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May 20, 2010
Take the Deal With Iran, Mr. PresidentBy Patrick J. Buchanan
If Barack Obama is sincere in his policy of "no nukes in Iran—no war with Iran", he will halt this rude dismissal of the offer Tehran just made to ship half its stockpile of uranium to Turkey.
Consider what President Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah himself have just committed to do.
Iran will deliver 1,200 kilograms, well over a ton, of its 2-ton stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey. In return, Iran will receive, in a year, 120 kilograms of fuel rods for its U.S.-built reactor that produces medical isotopes for treating cancer patients.
Not only did Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Lula da Silva of Brazil put their prestige on the line by flying to Tehran, the deal they got is a near-exact replica of the deal Obama offered Iran eight months ago.
Why is President Obama slapping it away? Does he not want a deal? Has he already decided on the sanctions road that leads to war?
Has the War Party captured the Obama presidency?
If Iran ships the LEU to Turkey, she would be left with only enough low-enriched uranium for one test explosion. And as that LEU is under U.N. surveillance, America would have a long lead time to act if Iran began to convert the LEU to weapons grade.
How is the Iranian program then an "existential threat" to anyone?
Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons—America thousands.
Critics say Iran still refuses to shut down the centrifuges turning out low-grade uranium. But if Iran stops the centrifuges, she surrenders her last bargaining chip to get sanctions lifted.
Critics say Iran is trying to abort Hillary Clinton's campaign to have the Security Council impose a fourth round of sanctions. Undeniably true.
But if the purpose of sanctions is to force Iran to negotiate its nuclear program, they are already working. Tehran's latest offer represents real movement.
Critics say Iran will weasel out if we take up the deal. Perhaps. Internal opposition caused Ahmadinejad to back away from Obama's original offer, after he had indicated initial acceptance.
But, if so, Iran will be seen as duplicitous by Turkey and Brazil.
To the world today, the United States appears enraged that Iran is responding to America's own offer, that it is we who do not want a peaceful resolution, that we and the Israelis are as hell-bent on war and "regime change" in Iran as George W. Bush was on war and regime change in Iraq.
While the Brazilians and Turks have surely complicated Hillary's diplomacy, their motives are not necessarily sinister or malevolent.
Lula may be trying to one-up Obama and win a Nobel Prize as he leaves office. But what is wrong with that? Bill Clinton had a Nobel in mind when, in his final days, he went all-out for a Palestinian peace.
And Erdogan leads a country that cannot wish to see Iran acquire nuclear weapons. For Shia Iran shares a border with Sunni Turkey, and the two are rivals for influence in the Islamic world and Central Asia.
Moreover, an Iranian bomb would force Turkey to consider a Turkish bomb. Erdogan thus has every incentive to seek a resolution of this crisis, to keep Iran free of nuclear weapons, and avert a war between yet another neighbor and his NATO ally, the United States.
If Obama refuses to take the Iranian offer seriously, it would appear a sure sign that the War Party has taken him into camp and he is departing the negotiating track for the confrontation track that leads to war.
Months ago, Time's Tony Karon asked the relevant question: "What if Ahmadinejad is serious?"
And there are obvious reasons why he might want a deal.
First, Iran runs out of fuel this year for its reactor that produces medical isotopes. And despite Tehran's braggadocio about making fuel rods itself out of its existing pile of uranium, there is no evidence Tehran is technically capable of this.
Iranians dying of cancer because Ahmadinejad failed to get those fuel rods would create enmity toward him, as well as hatred of us for denying them to Iranian cancer patients.
Second, as the U.S. intelligence community yet contends, there is no hard evidence Iran has decided to go nuclear. For this would instantly put Iran in the nuclear gunsights of the United States and Israel. And what benefit would Shia and Persian Iran, half of whose population is non-Persian, gain by starting a nuclear arms race in a region that is predominantly Arab and Sunni?
Third, Ahmadinejad leads a nation that is united in insisting on all its rights under the Nonproliferation Treaty, including the right to enrich. But his nation is deeply divided over his regime's legitimacy after last June's flawed, if not fixed, election.
If the United States were to accept Iran's counter-offer, it would be a diplomatic coup for Ahmadinejad.
Maybe that's the problem. The Powers That Be don't really want a deal with Iran. They want Iran smashed.
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