Monday, November 16, 2009

an enriching engagement with iran.

an op-ed i wrote on iran...

An Enriching Engagement with Iran

Iran is having a blast stringing nuclear negotiations along, but this isn’t your typical bazaar negotiation and the world’s patience should rightly be wearing thin. Iran has a rare opportunity for a détente with the West, and opportunity is knocking hard, but Iran seems content to keep the world waiting for its ultimate response. The Obama administration has ushered in a unique US attempt to engage Iran with remarkable patience, but at this point, that patience is bordering on naïve.

Iran has a history of deceptively flouting international agreements. An Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, revealed the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak. In the run-up to the current negotiations, Iran was forced to admit the existence of yet another nuclear enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom. All of these revelations fly in the face of Iran’s obligation to notify the IAEA according to international agreements. Ongoing government-sponsored chants of “death to America” probably haven’t helped much either.

The revelation of Iran’s most recent deception has provoked stronger resolve in the West and a much tougher stance from the UK, France, and Germany. It has persuaded even its more amicable partners to reconsider their stance on the nuclear issue. Russia, one of the first nations to recognize Ahmadinejad after his joke of an electoral victory, has implicitly understood that Iran must make concessions by backing the IAEA deal.

The deal would have Iran outsource the most suspect phase of the uranium enrichment process to Russia and France, by shipping its low-enriched uranium to be further enriched abroad and returned to Iran as fuel for a nuclear medicine facility. One primary purpose of the deal is to remove enough of Iran’s uranium to bring the amount below the “breakout threshold,” the amount needed to produce a nuclear weapon, but Iran has indicated it will not agree to ship that amount of uranium all at once. Iran has instead proposed multiple shipments over time, negating one of the deal’s primary functions, the ability to deprive Iran of the threshold.

Iran is stringing the international community along for a ride, pushing back and ignoring deadlines, and it is getting away with it. The only consequence so far has been more time for Iran to continue its nuclear program. The original deadline for Iran to respond to the IAEA draft proposal was October 24th, but Iran is still equivocating and has not provided an official response. In the meantime, Iran’s conservative leaders have continued their game of “who can be more anti-Western,” which now has the parliament engaged in a variant of this game called “who can be more anti-UN brokered nuclear compromise.”

Enough is enough. As persistent opposition protests continue, an illegitimate regime is having a blast stringing the world along, and even the Iranian opposition movement is getting fed up. Iranian protestors hijacked the government-sponsored rally celebrating the taking of US hostages to chant “Obama, are you with them or are you with us?” It’s time to give Iran real consequences for its continued deception.