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I believe it to be no coincidence that the Oct. 18 attack -- the bloodiest in Iran since the 1980-88 war with Iraq -- came one day before nuclear talks were to resume at the IAEA in Vienna to follow up on the Oct. 1 breakthrough. The killings were sure to raise Iran's suspicions about U.S. sincerity.
It's a safe bet that the Revolutionary Guards went directly to their patron, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, arguing that the bombing and roadside attack proved that the West cannot be trusted.
Khamenei issued a statement on Oct. 19 condemning the terrorists, whom he charged "are supported by certain arrogant powers' spy agencies."
The commander of the Guards' ground forces, who lost his deputy in the attack, charged that the terrorists were "trained by America and Britain in some of the neighboring countries," and the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards threatened retaliation.
The attack was big news in Iran, but not big news in the United States, where the FCM quickly consigned the incident to the great American memory hole. The FCM also began treating Iran's resulting anger over what it considered acts of terrorism and its heightened sensitivity to outsiders crossing its borders as efforts to intimidate "pro-democracy" groups supported by the West.
Still, Iran Sends a Delegation
Despite the Jundullah attack and the criticism from the opposition groups, a lower-level Iranian technical delegation did go to Vienna for the meeting on Oct. 19, but Iran's leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili stayed away.
The Iranians questioned the trustworthiness of the Western powers and raised objections to some details, such as where the transfer should occur. The Iranians broached alternative proposals that seemed worth exploring, such as making the transfer of the uranium on Iranian territory or some other neutral location.
But the Obama administration, under mounting domestic pressure on the need to be tougher with Iran, dismissed Iran's counter-proposals out of hand, reportedly at the instigation of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and neocon regional emissary Dennis Ross.
Both officials appeared averse to taking any steps that might lessen the impression among Americans that Ahmadinejad is anything other than a rabid dog needing to be put down, the new most despised bÃte noire (having replaced the now deceased Saddam Hussein, who was hanged by the U.S.-installed government in Iraq).
Watching all this, da Silva and Erdogan saw the parallels between Washington's eagerness for an escalating confrontation with Iran and the way the United States had marched the world, step by step, into the invasion of Iraq (complete with the same deeply biased coverage by the leading American news outlets.)
This spring, hoping to head off a similar result, the two leaders dusted off the Oct. 1 uranium transfer initiative and got Tehran to agree to similar terms last Monday. Both called for sending 2,640 pounds of Iran's low-enriched uranium abroad in exchange for nuclear rods that would have no applicability for a weapon.
Yet, rather than embrace this Iranian concession as at least a step in the right direction, U.S. officials sought to scuttle it, by pressing instead for more sanctions. The FCM did its part by insisting that the deal was just another Iranian trick that would leave Iran with enough uranium to theoretically create one nuclear bomb.
An editorial in Tuesday's Washington Post, entitled "Bad Bargain," concluded wistfully/wishfully:
"It's possible that Tehran will retreat even from the terms it offered Brazil and Turkey -- in which case those countries should be obliged to support U.N. sanctions."
On Wednesday, a New York Times' editorial rhetorically patted the leaders of Brazil and Turkey on the head as if they were rubes lost in the big-city world of hardheaded diplomacy. The Times wrote: