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PM's Frustration With Diplomacy Vindicated as EU Reengages Iran

Iran is getting another reprieve to advance with her nuclear program from P5+1. It will be hard for Israel to act unilaterally.
By Dr. Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 3/6/2012, 8:31 PM

Catherine Ashton
Catherine Ashton
Reuters

Speaking last night at the AIPAC Conference, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu voiced his frustration at the meager results of diplomacy with Iran. 

For the last decade, the international community has tried diplomacy. It hasn’t worked. Today Baroness Catherine Ashton announced on behalf of the 5 permanent Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1) that the international community was going back to still more diplomacy. Ashton was responding to a letter from Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. Jalili wrote to Ashton last month asking for talks at the "earliest" opportunity.

"I would propose that we resume our talks at a mutually convenient date and venue as soon as possible," said the EU "Foreign Minister."

This pre-negotiation will take a couple of weeks at least. Ashton warned Iran that the talks must be aimed at "producing concrete results" and not repeat the failed talks of the past.

The nuclear talks were the key issue, announced Ashton, although the talks could address other issues as well. The Iranians undoubtedly will say that by allowing inspectors into the Parchin facility, something that Iran refused in January and February, it was already contributing a confidence building gesture.

Such permission, said the Iranians, would not be granted repeatedly and therefore the International Atomic Energy Agency would have to combine all the issues that it wanted to inspect at the facility - and then Iran and the IAEA would have to agree on the conditions..

Even skeptical diplomats who could not fathom why the talks would succeed this time when they had failed in previous rounds at Geneva and Istanbul ,claimed that they were ready to engage with Iran and if the Iranians were serious this could lead to 3 rounds of talks.

British foreign Secretary William Hague justified the decision "We all agree that the international community should demonstrate its commitment to a diplomatic solution by acknowledging Iran's agreement to meet, by testing its desire to talk and by offering it the opportunity to respond to our legitimate concerns about its nuclear intentions," Hague said.

The White House voiced its skepticism about the Iranian turnaround on Parchin

“On both visits, IAEA officials asked, as a initial goodwill gesture on the part of Iran to demonstrate its readiness to cooperate, to visit the Parchin military site, where alleged high explosives experiments occurred. On both occasions, Iran rejected this request.”

The spokesman continued: “While we are pleased that Iran has finally agreed, in principle, to permit the IAEA to visit this site, we note that Iran has already stated that ‘guidelines’ for any visit must be agreed upon.

It is all well and good that the White House is voicing skepticism aloud, but Ashton could not have spoken for the United States without Washington's agreement. This is the price of the administration's policy of maintaining as broad a coalition as possible; this means that the far less resolute Europeans must be consulted, let alone Iran's lawyers in Moscow and Beijing.

This also explains why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell received a standing ovation at AIPAC when he announced: "If at any time the intelligence community presents the Congress with an assessment that Iran has begun to enrich uranium to weapons grade levels, or has taken a decision to develop a nuclear weapon — consistent with protecting classified sources and methods — I will consult with the President and joint congressional leadership and introduce before the Senate an authorization for the use of military force."

McConnel''s proposal satisfies Israel's requirements as enunciated on Israel Radio today by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. Steinitz referred to a nuclear intersection that Iran was trying to cross and he wanted to be secure in the knowledge that an American truck would block the intersection to prevent Iran from obtaining its objective.

It will be hard for Israel to attack Iran while the talks are proceeding. Israel will then be accused of failing to give peace a chance.

Now the question will be whether a cutoff date exists if no progress is attained,  or whether Iran will be able to string things out while the centrifuges spin.