[Marxism] Realist turn on Iran

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 16 17:07:06 MDT 2008

NY Times, July 17, 2008
News Analysis
Policy Shift Seen in U.S. Decision on Iran Talks

PARIS — The decision by the Bush administration to send a senior 
American official to participate in international talks with Iran 
this weekend reflects a double policy shift in the struggle to 
resolve the impasse over the country's nuclear program.

First, the Bush administration has decided to abandon its 
longstanding position that it will only meet face-to-face with Iran 
after it first suspends uranium enrichment as demanded by the United 
Nations Security Council.

Second, it infuses the negotiating track between Iran on the one side 
and the six global powers — France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China 
and the United States — on the other with new importance, even though 
their official stance is that no substantive talks can begin until 
the uranium enrichment stops.

The presence of William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for 
political affairs, at the meeting led by Javier Solana, the European 
Union foreign policy chief, and Saeed Jalili, Iran's nuclear 
negotiator, in Geneva on Saturday brings with it both symbolic and 
substantive significance.

All of the Bush administration's negotiating partners, particularly 
the Europeans and the Russians, have been pressing Washington to join 
the talks. They welcomed the decision to send Mr. Burns as an 
important signal by the Bush administration, in its final months in 
office, that it is seeking a peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis 
and not moving toward military action against Iran.

"We are awaiting the formal announcement from Washington, and if this 
is the case, we are very pleased by the administration's decision," 
said Cristina Gallach, Mr. Solana's spokesman, in a telephone 
interview. "It is a clear signal to the Iranians of the engagement of 
the United States and its commitment to pursue a negotiated solution. 
At the same time, it is a clear message to the Iranians of the 
seriousness of this exercise."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed Mr. Solana by phone on 
Tuesday of the decision to send Mr. Burns, the State Department's 
third-ranking official, to the talks, according to European officials 
who spoke on condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic rules.

The officials added that the mere presence of an American at the 
table will help to still the rhetoric of those calling for military 
action against Iran because of both its recent expansion of its 
uranium enrichment program and its unwillingness to cooperate more 
fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency on explaining 
suspicious past nuclear activities.

Mr. Burns will neither meet privately nor negotiate directly with Mr. 
Jalili, administration and European officials said. They expect his 
attendance to be a one-time event in what are being described as 
"pre-negotiations" on the shape and timing of more substantive talks. 
Ms. Rice told Mr. Solana that Mr. Burns would be there "to listen," 
one official added.

In Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader and the 
country's ultimate authority, said on Wednesday on state television 
that his country would not bow to any threat made during 
negotiations, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Iran has decided to take part in negotiations but it will not accept 
any threat," the ayatollah was quoted as saying. He added, "Our red 
lines are clear and if the other parties respect the Iranian people, 
the dignity of the Islamic republic and these red lines, our 
officials will negotiate as long as no one makes any threats against Iran."

Iran repeatedly has made clear that its "red lines" refer to its 
insistence that it has the right to peaceful nuclear energy as a 
signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the 
enrichment of uranium.

American and Iranian envoys, including the American ambassador to 
Iraq, Ryan Crocker, have met episodically in several face-to-face 
talks in Baghdad in an effort to discuss areas of common concern over Iraq.

But there have been very few other direct encounters between American 
and Iranian officials since relations between the two countries were 
severed following Iran's seizure of the U.S. Embassy in late 1979 and 
its 15-month holding of 52 American hostages.

During the hostage crisis, President Carter once secretly sent 
Hamilton Jordan, his chief of staff, dressed in disguise as part of a 
parade of potential negotiators.

In 1986, President Reagan sent his former national security adviser, 
Robert C. McFarlane, on a secret arms-for hostages mission to Iran 
bearing gifts: a key-shaped chocolate cake from a kosher bakery in 
Tel Aviv and a Bible which Mr. Reagan had inscribed with a New 
Testament passage.

There were also unannounced mid-level contacts involving American and 
Iranian officials on the sidelines of six-country talks on 
Afghanistan in Geneva several years ago.

The one-day meeting in Geneva in a location to be arranged by the 
Swiss government will include the political directors of the five 
other countries involved in the Iran talks.

Earlier this month, Iran formally responded to a proposal of broad 
political and economic incentives by the six powers aimed at 
resolving the nuclear impasse, but ignored the key issue of its 
uranium enrichment activities.

Instead, the response, which came in a letter by Iran's Foreign 
Minister Manouchehr Mottaki addressed to Mr. Solana and the six world 
powers, said that Iran would be willing to open a comprehensive 
negotiation with them.

That the letter was also addressed to Ms. Rice as well as the foreign 
ministers of the five other countries was seen as a sign of Iran's 
willingness to engage directly with the United States and may have 
factored into the American decision to send Mr. Burns.

The letter, which has not been made public, said Iran's policy on 
negotiations over its nuclear program was to "find common ground 
through logical and constructive actions" and a "positive attitude." 
It also noted that there were "certain similarities" between a letter 
Mr. Mottaki presented to the United Nations earlier this year and the 
one presented as part of the incentives initiative last month by the 
six powers.

The letter also criticized Security Council sanctions against Iran as 
"illegal," adding, "The time for negotiating from the condescending 
position of inequality has come to an end," the Iranian response 
said, according to officials who have seen the document.

The letter was clearly aimed at getting a negotiating process 
started, and the six powers were not in a position to say no.

Under the incentives proposal offered to Iran, the two sides would 
agree to a mutual "freeze for freeze" under which Iran would not 
increas uranium enrichment activities and the six powers would not 
seek more international sanctions.

During this period, the two sides would work out the shape of further 
negotiations. For substantive negotiations to start, Iran first will 
have to halt its production of enriched uranium, which, depending on 
the enrichment level, can be used to produce electricity or fuel bombs.

On Monday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran said that in the 
meeting this weekend, the two sides would discuss a "timetable" 
lasting a certain number of weeks in an effort to break the deadlock.

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