Friday, June 22, 2012
I don't know exactly how I should refer to the behavior of the six nations that are "negotiating" with Iran. But "stupid" doesn't quite cut it for me.
The two-day talks in Moscow, just completed, were an abysmal failure that went no where. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius referred to "the large gap between the two sides."
According to a report in Haaretz, "A Western diplomat who asked to remain anonymous said that one major obstacle revealed by the Moscow talks relates to the underground facility for uranium enrichment in Fordo, near the city of Qum. According to the diplomat, the Iranians refused to discuss the Fordo plant at all."
What does the international community imagine is going on there? And do they not know that there is reason to suspect that Iran may be operating covert enrichment sites as well?
But what did the six nations do? Consent to a low level technical meeting in early July, thereby allowing Iran more time to pursue their nuclear development. And if you think a couple of weeks won't matter, consider the report by the French news agency AFP yesterday, that US officials believe Iran will be able to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon within four months,
The EU's Catherine Ashton, who heads the P + 1 delegation at the negotiations, says that there is currently an "indefinite pause" in talks, which will be resumed only if the technical meeting yields some common ground. If it does not, the "plan" is to proceed by levying tougher sanctions against Iran to force them to halt.
What no one acknowledges is that all the sanctions so far have had not an iota of effect on Iran's nuclear development. In fact, they have motivated the Iranians to move even faster. There is no reason to think more sanctions will have a different effect -- they just "bite the bullet" and keep going. And since it takes time to put new sanctions in place, and time until they start to really kick in, Iran may well have achieved its goal of having that material for a bomb by then.
I must add here that the Iranian navy has just announced intention to build more war ships, including missile-launching frigates and destroyers.
And there is activity at the Parchin military complex in Iran that suggests clean-up work that will mask activity there if and when inspections are done.
The elephant in the room -- elephant, what elephant? -- is the need to stop Iran via military force or at least a credible threat thereof. (It really is a case not of negotiations between equal parties, with compromise, but of the international community saying, cease and desist or you're history.) Right now the American statement that "all options are on the table" impresses the Iranians as totally unserious.
This would be Obama's job, for the US is the nation best equipped militarily to accomplish it. But Obama has no intention of going there, it would seem -- Panetta's latest statement in this regard not withstanding.
The "beyond stupid" is thinking that achieving an agreement with Iran that is a compromise would be a good thing. The trick is to find a way to avoid military confrontation, as if that confrontation and not Iran's ultimate achievement of nuclear capability would be the worst thing imaginable.
Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz was in the US yesterday, meeting with members of Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others. The prime focus was on Iran, as I understand it. He pushed for crippling sanctions but also spoke of the need for a credible military option, which, he says, should be led by the US.
Before I move on to what else Mofaz said, I want to touch upon a topic highly relevant to the issue of what the US will do with regard to Iran:
What we are seeing is that in a variety of contexts the up-coming presidential election will be critical, both for the US -- of course! -- and more broadly for Israel and the free world.
To that end, it's extremely important that Israelis who are also American citizens vote in this election.
People imagine that it will make no difference, but this is not the case: Some elections have turned on very small numbers, and absentee ballots are counted.
In order to vote, you must be registered. If you were registered in 2008, that is not sufficient. You must register again.
A new -- non-profit, non-partisan -- organization called iVoteIsrael is currently working overtime to make registration easy for you.
See www.ivoteisrael.com in order to complete the registration process.
And see www.ivoteisrael.wordpress.com for information regarding Israelis voting in the US election and the positions of the candidates.
If you are an American-Israeli, please, do register and vote. If you have relatives who are, please pass this information to them.
iVoteIsrael cannot and will not say this, as it is strictly non-partisan. But I can, and do regularly:
Obama has got to go!
Returning now to Mofaz: While in the US, he also touched upon the issue of negotiations with the PA. As he is considered to be to the left of Netanyahu, the Obama administration is hopeful that the prospects of this happening successfully -- at least with regard to an interim agreement -- are now more viable.
Can I say it again in this context? Beyond stupid. The chances of an agreement between Israel and the PA/PLO is nil.
This morning, by telephone from Washington, Mofaz gave an interview to Israel Radio. He said, in part, "I believe that there is an opportunity to restart negotiations. I have a firm basis for believing this will happen in the near future."
What he's talking about are negotiations "without preconditions."
But I say, "uh oh!" What sort of arrangements is he cooking up? Please note that the PLO's Saeb Erekat is also in Washington for talks with US officials.
Apparently, as part of the deal that brought Kadima into the coalition, Mofaz was given the "peace negotiations" portfolio, so to speak. That could only mollify the US, which is none too fond of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and certainly pleased Mofaz, who stands for "negotiations" in a way that Lieberman does not.
There is an inherent conflict in having done this, however, as it impinges upon Lieberman's responsibilities, although it is not clear that he particularly cares about this. Lieberman made a statement recently with regard to negotiations that I would like to cite here. He said that as long as Abbas heads the PA there will be no successful negotiations.
This is absolutely correct, but he doesn't carry it far enough.
Precisely the same thing was said about Arafat: he's a terrorist, he will never make peace -- we cannot proceed with genuine negotiations until he's gone. Well, Arafat is long gone, Abbas took his place, and here we are. There is no reason to think that Abbas's successor will be more amenable to peace negotiations than Abbas is.
The mistake in reasoning lies in fingering the man and not the party and the entire system. The PLO never intended to make peace with Israel and arrive at a genuine "two state solution." What is more, the region has radicalized in recent years, and taken the PLO/PA along with it. Remember the on-going (off again, on again) negotiations between the PA and Hamas.
If anything, Abbas's successor is likely to be more radical, less peace-oriented, than he is.
It's time we got real and said it like it is.
Matters have not cooled in our south, as rockets continue to be launched from Gaza. And there is no question at this point about Hamas involvement. At present some 13 Israelis have been hurt.
Egypt -- this is the military regime -- is making efforts to achieve a ceasefire, but it hasn't held. As in the past Hamas advances a "you stop first and then we will" scenario.
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