Pre-talk pessimism

As Iran’s enigmatic-by-necessity former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mosavian [now living in the U.S. after being jailed in Iran for his contacts abroad] has written, here [see previous articles,], the six-country talks with Iran about its nuclear program that are scheduled to take place this weekend in Istanbul are the first time in nine years that there may be any chance of breakthrough.

And, as Mousavian also noted, these talks also offer a chance for the US and Iran “to begin a serious dialogue to resolve more than three decades of hostilities, mistrust, and tension”.

But, many are voicing pessimism.

The U.S., Russia, China, France, and the U.K. — the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, who also happen to be, by the terms of the NPT Treaty, the world’s only legitimate nuclear powers — plus Germany, are all to meet this weekend with Iranian negotiators to discuss their high level of concern about Iranian nuclear intentions. The last P5+1 meeting with Iran was also in Istanbul, in January 2011.

Since then, there has been a constant stream of speculation about whether or not Israel will launch a military strike on Iran to stop any possible progress towards a nuclear weapon.

But, in the past week, a high ranking Israeli military official and a noted Iranian member of Parliament have both said that Iran already does have the capability, or the ability, to put together a nuclear warhead.

Cyrus Safdari has written a post on April 9 entitled “Why Iran nuclear talks will fail…again” on his Iran Affairs blog, here, that “There is a pattern here that just can’t be ignored, of the US deliberately raising the bar, moving goalposts, and imposing demandst that it knows will be rejected by Iran. The point, you see, is not to actually engage Iran in any sort of substantive dialog, but to give the US an opportunity to say ‘Hey we tried diplomacy and the Iranians ruined it’. So, as usuall, we have the US imposing demands on Iran even before any negotiations start, with no prospect that the US can ever provide anything in return as a quid-pro-quo. In fact, as I had explained before, the Obama administration is simply not ABLE to give anything back to Iran since US sanctions are imposed mainly by Congress, and Congress isn’t about to lift any sanctions in return for Iranian agreements to give up any part of their nuclear program. So, there will be some dickering in the media as usual but eventually the negotiations will fail and the US/Israeli will naturally blame Iran…So don’t hold your breath, these talks will also ‘fail’. The entire nuclear issue is, after all, just a pretext”.

In his previous post, here, Safdari wrote even if Iran were to agree to, say, a suspension or freeze [or even to a complete capitulation], “any move by Iran which actually reaches a compromise deal with the US as being merely a ‘tactical and temporary’ delay in Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons. This is what the hawks will call any deal that is reached with Iran, if one is ever reached: a plot by the Iranians to ‘sow dissension’ in those opposed to them, so as to ‘buy time’ to make bombs”.

Trita Parsi, in a piece in the Huffington Post that Cyrus Safdari has criticized in his latest [April 9] post, wrote that “there are some indications that the next round of talks may differ little from previous failed discussions. Driven by limited political maneuverability at home, domestic pressure not to compromise, and a perception of strength that lures the parties to believe they can force on the other a fait accompli, the talks have often been about imposing terms of capitulation on the other. It has never succeeded”.

Continue reading Pre-talk pessimism

FWIW: What Ahmadinejad really said — though most people have already made up their minds

For what it’s worth — because so few people are willing to listen to any analysis about this matter, as their minds are already made up — Angry Arab (As’ad AbuKhalil) ran this item on his blog last night about what Iranian President Ahmadinejad did — or did not — say:
“A keen and knowledgeable Western correspondent in the Middle East sent me this (he/she does not want to be identified):
“Hi As’ad. This is unreal. Or rather I’m astounded, but I shouldn’t be. We had a story last night on Ahmadinejad in Qatar. I heard the Arabic in passing on TV and it said he said Israel should be destroyed siyasiyyan [meaning, politically]. I come in today and find, as I feared, [..] story misquoting him: Any Israeli attack against Iran means the elimination of the Zionist entity from the world map. no mentioned of ‘politically’ … So I check the Farsi on IRNA [Islamic Republic News Agency] … He does NOT say ‘map’ and he says the Zionist ‘regime’, as well as ‘political geography’; i.e. he means that as a political entity it would cease, not that it’s people would be destroyed. The rest you probably know: the original quote from 2005. I got curious and checked it (I read at time it was questioned but I didn’t know Farsi then). [..] ran him saying ‘Israel should be wiped off the map’, baldly; no other words of context. as far as I’m aware, it was this story that provoked the world reaction. but he actually said: imam goft een regime -e ishghalgar -e quds bayad az safheh -ye ruzgar mahv shavad [the Imam said this regime that occupies Jerusalem should be effaced from the page of time] i.e. he’s talking about the political entity. I’m not defending him one bit, but he’s making a point about the state of Israel, not that the population therein should be exterminated as the Nazis did. And look how successful this propaganda has been: the phrase has become so well-known that someone translating automatically jumped to these phrases ‘wiped off’ and ‘map’ when translating what Ahmadinejad said in Doha last night, fitting his words into this linguistic cast pre-prepared by media, without realising the distortion involved. (…I caught it.. but not after the story was translated into every [..] language service you can imagine)”. Posted by As’ad on Monday 6 September at 11:40 AM here.

As’ad is very critical of Ethan Bronner, the Deputy Foreign Editor of the New York Times who has also been serving as its Jerusalem bureau chief for the past couple of years. Ethan Bronner was one of the first (and only) ones in the MSM (main stream media) who, from his desk in New York in 2006, actually did try to look into what Ahmadinejad did actually say, on an earlier similar occasion. (Ahmadinejad is consistent, at least).

Ahmadinejad, who was formerly Mayor of Tehran, and a populist in style, with strong ties to the groups which are the pillars of the Islamic revolution which overthrew the Shah in Iran in February 1979, was elected president in August 2005.

Bronner wrote, in the NYT in June 2006, that “EVER since he [Ahmadinejad] spoke at an anti-Zionism conference in Tehran last October, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has been known for one statement above all. As translated by news agencies at the time, it was that Israel ‘should be wiped off the map’. Iran’s nuclear program and sponsorship of militant Muslim groups are rarely mentioned without reference to the infamous map remark. Here, for example, is R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, recently: ‘Given the radical nature of Iran under Ahmadinejad and its stated wish to wipe Israel off the map of the world, it is entirely unconvincing that we could or should live with a nuclear Iran’. But is that what Mr. Ahmadinejad said? And if so, was it a threat of war? For months, a debate among Iran specialists over both questions has been intensifying. It starts as a dispute over translating Persian but quickly turns on whether the United States (with help from Israel) is doing to Iran what some believe it did to Iraq — building a case for military action predicated on a faulty premise. ‘Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map because no such idiom exists in Persian'” remarked Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan and critic of American policy who has argued that the Iranian president was misquoted. ‘He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse’.”

Continue reading FWIW: What Ahmadinejad really said — though most people have already made up their minds