Monday, September 19, 2005

Iran's President does what U.S. diplomacy could not

In a great victory for diplomacy and after after two years of six-nation talks, North korea has finally agreed to stop building nuclear weapons and allow international inspections in exchange for energy aid, economic cooperation and security assurances AP reports.

In the mean time, thanks to Iranian president and his foreign policy team (if there is any), a new international crisis seems to be in the offing as one begins to subside. Here are some excerpts from a great analysis in today's Washington Post, regarding Ahmadinejad's aggressive speech on saturday and the consequences that can result from it for Iran in the days ahead:

NEW YORK, Sept. 18 -- Five weeks ago, Iran's new president bought his country some time. Facing mounting criticism after walking away from negotiations with Europe and restarting part of Iran's nuclear program, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked the world to withhold diplomatic pressure while he put together new proposals.

On Saturday, dozens of international diplomats, including the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, gathered at the United Nations to hear how Ahmadinejad planned to stave off a crisis.

Instead his speech, followed by a confused hour-long news conference, was able to do what weeks of high-level U.S. diplomacy had not: convince skeptical allies that Iran may, in fact, use its nuclear energy program to build atomic bombs.

Ahmadinejad appeared to threaten as much when he warned from the General Assembly podium that in the face of U.S. provocation, "we will reconsider our entire approach to the nuclear issue."

Senior European diplomats said immediately afterward that the speech had been "unhelpful." In fact, the opposite may be true.

"The effect of that speech will likely be a toughening of the international response to Iran because it was seen by so many countries as overly harsh, negative and uncompromising," Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said in an interview Sunday. "The strategic aim of a great many countries is to see Iran suspend its nuclear program and return to peaceful negotiations with the Europeans."

A European diplomat, who could discuss strategy only on the condition of anonymity, echoed Burns's remarks."There's no question this will make our case stronger and our task easier," when board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency meet Monday in Vienna to discuss Iran's case.

During his 25 minutes Saturday, Ahmadinejad delivered what began as a sermon praising the prophets of Islam, Christianity and Judaism and then descended into anti-American vitriol, conspiracy theories and threats.

He expressed doubt that the deadly attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, were really carried out by terrorists. He said Americans had brought the devastation of Hurricane Katrina upon themselves and that the U.S. military was purposely poisoning its own troops in Iraq.

...Burns met with British, German and French officials on Sunday in New York to discuss ways to bring around enough members of the IAEA board to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the authority to impose sanctions.

The United States has long advocated such a strategy but still does not have the support of India, Russia or China, or a "next steps" policy if the matter does end up in the Security Council.
Diplomats who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the most likely outcome of the week-long meeting in Vienna would be a deadline resolution giving Iran several weeks to reverse course and demonstrate transparency with U.N. nuclear inspectors, or face the consequences of Security Council action...