by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 3, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1433)
The latest round of talks between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) held in Istanbul on April 14 ended with all sides proclaiming success.
There were two rounds of talks that lasted for a total of ten hours. After the first round, there were bilateral meetings between Iran and the other members, except the US. According to a PressTV report (April 15), the US twice requested a bilateral meeting but Iran’s representatives rejected it. Why the US was so anxious to meet Iranian representatives in a face-to-face bilateral meeting when publicly it has been issuing threats was not explained.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, acting as spokesperson for the P5+1 said after the meeting that the talks were “constructive and useful.” She also said that all sides agreed that talks must be held “within the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” a long held demand of Iran that the P5+1 have finally come around to not only accepting but also reiterating in public. She also said that it was agreed to hold the next round of talks in Baghdad on May 23 and that future meetings would be guided by “the principle of a step-by-step approach and reciprocity.” It was also emphasized that the talks would be “substantive.”
Dr. Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator and Secretary General of the country’s National Security Council was equally positive in his assessment of the talks and described them as “very successful.” In confirming Iran’s agreement to the venue for the next round of talks, Dr. Jalili emphasized that reciprocity was the key to success. What this meant was that for Iran to open its nuclear facilities for intrusive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and even accept Additional Protocols, Tehran expected the West led by the US to lift the illegal sanctions against Iran. Dr. Jalili made clear that Tehran would not yield to threats and that the language of discourse must be based on mutual respect. If the US and its allies were serious, they had to show reciprocity. This is what Ms. Ashton publicly confirmed at the conclusion of the talks.
Equally surprising was the statement by a White House spokesperson praising Iran’s “positive attitude” when in fact weeks prior to the resumption of talks, US officials had threatened “dire consequences” if Iran did not stop uranium enrichment. US President Barack Obama had gone so far as to demand that Iran must shut down the Fordow nuclear facility near Qom as reported by David E. Sanger and Steven Erlanger in the New York Times (4-7-2012). The Islamic Republic dismissed the demand as a “non-starter.” Ridiculing the US demand, Professor Stephen Walt, in an opinion piece in Foreign Policy magazine wrote: “I’d like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to each write me billion dollar checks. But I don't expect either of them to do this, yet the US and its allies seem to think this deal-breaking demand is a reasonable opening bid.” (4-9-2012).
The Americans, however, have been making conflicting statements. These clearly reflect their competing domestic constituencies rather than a policy position vis-à-vis Iran. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, for instance, said in a television interview in early March that Iran’s decision to make the bomb would be a “red line” for the US. He implicitly acknowledged Iran’s right to enrich uranium, a position consistently held and reiterated by the Islamic Republic that it has an inherent right under the NPT to enrich uranium. The Zionists, on the other hand, have been threatening to attack Iran if it acquired the “capability” to make the bomb. The Zionists do not have the ability to attack Iran. In any case, it would be suicidal for them to embark on such a course. Iran has the capacity to retaliate and hit hard; the Zionist State would be wiped out if it indulged in such foolishness but their rulers are not rational beings.
Hu Yumin, senior research fellow of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, writing in the China Daily, on 4-16-2012, said: “It is generally believed that Israeli air strikes would only delay Iran’s nuclear program rather than completely destroy its capacity to develop nuclear weapons, and that they would give Iran’s leaders the pretext to publicly commit to making nuclear weapons. This is not what the Obama administration wants.” Hu went on to say that rising oil prices are also a major challenge for Obama as he faces re-election in November. American commentators have warned about running against the “gas pump” (i.e., higher gas prices) that the gas guzzling American motorists are addicted to. Tensions with Iran have caused the price of oil to rise sharply. It will help Obama’s reelection bid if he were to bring down the price of oil by lowering the political temperature with Iran. But he faces the Zionist blackmailers that thrive on perpetual conflict and mayhem. How he handles them, and his equally obstreperous Republican rivals in this election year will determine whether Obama will get re-elected or end up as one-term president.
Prior to announcement of the date for Iran-P5+1 talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had visited the US in early March both to meet Obama as well as speak at the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention. This is the Zionists’ annual political blackmailing fest at which every American politician must pledge loyalty to the Zionist State ahead of the US and worship the Israeli golden calf. Obama, however, pre-empted Netan-yahu by declaring that there was still a chance for diplomacy to resolve the nuclear standoff with Iran. He framed the issue in terms of the US doing everything it can to stop Iran from “acquiring nuclear weapons,” much to the chagrin of the Zionist warmonger who wanted the US to prevent Iran from acquiring the know-how to make the bomb. Even Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a self-confessed admirer and best friend of Israel and of Netanyahu, rebuffed him in Ottawa on March 4 by insisting everything must be done to make diplomacy work with Iran. This is not what Netanyahu wanted to hear.
Obama’s most serious challenge in this election year is the economy that is largely dependent on gas prices. To show progress on this front, he must enter into honest negotiations with Iran. US unemployment remains disturbingly high and signs of improvement do not look good. These difficulties are compounded by the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the residual effects of war in Iraq that have dealt severe blows to the US economy. The US military is in no position to embark on new adventures, this time against Iran that would set the entire Muslim East ablaze. Should Obama allow himself to be pushed by the Zionists into such a misadventure, the price of oil would most likely shoot beyond the $200–300/barrel causing the price of gas at the pump to shoot beyond the reach of most Americans.
Unable to afford such high prices, mass starvation would set in because food delivery is dependent on transportation. That in turn is dependent on cheap gas prices. With transportation costs becoming prohibitively expensive to deliver food from one part of the country to the other, civil war is likely to break out as Americans fight over food. This may result in the disintegration of the US. Already, racist sentiment is running extremely high with shootings against blacks on the rise in southern states like Texas. The Republican Party and its Tea Party wing are stoking the flames of hatred against Obama (because he is black even if he has never been through the black experience having been raised in white households from his mother’s side) in this election year.
Obama has a simple and honorable option before him to overcome most of these problems that would most probably help his re-election bid as well: negotiate with Iran in good faith. As a first step, Obama must lift the illegal sanctions to demonstrate to the Islamic Republic that the US is serious and sincere about resolving the nuclear standoff. For its part, Tehran will reciprocate any gesture with an equally responsible gesture. The Islamic Republic has always negotiated in good faith; what it will not accept is bullying tactics or language. Its principled stance on the nuclear issue is proof of their determination, sincerity and transparency. They will never forego their rights guaranteed under the NPT.
Obama’s sincerity will be tested in the next round of talks in Baghdad on May 23. It was agreed during the Istanbul talks that experts from Iran and the P5+1 would meet to set the agenda and priorities to be pursued at the May 23 talks. Should there be goodwill and sincerity, there is no reason why progress cannot be made. One point should be absolutely clear to the US and its European allies: threats do not and will not work against the Islamic Republic and indeed against committed Muslims anywhere. The era of US bullying is over, as the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei has repeatedly pointed out. The political landscape of the Muslim East is changing rapidly and people are extricating themselves from the stifling influence of the US. The winds of change do not favour the US.
Obama may yet discover that the greatest obstacle to overcome is not Iran but his Zionist masters and Republican rivals (as per Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post, 4-17-2012) that are hell-bent on war even if they are not prepared to send their own sons and daughters to do the dying. Can Obama stand up to the racists and bigots in his own country and those in the illegitimate entity called Zionist Israel? The world will find out on May 23 in Baghdad. The outcome of that meeting may well determine whether Obama will go down as a one-term president or get re-elected in November.
Who says we are not living in interesting times?