U.S., German and other politicians have urged the Bush administration to participate in direct negotiations with Iran. Now the Houston Chronicle has some good breaking news to report:
In a major policy shift, the United States said Wednesday it is prepared to join other nations in holding direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program if Iran first agrees to stop disputed nuclear activities that the West fears could lead to a bomb. "To underscore our commitment to a diplomatic solution and to enhance prospects for success, as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at the State Department.On Sunday Joschka Fischer, Germany's foreign minister from 1998-2005, expressed his concern that time is running out for a diplomatic solution. Writing for the Washington Post, he explains why the European negotiations with Iran failed and why the U.S. has to offer security guarantees in harmonized direct negotiations with Iran. The Iranian Kaveh Afrasiabi is skeptical, but praises Germany's critical role in the Iran negotiations. Following are some quotes from both:
Joschka Fischer gives these reasons, why the EU-3 negotiations with Iran failed:
First, the European offer to open up technology and trade, including the peaceful use of nuclear technology, was disproportionate to Iran's fundamental fear of regime change on the one hand and its regional hegemonic aspirations and quest for global prestige on the other.According to Fischer the debate about the military option "rings of a self-fulfilling prophecy." Besides, "as a victim of foreign aggression, Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions would be fully legitimized. Finally, a military attack on Iran would mark the beginning of a regional, and possibly global, military and terrorist escalation -- a nightmare for all concerned." Therefore, he suggests a grand bargain:
Second, the disastrous U.S.-led war in Iraq has caused Iran's leaders to conclude that the leading Western power has been weakened to the point that it is dependent on Iran's goodwill and that high oil prices have made the West all the more wary of a serious confrontation.
The Iranian regime's analysis may prove to be a dangerous miscalculation, because it is likely to lead sooner rather than later to a "hot" confrontation that Iran simply cannot win. After all, the issue at the heart of this conflict is this: Who dominates the Middle East -- Iran or the United States?
In exchange for long-term suspension of uranium enrichment, Iran and other states would gain access to research and technology within an internationally defined framework and under comprehensive supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Full normalization of political and economic relations would follow, including binding security guarantees upon agreement of a regional security design.If Tehran rejects this offer, then the West should isolate Iran economically, financially, technologically and diplomatically, although this means rising oil and gas prices. Since a military confrontation would have "potentially horrible consequences", the United States must abandon its hope for regime change and instead:
must lead the Western initiative in harmonized, direct negotiations with Iran, and, if these negotiations succeed, the United States must also be willing to agree to appropriate guarantees.An offer of a "grand bargain" would unite the international community and present Iran with a convincing alternative. "Were Iran to accept, its suspension of nuclear research in Natanz while negotiations are ongoing would be the litmus test of its sincerity."
Kaveh Afrasiabi, who has taught Poltical Science at Tehran University and is a former consultant to UN's program of Dialogue Among Civilizations and a consultant to CBS' 60 Minutes, considers the European suggestion of Iran's inclusion in any regional security infrastructure "naive and simplistic":
The main reason the US is incapable of formulating an Iran-inclusive security framework in the Persian Gulf is precisely because the operation of Iranian power in the oil region works against the United States' interventionist policies aimed at controlling the access and flow of the strategic commodity relied on by the industrial world, that is, oil and gas. That is precisely why the US quest for regime change in Iran will never completely disappear, no matter what deals are brokered on the nuclear front.Writing for the Asia Times, Dr. Afrasiabi describes Germany's past and present efforts to solve the Iranian nuclear issue and opines:
While still short of the formal veto power, the historical precedence set by Germany's critical role in the Iran crisis will undoubtedly be an important catalyst in paving the road for Germany's eventual inclusion in the Security Council's exclusive club, which is now limited to the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia. This depends to some extent on the global perception of how Germany plays its diplomatic card with regard to Iran. A compliant Germany, subservient to the policy dictates of Washington, is unlikely to receive much backing from the other powers in its current bid to gain a permanent seat at the Security Council. On the other hand, an independent, self-generating diplomacy, based on Germany's, and the European Union's, calculations of risks and benefits, will have the opposite effect. So far, Germany is evincing a middle position, where signs of autonomous diplomacy and old US dependency converge. (...)
The crucial question at this critical juncture is whether or not trans-Atlantic considerations and US pressure will impede or neutralize the present drift of Germany toward finding its own voice on Iran.