The flurry of hope and skepticism that proposed talks with Iran will lead anywhere are dominating the news, even here in Athens.
While China and Russia have joined the roster of nations offering Iran a “tough love” package of incentives and punishments regarding its nuclear program, China and Russia’s commitment to the “sticks” part of the equation remains weak, and Iran will continue to try and split the five UN Security Council members.
It is important news that Bush has agreed to a plan that might secure direct negotiations between the US and Iran, something he had never felt comfortable agreeing to before — according to a former senior level State Department official.
But one thing for those — like me — who have been calling for direct negotiations to remember is that Iran does want nuclear weapons. They want them to balance power in the Middle East with Israel and to fill a security void left by the collapse of Iraq and the perceived weakness of the United States. Iran also wants the nukes because it perceives it to be a great power — and all great powers either have nukes or have the ability to create them, as the case in Japan.
Iran also thinks that nukes will provided itself a “shield” to protect itself while it still supports extra-territorial terrorism through various other sponsored outfits in other countries.
We need to realize that Iran is typically a shrewd maximizer of its strategic interests, and this may make it very hard to dissuade Iran from its current course. It can happen, but the price paid will be a high one in terms of what Iran might accept in a new “grand bargain”.
More on this later. I am flying to Vancouver today and will check in from there.
— Steve Clemons