China hopeful Iran will compromise with the UNSC

China’s official Xinhuanet news service is predicting that Iran will compromise with the 5 members of the UN Security Council plus Germany as they meet in Istanbul beginning on Friday. The Chinese news service points out that Iran is suffering 25% to 35% inflation at the moment. Moreover, the Iranian currency has fallen dramatically against the dollar, and 25 of Iran’s banks have been kicked off the SWIFT exchange under European Union pressure (the EU in turn acted because it is afraid of US sanctions otherwise.) Xinhuanet does not say that Tehran will just give in, but quotes an Iran specialist to the effect that they will give in on some small issues in hopes of getting the negotiation ball rolling.

China has every reason to hope for this outcome. It is being put in the uncomfortable position of being the chief country defying the United States over the latter’s unilateral boycott of Iranian oil. Other Asian countries are even hoping that China will insure, or arrange to have insured, the ships that will take the oil to Asian ports. European Union sanctions now rule out European companies doing the insuring.

It seems clear that Iran will not give up its civilian nuclear enrichment program, aimed and making reactor fuel for energy plants. But apparently the West will press Iran to give up its program of enriching uranium to 19.75% for its medical research reactor. Iran will likely also be pressed to abandon its nuclear facilities at that cave (Fordow) near Qom, since it is underground and cannot be easily bombed (though it can be inspected and has been inspected).

The flaw in the west’s case is that it is hypocritical as long as the Israelis have some 400 nuclear warheads. Asking Iran to surrender even a virtual nuclear capacity when its rival has a real one makes for difficult strategic calculations. It is hard to believe that India would agree to give up its nuclear weapons if Pakistan did not. And the US has had 20 years after the end of the war to end its own nuclear stockpile, since its Soviet foe no longer exists; but that has not happened. Iran doesn’t even have the nukes to give up, and probably cannot have them for a good ten years even if they decided they wanted them, which Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei emphatically says they do not. But its civilian nuclear enrichment program probably is intended to provide some deterrence and it is not easy to understand why it would relinquish that deterrent capability for nothing in return from Israel.

The mothballing of the program to enrich uranium to 19.75% (for a medical research reactor given Iran by the US decades ago) maybe the easiest thing the Iranians could offer. Whether they will do so, and whether that will be enough to create a sense of forward momentum has yet to be seen.

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22 Responses

  1. I think Iran has made its feelings on uranium enrichment clear.

    The head of the Iranian parliament’s influential foreign policy committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said Tehran’s negotiators are open to proposals but described the overall issue of uranium enrichment as “nonnegotiable.”

    link to

  2. I would love to see this happen. A settlement would mean that oil would settle down leaving neocons who bought oil futures, thinking they would make billions after an attack on Iran, with a heafty loss.

    One problem, Israel will not allow Obama to talk with Iran and may not accept a UN deal. Seems our BFF in the middle east only wants to push us into another war.

    Interesting read yesterday about Russia sending troops to the Georgian border. The article suggest, should the US or Israel attack Iran, Russia is set to attack Georgia in order to protect supply lines in the region. Yet another reason to fear the Israeli push to bomb Iran will rival the fiasco they fostered in Iraq. What an ally!

  3. It is not clear to me what the choices are for Iran:

    (a) Halt all enrichment regardless of NPT allowances.
    (b) Halt all enrichment above 20%.
    (c) Halt all Uranium mining.
    (d) Disarm all conventional capabilities.

    Obviously on this side of the table we are aiming for something or else we would not have unleashed economic warfare on the Iranian public.

  4. It is being put in the uncomfortable position of being the chief country defying the United States over the latter’s unilateral boycott of Iranian oil.

    Huh. I’ve been using the word “unilateral” wrongly for years. I never it meant “cooperatively imposed with every country in the European Union.”

    The flaw in the west’s case is that it is hypocritical as long as the Israelis have some 400 nuclear warheads.

    This argument makes any efforts at stopping or rolling back nuclear proliferation impossible, if it is taken seriously as a guide to action. Every country on the verge of breakout could say “But what about Country X?”

    • It is an argument worth taking seriously in the context of Iran. Its not that Iran deserves a nuke just because its been invaded in the 1980s and subject to constant threats (from the US and Israel – both nuclear powers) and terrorist outrages, or because its oil reserves have inspired repeated imperial interventions in the last century. But there can be no fruitful negotiations with Iran unless these realities are taken into account. Doing so will not, in itself, cripple the anti-proliferation case, because few countries with breakout capability are as vulnerable. Brazil, Turkey, Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea etc have nothing in their recent history that compares to what Iran has been through in the last few decades, and neither is surrounded by a ring of enemy military bases.

  5. Imagine if a mugger stuck a knife in your ribs and said give me your money, and you said “Here’s $20 but I’m keeping the rest.” What would the mugger say, “Thanks?” Nope, he’d stick the knife in harder and demand the rest too. Iran already offered to cap enrichment many years ago. In Sept 2011, Ahmadinejad himself offered to cease 20% enrichment again in exchange for the removal of impediments for the purchase of the fuel for the TRR. That as well as a long list of prior Iranian concession offers were ignored. So, what’s changed?

    • It’s probably not a wise move for you or me to speculate on what, exactly, the Iranian and UN positions were behind closed doors – what the sticking points were, what each side’s bottom line was, and what movement has happened.

      Maybe we’ll know in 20 years.

      • Yeah, just let’s sit around and wait for whatever happens to happen, and then turn to each other and say “What the heck happened?”

        To the extent that “public opinion” means anything, and of course there’s not always deep wisdom to be found in the polling of crowds, failure to participate, and dumbly taking advice not to “speculate” and just wait for 20 years in the hope that some part of the great Game might belatedly and long past time for any effective acts of retribution against the Kermit Roosevelts and suchlike, kind of leaves the doors wide open for every little sneak and strategicocidal SOB to keep nudging the world a little closer to the precipice.

        All for the best of reasons, right? And the rest of us should forget millenia of perfidy and fraud and mayhem, and just trust that the powers that Be have it all under control, right?

        And “the UN position”? What kind of smoke is that? It sure seems like some of the US/Israeli neocons don’t actually have a “negotiating position,” other than “unconditional surrender and sign over your oil to us.

      • But we do know that the Iranians repeatedly offered — publicly and privately — to compromise with the US. IAEA director Elbaradei explained the Iranian’s private offers too. His conclusion about the US/EU position: “They weren’t interested in a compromise with the government in Tehran, but regime change – by any means necessary.”
        link to

        • Objectively, when you keep in mind Iran’s current lack of capability, and the long, long road to obtaining it without showing their hand, you have to revisit the underlying premises for US/Israel discomfort.

          Iran’s real crime is their growing power and influence in the region. If they totally, absolutely and incontrovertibly forfeited any rights in nuclear regards in any which way, size or form, it would still not satisfy their antagonists.

          This business with nukes is a smoke screen. Putting aside ultimately childish complaints about hypocricy, and thinking practically (eg, selfishly) about US/Israeli self-interests (which are NOT one and the same), and you will find yourself thinking more constructively about how to resolve the situation.

  6. We’ve spent trillions of dollars punishing without getting much in return, but we keep at it. I guess we just like doing it. Sorry Iran.

    • Look! We simply can’t afford this–bottom line.
      Extended line: niether can humanity or the world.

  7. China’s definition of Iranian “compromise” is liable to be very different from that of the US, UK, France, and others.

  8. Is it known if there Are any Fatwahs (sp)from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, that have been ignored or disobeyed?

    • today’s Washington Post online:

      “Earlier Saturday, one of the diplomats,
      said the Iran’s team had mentioned Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “fatwa,” or edict, prohibiting nuclear weapons for Iran, in the course of the plenary discussions.”

  9. Is it really the US national interest to spend so much real and diplomatic capital on sanctions that are essentially a quasi-war, when we know there must be substantial quid pro quos to get the EU to go along with them, and the costs to get China, India and Russia in line will be far higher?

    With that question in mind, consider the strength of the force that must be driving such a US policy.

    What is so important about Iran that the US will pay any cost and bear such a burden, and is the policy driver truly the US national interests? Given what is being expended in pursuit of this policy, is that driving force, to that extent we are expending so very much energy that is not in our interests, effectively acting against us?

  10. Having said all that, whether or not the US/Israel/anyone else is hypocritical is not all that relevant: we all have our interests and day-to-day economics tends to be a zero-sum exercise. What’s left is to put lipstick on that rather ugly pig. But in that spirit, the question above becomes starker: is the US acting in its own best interests here?

    Another quibble: Israel could have 400 weapons if (as I recall the best thinking) their reactor in Dimona had produced as much fissile material in the last 20 years as it had between 73 and 93. Pursuing its own interests, a country like Israel will not feel secure, or be secure, even if it has enough to destroy the world over several times. The reality of never, ever being secure is part and parcel of any “ownership” based on brute force, rather than a pursuit of acceptance.

  11. I wonder if we’ll even take yes for an answer or will we just move the goalpost like we kept doing to Iraq prior to 2003.

  12. It is not clear to me how Iran can compromise since I am not aware that any compromise is being offered by the U.S. I would love to hear that I am wrong, but it is my impression that Washington is offering only a negotiated surrender of Iran’s capacity for self-defense, with the salt of humiliation rubbed into the wounds.

    One might argue that giving up the ability to defend itself is a small loss for Iran, since it obviously really has no ability to defend itself against nuclear Israel anyway. But the humiliation part will be hard to swallow, and the humiliation part is surely Netanyahu’s minimum goal because the whole nuclear issue is only a proxy for Israeli hegemony.

    This leaves Obama with a problem: if he cuts a rational deal with Iran designed to resolve the nuclear problem, then it must include something for Iran and that “something” must surely address Iran’s legitimate right to self-defense. This is not difficult – U.S. guarantee of no attack plus support for Russian air defense missiles might suffice.

    The problem is that a rational deal trading complete Iranian nuclear transparency for Iranian national security will take the sting–the humiliation–out and therefore such a deal WILL NOT SATISFY NETANYAHU. On the contrary, a deal that recognizes Iran’s right to exist, be safe, and continue to pursue its independent foreign policy, while frankly quite fine for the U.S., would be the worst defeat the Greater Israel faction has ever suffered. So Obama has a problem.

    • “This is not difficult – U.S. guarantee of no attack plus support for Russian air defense missiles might suffice.”

      During the Cold War we passed out nuclear weapons to all the NATO nations. They were under US control until hot war broke out, at which time the NATO nations would go operative nuclear.

      So why can’t we put a couple of nukes under US control in Iran, to be used to deter an Israeli strike? Answering my own question:That’s totally insane, because even if Israel made an unprovoked attack on Iran, it can be excused because Israel has fairer elections than Iran. Of course from Israel’s point of view, unprovoked/unproshmoked, we’ve been doing it for years so why stop now?

    • deB MILLS—-

      Well put. But to make things even more gnarly, remember that one of Israel’s “red lines” has been Iran fielding Russia’s advanced (eg, effective) SAMS. Iran having an ability to protect themselves is unacceptable, they would say, because under that cover they could safely commence a truly virulent nuclear weapons program.

      The real underlying problem, as you know, is just a bit further west.

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