Tuesday, April 22, 2014


"There is perhaps no nation in the world that would be prepared to pay the very high price that Iran [Persia] paid during the hostage crisis for its pursuit of idiosyncratic religio-revolutionary goals. Hence the perception of irrationality. But its actual performance was anything but irrational. On the contrary, Iran proved itself to be an adept and dangerous adversary, to be underestimated only at one's peril".
Gary Sick, "Iran's Quest for Superpower Status". Foreign Affairs. (Spring 1987), p. 699.
On Monday the 21st of April, former American Ambassador and high State Department official, Thomas Pickering spoke to a select group at the Princeton Club for upwards of one-hour on the subject of the Persian nuclear negotiations. In a by turns, cogent, masterful and informative briefing session, Ambassador Pickering made the following remarks:
That it was the Shah of Persia, who in fact began the first nuclear, albeit civilian programme. A programme which the revolutionary regime of the Mullahs decided to disband soon after then took power in 1979. In the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the regime in Persia decided to re-commence the nuclear programme. With assistance, directly and indirectly of the Pakistan. The European Union (Britain, France and Germany) first began discussions with Persia over its nuclear programme circa 2002. With the Americans only joining the discussions in 2007. And for the most part, the discussions from 2007 to 2013 were almost completely fruitless as per Ambassador Pickering. With the talks mostly at the 'pour parler' level. In the meantime, the regime of Mullahs endeavor to try to position Persia's programme in such a fashion that if the authorities decided to proceed with building a nuclear weapon that the time frame would be not a matter of years, but merely three-to-six months. A state of affairs which the economically crippling American sanctions were only partially able to retard. According to Ambassador Pickering, this situation was abruptly changed by the 'considerable progress' in negotiations between the Americans and the Persians 'in secret bilateral talks' which began in 2013. According to the Ambassador, indeed the talks had commenced even prior to the 2013's Presidential elections. With the American sanctions' 'deep impact on Iranian [Persia] growth rates', playing a crucial role in causing the Persians to agree to the interim agreement negotiated and agreed upon publicly in November 2013. With in his words 'real steps forward having been made' under the interim agreement. With most of the concessions being offered up coming from the Persian and not the Americans. Indeed, as per the Ambassador, he could not have dreamed a year prior that the Western powers would be able to negotiated such a favorable modus vivendi agreement with Persia. With the key provisions of the agreement that it makes a Persia attempt at a 'fast breakout', much more difficult. Under the interim agreement there is a 'joint plan of action', which envisages a 'Comprehensive Agreement' (hereafter 'CA') by no later than later June of this year. As per Ambassador Pickering, based upon his own insider knowledge of the situation, the negotiations "have run well so far". With the key provision as per Ambassador Pickering for any CA will be that it kicks back considerably to as long as one-year, the potential 'break-out' time frame. That along with the disarmament and a special, inspections regime, uniquely onerous for the host country, are the rewards for the Western powers as per the CA. The only 'burden' that the Americans having being the dismantling of the sanctions regime. At the current time, as per the Ambassador, 'all options are still on the table', as per the possible employment of military force by the Americans and the Israelis, until a CA is actually agreed upon with the Persians. He himself however believes that force, the ultima ratio should only be used 'as a last resort', since in the case of an Israeli missile & air attack on targets in Persia, the potential set-back to the nuclear programme would only be as little as one-year. In the case of an American missile & air attack, the set-back would still perhaps as little as four-years. Therefore, by far a negotiated settlement along the lines of the CA would be far preferably than the undetermined outcome provided for by the employment of military force by even the United States.
What does one make of the Ambassador's comments? I for one, am whole heartily in agreement with almost all of his remarks. In particular with the notion that air and missile strikes, no matter how successful per se only provide a limited assurance as relating to the complete destruction of the Persian nuclear programme. Especially over the medium, much less the long-term. As the always wise American military analyst, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted last year:
"A limited set of Israeli preventive strikes could either force the United States to follow up, or create a situation in which Iran rejects all arms control and UN inspection and carries out a massive new disperse nuclear program or a crash basis. It could also drive Iran to lash out into a new wave of confrontation with the United States and Iran’s neighbors. A U.S.-led set of preventive strikes would be more successful, but the United States could only be sure of suppressing a meaningful Iran nuclear effort if it quickly re-strikes any known target it fails to destroy the first time, carries out constant surveillance of Iran, and repeatedly and thoroughly strikes at the targets created by any new Iranian initiatives 1".
1. Anthony Cordesman, "Negotiating with Iran: The Strategic Case for Pragmatism and Real Progress". The Center for Strategic and International Studies. 23 September 2014, in Negotiating with Iran: The Strategic Case for Pragmatism and Real Progress. In www.csis.org


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