Wednesday, October 03, 2007
"Realism" vs Reality
If you've been following foreign policy debates, you've probably heard the term "realist" thrown around a lot. In a genius bit of PR, the term has been annexed by those who advocate an accommodationist approach to Iran. What might otherwise look like wooly-minded appeasement is presented instead as unillusioned, sober, tough, hard. Nicely done!
In fact, however, what describes itself as "realism" on Iran is nothing but a dreamworld of wishful thinking - as the Iranians themselves are increasingly making clear.
Can we negotiate our way to a nuclear settlement with Iran? Here's the answer of journalist Selig Harrison, recently returned from Iran, and certainly no harsh critic of the Iranian regime:
Suppose that the Bush administration abandons its campaign for economic sanctions, tones down talk of war and opens direct negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program. Suppose also that it drops its insistence on the suspension of uranium enrichment as a precondition for dialogue. Would Iran accept ... a no-attack pledge, normalized economic and diplomatic relations, economic aid, and removal from the U.S. list of terrorist states?
Harrison's answer: No.Iran seeks to use its nuclear program as a lever to neutralize American power in the region.
[US] concessions, several officials suggested, would have to go beyond pledges not to attack or to seek "regime change" through covert operations. Alireza Akbari, an adviser to Iran's National Security Council and a former deputy defense minister, was one of those who proposed a freeze of Israel's Dimona reactor and some form of bilateral or multilateral U.S. commitment not to use or deploy nuclear weapons in the Persian Gulf. "How do we know that your four aircraft carriers stationed off our coasts are not equipped with tactical nuclear weapons?" he asked.
Harrison rules out the military approach as unworthy of consideration. He argues against sanctions as only likely to strengthen the regime. His solution? Give them what they want!
The drive for sanctions will only strengthen Ahmadinejad. In place of economic and military pressure, the United States should seek to defuse the Iranian nuclear danger through bilateral and multilateral dialogue that addresses Iranian and U.S. security concerns from Dimona to the Strait of Hormuz and, eventually, includes all of Iran's key regional neighbors, including Israel.
Meanwhile, Iran's top nuclear official gave an interview to the Financial Times to insist that Iran regards its nuclear program as unstoppable and irreversible.
Tehran's nuclear programme has reached such an advanced stage that talk of suspending uranium enrichment - a key demand by the United Nations - has become futile, Ali Larijani, Iran's top security and nuclear official, yesterday said.
Explaining last week's statement by Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iranian president, that the nuclear file was "closed", Mr Larijani suggested Iran had now -created a situation on the ground that could not be reversed.
"From a technical point of view we have reached a stage that no one can take away what we've achieved. This status cannot be ignored. I'm surprised to hear suspension is still being talked about," he said in an interview with the Financial Times.
You want realism? It's this: The emerging US-Iranian confrontation is a confrontation of Iran's choice and Iran's making. It is Iran that has determined to seek nuclear weapons, Iran that has declared it will use those weapons aggressively against its neighbors, and Iran that has made a nonsense of the long negotiations with the UK, France, and Germany. We are rapidly reaching the point - maybe we have reached it already - where Iran has succeeded in reducing our choices to two: acquiesce in a nuclear bomb or stop it by force. As for the idea that the present Iranian regime can be a negotiating partner - a constructive force in the region - or anything other than a menace to its neighbors or its own people, well we need another term for that. How about "fantasy"?
10/03 09:13 AM