- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The contrast between the speeches delivered Tuesday by President Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could hardly have been more stark. Mr. Bush delivered an upbeat, even Reaganesque vision of freedom for the people of the Middle East. Later that day, Mr. Ahmadinejad delivered his response, a bellicose attack on the legitimacy of the United Nations and the Security Council, in which he derided the United Nations as tools of the United States, Israel and other malefactors. Although the Iranian leader’s remarks hardly suggest any basis for serious discussions about ending Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons programs, other Security Council members are not about to let the real world interfere with the notion that virtually all differences with rogue states can be resolved at the negotiating table.

Thus far, negotiations and diplomacy have yielded little of substance. Iran defied a Security Council resolution requiring that it halt uranium enrichment by Aug. 31. For months, U.S. policy-makers have suggested that, if Iranian defiance continued, that Washington would be able to persuade our allies and key Security Council members like Russia and China to support sanctions. French President Jacques Chirac appeared to throw a monkey wrench into those plans on Monday, suggesting that the Security Council members and Iran should enter into broad negotiations on economic and diplomatic issues. Under the Chirac proposal, Iran would announce that it had suspended uranium enrichment — without any verification that it had actually done so. In exchange for this “compromise,” the Security Council members would agree not to seek sanctions against Iran.

It appears that for now, Mr. Chirac, Russia and China have gotten their way on the most critical point: Tehran will not face sanctions. On Tuesday night, the five permanent members of the Security Council, along with Italy and Germany, met to discuss the Iran nuclear issue. The meeting ended with Washington backing a plan for yet another round of negotiations with Iran. Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said that negotiations would be conducted later this week between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. If the Iranians agree to “verifiably”suspend their enrichment program, Mr. Burns said later, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would personally attend the launching of broader negotiations on improving ties between the West and the Iranian regime.

It is difficult to see how this is supposed to work. What happens if Iran, after briefly halting uranium enrichment, decides to resume the process? In such a circumnstance, can we count on Mr. Chirac, and for that matter, Moscow and Beijing, to slap sanctions on Iran, or would they come up with new reasons for not doing so? Would Iran be required to halt its support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups as a condition for “broader” negotiations? How would this be enforced? Would the West be expected to oppose the concept of democratic regime change for Iran? Without detailed answers to such questions, it appears that the administration, faced with intense opposition, is searching for a face-saving way to back away from sanctions.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide