WASHINGTON, July 16 (Reuters) – With just six months left in office, the Bush administration has done an about-face in joining talks with Tehran over its nuclear program, a move analysts say is driven partly by a desire to avoid war with Iran.
For years, the Bush administration said it would join nuclear talks with Iran only if it gave up uranium enrichment, but with President George W. Bush’s term ending in January and tensions rising with Tehran, Washington feels it cannot afford to be excluded.
The perception, especially in global financial markets, of a growing likelihood of a confrontation between Iran and the United States or Israel has rattled oil markets in recent months, helping drive prices to record highs.
Ahh, finally we found the way to leverage the Bush administration to action…the near total collapse of the U.S. economy…at least it would if we attacked Iran. Mere speculation has probably added 10-15% of the price of oil. War itself would do something along the lines of 100-150%.
But to the main point here, the idea that Iran had to stop everything before we would even talk to them was a pretty fanciful negotiation tactic. It’s the kind of tactic that only works of you have a boot on someone’s neck. While we certainly overpower Iran, they are far from totally defenseless (as covered in this post regarding the recent missile launches and this one from a while back about the fast-boats.)
And the main weapon they have is economic. Which is where we happen to be weakest at the moment.
So the talks began. And since the story above is from a week or so back, here’s the results…
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran on Monday of not being serious at weekend talks about its disputed nuclear program despite the presence of a senior U.S. diplomat, and warned it may soon face new sanctions.
In her first public comments since Saturday’s meeting in Switzerland, Rice said Iran had given the run-around to envoys from the U.S. and five other world powers. She said all six nations were serious about a two-week deadline Iran now has to agree to freeze suspect activities and start negotiations or be hit with new penalties.
Rice was briefed on the meeting by the State Department’s No. 3 diplomat, Undersecretary of State William Burns, who attended the session in a shift from Washington’s previous insistence that it would not meet with the Iranians unless enrichment of uranium had stopped.
So there was little progress on this go round. That is understandable, since now positions are being re-trenched. There are also limits to the punitive actions that can be taken, which complicates the options for the Six Allies.
Meanwhile, world oil prices rose above $130 a barrel in part on concerns that the threat of new sanctions against Iran may escalate tensions in the Middle East.
At Saturday’s meeting, Iran had been expected to respond to a package of incentives offered in exchange for halting enrichment of uranium, which can be used to fuel atomic weapons. The Bush administration broke with long-standing policy to send a top diplomat to support the offer.
However, Rice said that instead of a coherent answer, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili delivered a “meandering” monologue full of irrelevant “small talk about culture” that appeared to annoy many of the others present at the table in Geneva.
And so the haggling begins. The next round should be in two weeks or so…
“We will see what Iran does in two weeks, but I think the diplomatic process now has a new kind of energy to it,” she said. “If they do not decide to suspend then we will be in a situation where we have to return to the Security Council.”
High-level contact between the United States and Iran is extremely rare and Burns’ presence at the talks may have confused the Iranians, Rice said, acknowledging a tactical change to demonstrate U.S. unity with the other five powers: Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
“From time to time, it is important to invigorate the diplomacy,” she said. “I think that the fact that we went may have been a bit surprising to the Iranians, and they didn’t react in a way that gave anyone any confidence.”
Hey, at least we’re talking. It’s a fair sight better than shooting.