[Marxism] NYT: US may drop key condition for talks with Iran

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Apr 14 08:42:48 MDT 2009


The president may be probing whether he can win a public war with the
"Israel Lobby", which is also a significant imperialist-backed US lobby and
the related networks that dominated foreign policy during the Bush, and to a
lesser extent under the Bush I and Clinton years. 

Are they strong enough in the country, and do they have the innards to win
such a fight. Only time will tell. At issue of course is not whether the US
government will pursue an imperialist course, but the details. Imperialists
have killed over less. I make no predictions.
Fred Feldman

April 14, 2009
U.S. May Drop Key Condition for Talks With Iran 
By DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration and its European allies are preparing
proposals that would shift strategy toward Iran by dropping a longstanding
American insistence that Tehran rapidly shut downaalear facilities during
the early phases of negotiations over its atomic program, according to
officials involved in the discussions.

The proposals, exchanged in confidential strategy sessions with European
allies, would press Tehran to open up its nuclear program gradually to
wide-ranging inspection. But the proposals would also allow Iran to continue
enriching uranium for some period during the talks. That would be a sharp
break from the approach taken by the Bush administration, which had demanded
that Iran halt its enrichment activities, at least briefly to initiate
negotiations. 

The proposals under consideration would go somewhat beyond President Obama's
promise, during the presidential campaign, to open negotiations with Iran
"without preconditions." Officials involved in the discussion said they were
being fashioned to draw Iran into nuclear talks that it had so far shunned. 

A review of Iran policy that Mr. Obama ordered after taking office is still
under way, and aides say it is not clear how long he would be willing to
allow Iran to continue its fuel production, and at what pace. But European
officials said there was general agreement that Iran would not accept the
kind of immediate shutdown of its facilities that the Bush administration
had demanded. 

"We have all agreed that is simply not going to work - experience tells us
the Iranians are not going to buy it," said a senior European official
involved in the strategy sessions with the Obama administration. "So we are
going to start with some interim steps, to build a little trust." 

Administration officials declined to discuss details of their confidential
deliberations, but said that any new American policy would ultimately
require Iran to cease enrichment, as demanded by several United Nations
Security Council resolutions. 

"Our goal remains exactly what it has been in the U.N. resolutions:
suspension," one senior administration official said. Another official
cautioned that "we are still at the brainstorming level" and said the terms
of an opening proposal to Iran were still being debated.

If the United States and its allies allow Iran to continue enriching uranium
for a number of months, or longer, the approach is bound to meet objections,
from both conservatives in the United States and from the new Israeli
government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

If Mr. Obama signed off on the new negotiating approach, the United States
and its European allies would use new negotiating sessions with Iran to
press for interim steps toward suspension of its nuclear activities,
starting with allowing international inspectors into sites from which they
have been barred for several years.

First among them is a large manufacturing site in downtown Tehran, a former
clock factory, where Iran is producing many of the next-generation
centrifuges that it is installing in the underground plant at Natanz. "The
facility is very large," one United Nations inspector said last week, "and
we have not been inside since last summer."

Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the United Nations' International
Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors would be a critical part of the
strategy, said in an interview in his office in Vienna last week that the
Obama administration had not consulted him on the details of a new strategy.
But he was blistering about the approach that the Bush administration had
taken.

"It was a ridiculous approach," he insisted. "They thought that if you
threatened enough and pounded the table and sent Cheney off to act like
Darth Vader the Iranians would just stop," Dr. ElBaradei said, shaking his
head. "If the goal was to make sure that Iran would not have the knowledge
and the capability to manufacture nuclear fuel, we had a policy that was a
total failure."

Now, he contended, Mr. Obama has little choice but to accept the reality
that Iran has "built 5,500 centrifuges," nearly enough to make two weapons'
worth of uranium each year. "You have to design an approach that is
sensitive to Iran's pride," said Dr. ElBaradei, who has long argued in favor
of allowing Iran to continue with a small, face-saving capacity to enrich
nuclear fuel, under strict inspection. 

By contrast, in warning against a more flexible American approach, a senior
Israeli with access to the intelligence on Iran said during a recent visit
to Washington that Mr. Obama had only until the fall or the end of the year
to "completely end" the production of uranium in Iran. The official made it
clear that after that point, Israel might revive its efforts to take out the
Natanz plant by force.

A year ago, Israeli officials secretly came to the Bush administration
seeking the bunker-destroying bombs, refueling capability and overflight
rights over Iraq that it would need to execute such an attack. President
George W. Bush deflected the proposal. An Obama administration official said
"they have not been back with that request," but added that "we don't think
their threats are just huffing and puffing."

Israeli officials and some American intelligence officials say they suspect
that Iran has other hidden facilities that could be used to enrich uranium,
a suspicion explored in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. But
while that classified estimate referred to 10 or 15 suspect sites, officials
say no solid evidence has emerged of hidden activity. 

"Frankly," said one administration official, "what's most valuable to us now
is having real freedom for the inspectors to pursue their suspicions around
the country.

"We know what's happening at Natanz," said the official, noting that every
few weeks inspectors are in and out of the plant. "It's the rest of the
country we're most worried about." 

Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at the Belfer Center at Harvard University,
said in a interview on Monday that the Obama administration had some
latitude in defining what constitutes "suspension" of nuclear work.

One possibility, he said, was "what you call warm shutdown," in which the
centrifuges keep spinning, but not producing new enriched uranium, akin to
leaving a car running, but in park. 

That would allow both sides to claim victory: the Iranians could claim they
had resisted American efforts to shut down the program, while the Americans
and Europeans could declare that they had halted the stockpiling of material
that could be used to produce weapons.

"The hard part of these negotiations is how to convince everyone that there
are no covert sites," Mr. Bunn said. 







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