Friday, September 29, 2006
A Deal With Iran?
What follows is not reporting. It is not a leak. It is informed speculation - informed in part by stories like this one and this one . That acknowledged, let me venture a prediction:
Sometime in the next 6 to 12 months, there will be laid on President Bush's desk a draft agreement between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. My guess: the agreement will contain terms more or less along the following lines:
1) Iran will indefinitely suspend its uranium enrichment program. Such a term will be easy for Iran to accept, because by then Iran will have enriched enough uranium to build a bomb or three. Iran will however stop short of actually constructing a bomb - it will pause at the point where it could rapidly become nuclear at any moment if it chose, but at which the US and the West generally can sustain the illuson that Iran remains something less than a nuclear weapons state.
2) The US will acquiesce in the end of almost all global economic sanctions against Iran, although most US-only measures will remain in place for the time being. US-Iran diplomatic relations will probably not be restored so long as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains in office.
3) Iran and Syria will take steps that can be represented as halting the flow of aid to anti-coalition forces in Iraq. The pro-Iranian Shiite militias will be incorporated into the Iraqi police. (Expect an amnesty offer at about the same time to the Sunni fighters, perhaps coupled with an opportunity for some of them to join the Iraqi army.)
4) In return, the US and UK will begin to draw down their forces inside Iraq, probably pretty rapidly.
Iran gets: recognition as a nuclear weapons state in all but name plus paramountcy inside Iraq.
The US gets: the appearance of a diplomatic triumph and a decent interval in which to exit Iraq.
In other words, the US gets to dress up an military and diplomatic debacle as something like a negotiated success.
How will the president react to this proposition? Every instinct in him will revolt against it, I am sure. But what is his alternative? A war with Iran to add to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Jittery left-wing bloggers are persuaded that the president (or Karl Rove!) is planning just such a thing, probably on the eve of the November 06 vote, but all the evidence points the other way: that the US has no intention whatsoever of hitting Iran. Failing that, the alternatives seem rapidly to be reducing themselves to two: either admitting defeat - or else accepting defeat without admitting it. What politician in history would choose the first option if he could hope to get away with the second?
Those (I predict here) are the coming choices in a bureaucratic battle that will be conducted far from the public eye - but not so far, perhaps, that conservatives and Republicans unhappy with the dangerous drift of current policy cannot make their voices heard.
09/29 07:33 AM