Radio France Internationale - Analysis
US-Iran Nuclear Negotiations
Exhausting other Options, Bush
Administration turns to Diplomacy
RFI: The United Status surprised many
around the world when it announced that a high level official of the US
State Department will for the first time attend international
negotiations with Iran this coming weekend.
The Under Secretary
of State William Burns will attend, along with
top European Union diplomat Javier Solana, a
planned meeting with the principal Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed
Jalili Saturday in Geneva.
The objective of these contacts, other participants include France,
Great Britain, Germany, Russia and China, is that Iran abandon its
nuclear program which the West charges is for making
Until now Washington rejected directly
attending talks while Iran
engaged in uranium enrichment. The participation of Burns
represents a change. A change which has diverse explanations, according
to Grant Smith, Director of the IRmep, a center of independent analysis
headquartered in Washington.
Grant F. Smith: Yes, it is a change in the Bush administration's
position, which until now was that suspension of uranium enrichment
the Iran's price of admission to
Iran has not done that, obviously, but neither is there much
hard evidence that Iran is enriching to levels
sufficient for nuclear arms. So the Bush administration is making a
U-turn towards what appears to be
RFI: How large and significant is this change. Does it represent
a change in policy or a change in White House strategy?
Grant Smith: It is a forced change. We've seen Iran become very
explicit about responding
to threats: they will not accept a limited
attack or an air raid, without burning down
the entire region. They are now militarilly
committed to suspending all traffic in the Gulf. So
it is now very clear that there is no way to incrementally raise
the pressure on Iran with limited military
So Bush has two real options. Authorize a
massive military attack comprised of forces
much larger than he committed to Iraq, or return to the negotiating
table. At this moment, they are opening maneuvering room, again for the
first time, for the diplomatic option. It is because they have no other
options. If they don't want to see petroleum reach a thousand dollars
per barrel and see refining and transport infrastructure in the Gulf
destroyed then they basically must sit down
RFI: But the United States has said that the
Under Secretary of State, William Burns, is not going to
participate in this as a negotiator or meet separately with the Iranian
So can we really call this a negotiation?
Grant Smith: If he is at the same table with Saeed Jalili, the
Iranian negotiator, it doesn't matter if they speak directly. Although I
think that they will, at some point, talk directly. The administration
can say what it wants, but accepting negotiations, only to say
"we're not going to talk to the Iranians"
is just trying to save face and maintain a little dignity in the midst
of a painfully public reversal.
I think we can now count on direct high level communications on this
RFI: These talks are occurring at a time when
rumors are circulating that in exchange for Iran
freezing enrichment the US will drop sanctions against Iran.
Is that possible?
Grant Smith: Sure, it's entirely possible. Look at the history of
Nixon and Kissinger opening relations with China. Many times there are
public moves that partially mask intense
private diplomatic dealings. It is perfectly rational to think there are
negotiations because as we've heard, the rumors include reopening a
facility, an office, or some type of presence for US diplomats in Iran.
I think it is perfectly logical to assume, given the level of crisis,
that private diplomatic initiatives have
already been advanced.
RFI: And lastly do you think the Bush administration's changing
posture has anything to do with the approaching presidential elections
Grant Smith: The Bush administration simply can't pass such an
immense and festering question mark on to the
next administration. They have to make sure the issue is
both more manageable and moving in a positive
direction. They can't simply pass what is almost an undeclared war on to
the next President. They have to be more reasonable. They have to be
more responsible than that for the sake of the elections.
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