Wednesday, August 23, 2006

US made an offer Iran can only refuse

By Gareth Porter
Asia Times

"WASHINGTON - Even before Iran gave its formal counter-offer to the permanent-five-plus-one countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China plus Germany) on Tuesday, the administration of US George W Bush had already begun the process of organizing sanctions against Iran.

The history of the international proposal shows that the Bush administration was determined from the beginning that it would fail, so that it could bring to a halt a multilateral diplomacy on Iran's nuclear program that the hardliners in the administration had always found a hindrance to their policy.

The partners of the US made one more effort to persuade Rice to reconsider the US position at their final meeting in Vienna on June 1 to reach agreement on a proposal. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed in a talk with Russian media the following day, the issue of security guarantees for Iran was raised by the negotiating partners of the US at that meeting.

But the Bush administration again rebuffed the idea of offering positive security incentives to Iran. In the final text of the proposal, the European scheme for a regional security system was reduced to an anodyne reference to a "conference to promote dialogue and cooperation on regional security issues".

The Europeans, Russians and Chinese knew this outcome doomed the entire exercise to failure. In the end, only the US could offer the incentives needed to make a bargain attractive to Iran. A European official who had been involved in the discussions was quoted in a June 1 Reuters story as saying, "We have neither big enough carrots nor big enough sticks to persuade the Iranians, if they are open to persuasion at all."

Bush's objective was to free his administration of the constraint of multilateral diplomacy. The administration evidently reckoned that once the Iranians had rejected the formal offer, the US would be free to take whatever actions it might choose, including a military strike against Iran. Thus the June 5 proposal, with its implicit contempt for Iran's security interests, reflected the degree to which the US administration has anchored its policy toward Iran in its option to use force.

As Washington now seeks to the clear the way for the next phase of its confrontation with Iran, Bush is framing the issue as one of Iranian defiance of the Security Council, rather than US refusal to deal seriously with a central issue in the negotiations. "There must consequences if people thumb their noses at the United Nations Security Council," Bush said on Monday.

If the EU-3, Russia and China allow Bush to get away with that highly distorted version of what happened, the world will have taken another step closer to general war in the Middle East."

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