Iran's Positive Response and the High Possibility of a Military Strike
Seymore Hersh's recent article regarding preparations for war against Iran and John McCain's adviser's recent remark on how a national security threat "would be a big advantage to McCain," are just two examples hinting that, still, many people in Washington and Tel Aviv are planning to paralyze the Iranian government before the new American president enters office next January.
Unexpectedly, even as prospects of negotiation over Iran's nuclear program seem more promising, the possibility of attacking Iran remains strong. Many believe that Iran's nuclear program is not the only concern the country poses to the West.
Regarding the 5+1 negotiations with Iran, it does not appear to be the American way to speak equally to all countries. For instance, a few months ago, a neo-conservative scholar on Iran told me that he believes the U.S. should scare Iranians to death before agreeing to sit behind the negotiations table.
Limited options exist in order to scare Iran to death. The United States and some of its allies in the Middle East have repeatedly accused Iranians of meddling in Iraq and have suggested Iranian forces are responsible for the deaths of some American troops in Iraq. This is something the current administration and mainstream media, supposedly, can use to rally support for another military strike.
That's why understanding the complex dynamic of the EU-Iran exchange is crucial at this time, especially before the general elections, given the possibility of a US-supported, Israeli-led attack against Iran.
At a United Nations press conference last Wednesday, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called the West's incentive package for stopping Iran's nuclear program "constructive" and called the atmosphere of the negotiations "respectful."
When I asked him if Iran would stop enriching uranium after a pre-negotiation phase, or after 40 days of freezing sanctions against Iran in response to Iran halting its enrichment program, Mottaki said in a positive tone that a response would soon be delivered to the Europeans.
The word "constructive" used by Iran's foreign minister shows that this time, the incentive package is not designed to fail. But any further unilateral action by any country that undermines the prospect of an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program and possibly other concerns of the West will lead the Middle East to hell. The region cannot withstand more reckless military action.
Based on what I heard in that press conference and what has been revealed in the past days, it appears that Iranians have agreed to not add to the current number of centrifuges in operation and to not inject any more centrifuges with hexafluoride gas an essential part of the uranium enrichment process. Spinning such a large number of centrifuges without gas supports the claims of Iranian authorities that the country intends to at least temporarily halt its nuclear program.
Iran's action fulfills the 5+1 countries' demand to stop enriching uranium and opens a door for further negotiations. It also allows Iran to save face among its people, who largely view the country's nuclear program as a matter of national pride.
Iranians have repeatedly said that halting enrichment would be a product of negotiation, not a pre-condition of it. Tehran's nuclear program has been a matter of national pride for many Iranians, and Tehran's "complicated response" to the EU package stems from a desire to compromise during the process, giving them more time to win popular domestic support for stopping the enrichment process.
That's why the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana described Tehran's response to the P5-plus-1 offer for halting uranium enrichment as a "complicated and difficult letter that must be thoroughly analyzed," (AFP). On Monday, three days after learning of Iran's response, Solana expressed a desire "to meet soon with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili."
European countries and the United States know that sanctions cannot destroy but only weaken Iran's vast economy, given that rising oil prices have tripled Iran's revenue during the past two years.
If negotiations do not work, it's not difficult to imagine how the end of adopting sanctions will lead to a military action against Tehran. No surprise when I asked Jean-Maurice Ripert, France's new ambassador to the United Nations, whether the EU would support military action against Iran, he replied: "It means all means that are decided by the Security Council," and repeated for emphasis a few more times, " I mean all means." Doesn't that sound familiar?