Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Continuing the Negotiation...

The Obama administration announced Tuesday morning that it had struck a deal with other major powers, including Russia and China, to impose new sanctions on Iran, a sharp repudiation of the deal Tehran offered just a day before to ship its nuclear fuel out of the country.
The first part of that sentence is news. The second part is...Peter Baker? The Times editorial board? David Sanger?

It's too bad that the Times chose to frame this story that way. Or perhaps it makes the negotiation more effective.

Brazil and Turkey persuaded Iran to agree to a modification of the deal that has been on the table for some time, and now a sanctions agreement is announced? There are other interpretations beyond repudiation of the deal. It's not clear to me from the quotes that this is not a continuation of the negotiations; unfortunately, the Times quotes from Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton are fragmentary enough that it's hard to tell what she actually said. We also do not know what Brazil and Turkey are being told behind the scenes.

So let's say that this is another step in the negotiation. The message is that Iran's Perils of Pauline strategy - poor little Iran on the railroad track, sanctions train stopped just in time - has been used too many times. As I agreed yesterday with Geoffrey Forden, the United States is being played. But so are China and Russia, who may just be getting tired of that.

Negotiations on sanctions have been ongoing, and yes, we have an agreement. There was no reason to end those negotiations just because Iran had (maybe) agreed to a deal that isn't that different from deals it could have agreed to a year ago. And, when Iran has had agreement offered to it, it has slipped away with disagreements (maybe genuine) within its own government. So enough already. Let us know you're serious, because we're serious about the sanctions.

The United States has bought time by asking that the IAEA review the agreement; it has neither rejected nor accepted it.

The ball is now in Iran's court.


-a.f. said...

You seem determined to provide no context as to why the Iranians could possibly want to "play us." This whole exercise in trying to coerce the Iranians to stop enriching uranium, which they are fully entitled to do under their safeguards agreement, is a complete assault on Iran's sovereignty. If any country made similar demands of us, we would be far more overt in asserting our own sovereignty. So yes they are being duplicitous, but so are we, and so are our allies. All sides are playing the same game.

Cheryl Rofer said...

There is a very long context on all sides that I have addressed in previous posts and that has been addressed in many articles by others. In fact, in my previous post, linked in this one, I suggested that a preferred negotiating context would be quite different from the one we have.

But decisions were made by the Bush administration to focus on the enrichment issue, and the United Nations Security Council has passed resolutions on that subject. The Iranians feel that these resolutions are unfair, but presumably those who voted for them feel otherwise.

If the Iranians didn't like the Security Council approach to those resolutions, actions were open to them, in particular being much more forthcoming about activities that most likely were over and done with, that would have forestalled those resolutions.

So we all must proceed from where we are, rather than where we would like to be.