Jun 12, 2006
Countries from the European Union – with the U.S. signing on to the deal – have offered an “incentive package” supposedly aimed at persuading Iran not to develop a nuclear weapons program.
Officially, neither side has changed its position in the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program yet. Iran still insists that it has the right to develop nuclear technology, for both civilian and military purposes. And the U.S. continues to say that its “military option” is not off the table. Nonetheless, statements from the Bush administration have become more conciliatory.
“We need to know whether negotiation is a real option or not, and we will soon know that,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, indicating the U.S.’s willingness to talk. She called the situation “a major opportunity, a sort of major crossroads for Iran” – a hint that the U.S. might end its 27-year trade embargo on Iran.
The contents of the “incentive package” have not been announced officially, but diplomats have revealed that if Iran promises not to produce nuclear weapons, the U.S. and European powers will help Iran to build light-water nuclear reactors. The U.S. will also allow Boeing, along with its European counterpart Airbus, to sell civilian aircraft and aircraft parts to Iran. (For almost three decades, Iran has been forced to fly an aged fleet, increasing the risk of crashes.) Some reports have also indicated that the U.S. offer may extend itself to military aircraft parts, and to the lifting of the trade embargo.
U.S. officials still try to appear tough, saying things like Iran has “only a few weeks” to accept the deal or face punishment, including military strikes. But it’s obvious that it’s the U.S., not Iran, that feels it has few options. The proof is that Iran has raised the ante since being offered a deal, announcing that it has actually stepped up the process of enriching uranium – which can be used in weapons as well as reactors.
Why has the Bush administration decided to talk with Iran? We don’t know what’s discussed behind closed doors, of course. But it’s reasonable to assume that this shift in the U.S. stance against Iran has everything to do with what’s going on in Iran’s western neighbor, Iraq.
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq with the intention of asserting its dominance over the Middle East more directly. As implied by Bush’s inclusion of Iran into his “axis of evil,” one option the U.S. wanted to keep open was also to attack Iran, a country practically sandwiched between Iraq and Afghanistan.
But things backfired for the U.S., as it was unable to secure military control over either country – forget about the rest of the Middle East. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S.-backed governments have neither real power on the ground nor support in the population; and popular opposition to the U.S. occupation has been growing and hardening in both countries.
So if the U.S. were to establish a different kind of relationship with the Islamic regime in Iran – one geared more toward cooperation than confrontation – it wouldn’t come as a surprise. It could be one part of its “exit strategy” from Iraq.
If this scenario turns out to be true, it wouldn’t be a first. Three decades ago, the U.S. started the process of normalizing relations with China as it was pulling out of Viet Nam. Then, the U.S. used China as an ally in policing the region – and in punishing Viet Nam by further isolating a small country that had refused to bow down to the big bully. Now, the U.S. may be in the process of normalizing relations with Iran in order to use the Iranian regime, which has influence with one part of the Iraqi Shiite leadership, to better police the Middle East – something the Iranian regime has already shown itself ready to do.
The U.S. may shift its strategies and tactics in response to changing realities on the ground. It may begin wars and end wars. It may invade countries and pull out. And the U.S. may declare old friends enemies and old enemies friends. But the underlying policy guiding the actions of the U.S. remains the same: to control the world’s resources for the benefit of big U.S. corporations – which comes at the expense of working people all over the world, including the U.S.