Six nations are heading to Baghdad this week to meet with Iran about its relentless drive for nuclear weapons. This was teed up by their meeting this spring in Istanbul. The idea is to get Iran, at a minimum, to stop enriching uranium to a level necessary for bombs, four times more potent than what is needed for peaceful purposes. Also on the agenda is getting Iran to let inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect a plant that may be involved in testing. Economic sanctions to aid in the persuasion have been in place for a while and are due to increase in intensity this fall.
What’s most puzzling are the different interpretations of where the perilous relationship with Iran is and what outcome can realistically be expected of this week’s talks. Many Western observers are optimistic that the sanctions are really working and that Iran may be conciliatory this time around. But the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a valuable resource that translates documents and public statments from the region into English, reports that Iran has already claimed bragging rights from dragging out the time for negotiations and even having the meeting in Baghdad.
Iranian officials writing in The Washington Post have called the negotiations “a process, not an event,” suggesting that we’ll not be treated to any immediate success. Indeed, quotes from Iranian officials seem to indicate that Iran is looking for a lifting sanctions first as a way of building trust among nations. Iran is crowing that the United States, Germany, France, Great Britain, China and Russia have showed a willingness to allow Iran to enrich to a low (5 percent purity) level rather than eliminate all enrichment, as resolved by the United Nations.
MEMRI debunks the notion, claimed by certain Iranian officials, that Islam forbids weapons of mass destruction. One hopes that Obama Administration officials weren’t snookered by that one. MEMRI also reminds us of taqiyya by (Shi’ite) Muslims towards non-Muslims, justifying the telling of lies if doing so serves to defend Muslim interests.
We also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that, in the context of the Ayatollah Khameini, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as loathesome as he is, is more moderate than the Ayatollah.
We should hope for the best to come out of this week’s meeting but not be buoyed by unrealistic expectations. We should verifiy before trusting. Sanctions, which have started to bite the Iranian economy, should not be diluted without enforceable, measurable change.
For the most part, Republicans and Democrats alike agree that a policy of containment of Iran’s nuclear ambitions after it has gotten its way with uranium enrichment is no policy at all. There’s also substantial agreement that “all options are on the table,” by implication including military options. Ending enrichment programs, verified by visits from the IAEA, is the best way to avoid the situation’s ever coming to that.