysis, Qadhafi conceived of his WMD reversal as an act of realpolitik. Debating the efficacy of the punitive model of the Iraq war is fruitless, as it is highly unlikely that future US foreign policymakers will order military force against one rogue regime simply to threaten or scare another one into disarmament. Nonetheless, rogue regimes choosing to disarm after making serious security calculations might be motivated by multiple causes. These catalysts include fear of an attack by a threatening hegemon, a desire to advance unrelated security goals by bandwagoning, pursuit of revenue to buy conventional weapons, or a recognition that their WMD arsenals are relatively inferior and therefore will never sufficiently threaten their adversaries. Regardless of the specific incentive and the specific cost-benefit analysis of security gains, the bottom line remains: WMD disarmament can be security-enhancing in the eyes of a rogue state leader. Giving rogues security carrots to disarm, therefore, is a useful strategy. Moreover, US foreign policy decisionmakers need to take into account that rogues with WMD, such as Iran and North Korea, do actually conceive of their WMD arsenals in defensive security terms, even if their articulation of the threats they feel seem specious to an American audience. (my emphasis)
She also reminds us of the importance of international arms-control agreements and institutions:
[I]international norms regarding WMD are important mechanisms, capable of encouraging rogues to disarm and to cooperate. Norms can both pressure rogue leaders to reform and provide a road map for rehabilitation. US policies aimed at isolating Libya, applied from the 1980s through 2003, successfully exploited Qadhafi’s concern for his international image. Placing Libya on the StateDepartment’s list of state sponsors of terrorism effectively constrained Qadhafi’s ambitions - not only due to the material consequences of being placed on this list but also because such overt censure undermined his global standing. Ultimately, US policies that publicly critique the nature of a regime - “naming and shaming” strategies - can be effective, especially if the condemnation is accompanied by international consensus. Attacking a rogue state’s reputation is likely to be less effective without such consensus.
Moreover, when Qadhafi finally did decide to disarm, the prevailing global denunciation of illegal WMD possession allowed him to pitch his 19 December 2003 decision as a positive, progressive act. In announcing his reversal, Qadhafi did not need to appear as if he was buckling under US pressure. (my emphasis)
Clark appears convinced that the Bush administration intends to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities, i.e., expand the Iraq War into Iran:
The administration does not want to defuse the situation. It can use the resulting standoff to hype further the Iranian danger. Iran’s rejection of the EU offer will be billed as further proof of Iran’s intentions to build a nuclear bomb. Ironically, the president may actually be drawing a lesson from his Iraq war. In Iraq he claimed there were actually existing weapons of mass destruction. His administration couldn’t wiggle away from “failure” when that claim proved unambiguously false. If the administration plans to bomb Iran - and its unwillingness to negotiate is supportive of that conclusion - it is inoculated against “failure.” No one can prove Iranian intentions after the fact. Preemption doctrine moves father away from “imminent threat.” (my emphasis)
In other words, in Iraq the hawks said that Iraq had both deadly capabilities and bad intent. When the WMDs turned out to be non-existent, they were left claiming bad intent, i.e., that Saddam had the intention to start new WMD programs at some time in the future which might produce some weapons which he then might decide to give to some terrorist group that might use them against the United States.
In Iran, they may just stick with claiming that Iran has a bad attitude so we have to bomb them.
Expanding the Iraq War into Iran will add a third conflict in Iraq. In addition to the insurgency and the civil war, we will have a regional war, as well.
How much chaos will Bush and Cheney spread in the Middle East before Congress wakes up and blows the whistle?