Thursday, November 14, 2013

Iranian Checkmate

by Rob Miller

What happened in Geneva depends a lot on whom you talk to.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's take on the matter is that the Iranians 'walked away' from the impending deal:
According to Mr. Kerry the P5+1 group, representing the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, were united when the proposed deal was presented to the Iranian negotiating team on Saturday.
"But Iran couldn't take it, at that particular moment they weren't able to accept," Mr Kerry said.
Our hope is that in the next months we can find an agreement that meets everyone's standards."
It appears that Mr. Kerry, who once spoke fluent French, has somehow lost that ability. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was publicly outspoken about France's opposition to the deal on the table, and refused to sign on. What the French wanted was the Iranians agreeing to halt work on their Arak heavy water reactor, which can produce plutonium and has no peaceful application. The French also insisted that the Iranians 'downblend' their stockpile of 20% uranium to 5%, which could still be used for nuclear fuel but was much further away from weaponization. The French also wanted the Iranians to cease enrichment during the talks, as well as far better plans for verification.

France's motivation for opposing the proposed deal was their country's own self interest, nothing more.

France has always had major trade and diplomatic interests in the Arab world, and they aspire to a larger role in the region, especially since the U.S. is retreating. And France has particularly close trade and security relationships with to Sunni Arab countries in the Middle East that oppose Iranian domination and a Shi'ite nuclear power. Saudi Arabia, for example, is the Middle East's foremost buyer of French arms. Last August, the French signed a €1 billion ($1.34 billion) defense contract with Saudi Arabia, which included overhaul work on four frigates and two refueling ships in the Saudi navy, and the French reportedly have arms sales contracts with other Sunni countries in the GCE and throughout the region. And the Saudis and others are investing heavily in France's farming, food and industrial sectors as well. Given France's economy, all this represents a substantial and important financial interest for the French. And in terms of their influence, a nuclear-armed Shi'ite Iran undermines France's longstanding Mediterranean Union' project with the Arab world. This explains why the French have consistently been fairly tough on Iran in general.

Also, France's stance on Iran is affected by domestic politics. Almost all of France's Muslims -- whom voted for the ruling Socialists and Hollande by a 90% margin or so -- are predominantly Sunni and fear Iran's dominance over Islam.

And while the French could hardly be said to be Israel's best friend, France and Israel have substantial trade relations as well as a number of French nationals who hold dual French-Israeli citizenship, which added up to one more reason to oppose a flawed deal that could have endangered France's interests in the region.

So when Secretary Kerry says that the P5+1 group were united.... we can only assume something got lost in translation.

And what do the Iranians themselves have to say about what went on in Geneva?

They're not talking about a 'walkout' at all, but presenting what happened in Geneva as a victory. As the Iranian government organ Fars reports, the Iranians consider what happened in Geneva as a win, and an important development. I can certainly see why.

The Iranians sat down with IAEA head Yukiya Amano and signed a joint statement that is being referred to as a roadmap for future cooperation in what Fars refers to as 'resolving the remaining issues between the two sides.'

Iran gave up absolutely nothing, and got, in exchange, 3 more months delay to put together a framework for the following:

1. Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Gahine mine in Bandar Abbas
2. Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Heavy Water Production Plant
3. Providing information on all new research reactors
4. Providing information with regard to the identification of 16 sites designated for the construction of nuclear power plants
5. Clarification of the announcement made by Iran regarding additional enrichment facilities
6. Further clarification of the announcement made by Iran with respect to laser enrichment technology

Nothing was said about allowing IAEA inspectors to visit the top secret Fordow Plant, or the Parshin military base, where it's been reported that tests involving weaponization have been performed. 

Not that it matters, really. In three months, the Iranians can clean up any evidence they need to, and the phrase 'managed access' should give you a pretty good idea of what the IAEA inspectors will be allowed to see. That is, if they're allowed to see anything. Three months gives Iran additional time to get to the point of no return when it comes to their goal of successfully obtaining nuclear weapons, and probably more, since the IAEA will need time to complete its report and present it to the UN. When the three-month period ends, the Iranians can simply 'negotiate' to stall for more time as needed, or simply blow off the IAEA roadmap entirely.

Meanwhile, rest assured that the Obama Administration will continue relaxing any enforcement of the sanctions as a 'confidence-building measure', as it has secretly for the past six months.

The three-month window also has the effect of making a diplomatic pariah out of any country -- say, Israel -- that chooses to end this farce by taking matters into its own hands to protect itself. 

So contrary to what being represented, the Iranians didn't walk away from anything. They simply ignored what was going on in Geneva, went through the UN's IAEA instead and pocketed a major win at no cost to themselves thank to Kerry and President Obama, a classic chess gambit from the country that invented the game.

At this point, Iran no longer needs an agreement. And what's more, they're not shy about threatening the Great Satan and laughing at what they see as America's weakness and impotence.

So far, it appears they're absolutely right to do so.

Rob Miller writes for Joshuapundit. His work has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, YNET, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The San Francisco Chronicle, Real Clear Politics, Andrew Breitbart.Com's Big Peace and other publications.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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