• 18 May 2010
  • Posted By Trita Parsi
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions

Iran’s Nuke Deal Irritates Washington

Washington Push for Iran Sanctions Complicated By Nuclear Fuel Deal

A noticeable irritation can be sensed in Washington. After months of investing in a new UN Security Council resolution and an escalation of the conflict and apparently winning agreement among the permanent members of the council for such a measure two emerging powers had the audacity to intervene and find a solution. Brazil and Turkey should keep their expectations low, however, because there will not be any thank you party for them in Washington anytime soon.

Only two days after the announcement of the Brazilian-Turkish brokered deal with Iran that would see 1,200 kg of Iran’s low enriched uranium shipped out of the country, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate panel that the United States and its partners seeking new sanctions against Iran have come up with a draft proposal for a new round of penalties. UN Ambassador Susan Rice held a press conference at the UN today unveiling the new resolution.

A day earlier, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley spoke dismissively about the Brazilian-Turkish deal. “The United States continues to have concerns about the arrangement. The joint declaration does not address core concerns of the international community,” Crowley said, “Iran remains in defiance of five U.N. Security Council resolutions, including its unwillingness to suspend enrichment operations.” Crowley then went on to link the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) deal with the Security Council demand for a suspension of Iran’s enrichment activities. “Public statements today suggest that the TRR deal is unrelated to its ongoing enrichment activity. In fact they are integrally linked,” he said.

These developments have taken many observers by surprise. Linking the TRR deal to suspension of enrichment is a new component. It was the White House itself that decided last year to go forward with a deal to swap Iran’s LEU for fuel rods without a suspension in order to throw back Iran’s break out capability.

Furthermore, the earlier justification for the sanctions push was a reaction to Iran’s failure to accept the swap proposal presented to it in October 2009. Administration officials stated on numerous occasions that sanctions would only be pursued if the diplomatic track failed to produce results. Sanctions would be needed to get Iran back to the table and to convince them to accept the deal.

The sudden change of heart in Washington is particularly surprising mindful of the fact that the three objections Iran lodged against the 2009 TRR deal that the LEU needed to be shipped out in one shipment, that the swap would take place outside of Iran, and that the fuel rods would be delivered to Iran nine to twelve months have now all been withdrawn. Iran has agreed to the terms the US insisted on.

This may explain Namik Tan’s, the Turkish Ambassador to the US, comments to the Associated Press, “We have delivered what they were asking for. If we fail to get a positive reaction it would be a real frustration.”

But there are several factors that can shed light on Washington’s apparent reluctance to take yes for an answer.

First, the Senate and the House are in the final phase of sending a broad sanctions bill to the President. The bill has several problems from the White House’s perspective, including its limitations of Presidential waivers as well as the impact it will have on US allies who will be subjected to these sanctions.

Progress on the UN Security Council track has in the past few months been an important instrument to hold back Congress’s own sanctions push. With Congress eager to sanction Iran, particularly now when the Brazilian-Turkish deal conceivably could derail or delay the UN sanctions track, the Obama administration feels the need to pacify the Congressional sanctions track by accelerating the UN sanctions track.

Second, the Brazilian-Turkish deal explicitly recognizes Iran’s right to enrichment and would, as a result, eliminate the option of pursuing the zero-enrichment objective. While most analysts agree that the zero-enrichment objective simply isn’t feasible, the White House has kept its options open on this issue. It has neither publicly confirmed it as a goal, nor rejected it. This, it has been argued, would provide the US with leverage. Even if it no longer is America’s red line, it can still be America’s opening position in a negotiation, the argument reads.

Third, there is a sense in the Obama administration that after the events of last year, a nuclear deal with Iran could only be sold domestically if Iran is first punished through a new round of sanctions. Only after a new round of sanctions would there be receptivity in Washington for a nuclear agreement with Iran. Hence, any nuclear deal that comes before a new round of sanctions would complicate the Obama administration’s domestic challenges. A deal without punishment even a good deal simply wouldn’t be enough.

Understandably, Washington’s reaction to the Brazilian-Turkish deal has created some apprehension in the international community. The Obama administration has worked diligently to overcome the credibility gap America developed with the international community under President George W. Bush. One element of this effort was to utilize diplomacy as a premier tool of US foreign policy.

Punitive measures such as war or sanctions would no longer be the instruments of first resort. But the reaction to the Brazilian-Turkish deal may undo some of the progress the Obama administration has achieved with the international community. Washington’s lack of appreciation for the breakthrough may fuel suspicions of whether sanctions are pursued to achieve success in diplomacy, or whether diplomacy was pursued to pave the way for sanctions and beyond.

This article also appeared on ABC News.  Dr. Trita Parsi is the President of the National Iranian American Council and the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer award for Ideas improving World Order.

Posted By Trita Parsi

    2 Responses to “Iran’s Nuke Deal Irritates Washington”

  1. DrSmooth says:

    “Washington’s lack of appreciation for the breakthrough may fuel suspicions of whether sanctions are pursued to achieve success in diplomacy, or whether diplomacy was pursued to pave the way for sanctions and beyond.”

    I still don’t get what the breakthrough is. It was a breakthrough when the Iranians agreed to it in October of 2009 specifically due to the amount of LEU they had at that time. They have continued to enrich. Now they agree to terms from 6 months ago when they have nearly doubled their LEU, essentially killing the point of the first deal.

    We have to look at substance. Just because the Iranians are willing to some type of deal, it doesn’t mean the US should celebrate it. If they were willing to suspend enrichment, or even just suspend enrichment at 20%, we’d have the making of something. Until then, there isn’t much of a breakthrough I’ve seen, and no reason for the US to get excited.

  2. Pirouz says:

    Good post, Trita.

    Regarding the narrative of the dueling sanctions track, in any event, what could possibly be the ultimate stratagem other than war?

    And what level of blowback can we expect to our war effort in Afghanistan, as a result of the US increasing its confrontation with the Islamic Republic of Iran?

    As Mr. Spock of the Starship Enterprise used to say: “Highly illogical, Captain Kirk.”

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7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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