Efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the disputed Iranian nuclear program appeared to receive some momentum on Tuesday when the group of six global powers that suspended talks with Iran in frustration more than a year ago formally agreed to accept Iran’s offer to resume discussions.
The agreement on the talks was made known in a statement from the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, acting on behalf of the six powers — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain — and Germany [...]
There were conflicting reports on Tuesday about Iran’s readiness to permit inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear supervisory body, to visit a secret military complex to which they have been denied access. An Iranian news agency, ISNA, said that Iran had reversed its refusal to permit I.A.E.A. inspectors to visit the complex at Parchin, southeast of Tehran.
But a news release from Iran’s representatives at the I.A.E.A. headquarters in Vienna suggested that the offer was conditional, preliminary and limited to only two of the five areas that the agency’s experts wished to investigate. It also accused the agency of ignoring an agreement to postpone its request to visit the secret site at Parchin until after a meeting this week of the agency’s board of governors.
If the inspections go through in addition to the talks, we’re seeing at least some intent to let diplomacy work. We’ll have to see how the IAEA reacts to this characterization of the agreement.
However, I do fear that, while President Obama had the clear goal of stopping Israel’s rush toward unilateral action, he may have chosen a middle course that will constrain him down the road, as Michael Tomasky explains:
We are going to war with Iran. Maybe not by November, maybe not even under this president. But just because I added that last phrase, don’t dismiss this lightly. The central fact of this past week, which seems to have escaped everyone’s attention (which itself boggles my mind), is that Barack Obama, in his speech to AIPAC Sunday, as in his interview with Jeff Goldberg before it, all but made war someday inevitable. How? By saying that containment of a nuclear Iran was not an option. Americans need to be clear on the full implications of this statement [...]
The important part of the speech, the sentences that historians might be ruing and Americans regretting 15 years from now, was this: “Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”
Here’s why this is important. Ironclad vows like this tend to lock a nation into a position from which it cannot later retreat. If you were already thinking “Truman Doctrine,” give yourself a point.
Tomasky goes on to explain how the Truman Doctrine committed the US to action in Vietnam, and how a stated policy against containment lays the groundwork for war. Paul Pillar, in a provocative piece for the Washington Monthly, looks at what a containment strategy would look like in practice, arguing specifically that “we can live with a nuclear Iran.” But we may have already gone past that point. Israel, the US, and the discussion around this topic has raised the stakes to the point that even a minor incident would lead to war, and it’s all based on a faulty premise, that Iran with nuclear weapons would somehow be an apocalyptic scenario. Pillar begs to differ, but sadly, perception is reality in this case.
Certainly, the Republican candidates for President wouldn’t back down from a “no containment strategy.” They’re actually aping the Administration’s strategy when it comes to Iran, while pestering him for being “weak” on the issue, which just feeds more belligerence. There couldn’t be a worse possible time for the world for all this war talk. And while by deed, Obama wants to put out the near-term fire of unilateral Israeli action, by words, he may have committed the US to an inevitable conflict.