Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Iran steps back from the brink

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Asia Times

"Iran has finally blinked, reportedly agreeing to a temporary suspension of uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, as a confidence-building measure in response to growing international pressure. This is a welcome development that can potentially take the wind out of the sails of the ship of sanctions planned by the US and its allies at the United Nations Security Council.

Inevitably, many Iranians rightly ponder whether Bushehr will ever be completed, recalling how only a few months ago Nicholas Burns, a top US State Department official, bluntly asked Russia to withdraw from the Bushehr project if Iran failed to heed the UN's call to suspend enrichment activities. From Iran's vantage point, looking at past episodes of Russia's barter trade with the US over Iran, there is now a distinct possibility that Putin will prioritize his ties to the West over Iran if pushed to make a choice - and the diplomatic momentum is drifting precisely toward such a stark choice.

Both Tehran and Washington support the present besieged governments in Kabul and Baghdad, and the combination of impending civil war in Iraq, potentially spilling over to neighboring countries such as Iran, and the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan alone dictates fresh thinking on Tehran's and Washington's part on how not to let the situation in the region get out of hand.

Sure, the change of regimes in Kabul and Baghdad has been a security plus for Iran, but the massive infusion of US military might, bolstered by base-building in both Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan and elsewhere in Iran's vicinity, have been tantamount to major tremors threatening the wellspring of Iran's national security."

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