By William Boardman -- Reader Supported News
don't want Iran in their club
Over the weekend of November 9, the progress of multi-national talks with Iran abruptly paused after France surprised the other participants by raising public objections to a treaty text that remains secret. So now we have a possibly important moment in a long cycle of fearful futility that seemed almost broken.
This could be the moment when the intransigent few destroyed hope for bringing Iran, the world's most significant, scapegoated pariah nation, back into what passes for the international community, preferring to indulge their lust for war in all its unpredictable uselessness.
Or, more hopefully, this moment is only a pause, a slowing of the mutually desired normalization of Iran's presence in a world that already accepts states with much worse and more dangerous patterns of behavior. One thinks first of the United States and the destructive effect years of American actions continue to have on three of Iran's closest neighbors, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
The geopolitical venue for these ongoing talks in Geneva is a group variously known in diplomatic lingo as the P5+1 or, especially in Europe, the E3+3. This group formed in June 2006, when the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council who all have nuclear weapons (United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, United States) and Germany joined to negotiate with Iran primarily over Iran's nuclear development activities. From 2006 to 2010, the Security Council has tried to control Iran by adopting six resolutions that imposed economic sanctions on Iran, the results of which haven't much satisfied anyone.
Supposedly the focus on Iran is intended to keep Iranians from developing nuclear weapons, which they don't have and have declared unequivocally that they aren't developing. For reasons rooted more in fear than fact, other governments choose to believe in a threat for which there is little persuasive evidence (an echo of the phantom certainty that Saddam Hussein had WMDs).
Why isn't calling Iran part of the "axis of evil" proof enough?
In February 2013, with a new, more activist U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, reaching out to Iran, the current round of talks began that month in Kazakhstan and continued at other sites before moving to Geneva in October. For most of the year, the effort was largely pro forma. For more than a decade, rational progress had seemed impossible under U.S. President Bush (2001-2009) who called Iran part of an "axis of evil," as well under Iranian President Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) who said the U.S. had attacked itself on 9/11.
With the election this year of a new Iranian president, Hassan Rohani, who took office on August 4, rational, substantive dialogue again seemed at least a remote possibility, despite hardline opponents of accommodation in both the U.S. and Israel, and their allies, as well as Iran. In spite of resistance, it took only three months until the world was hearing optimistic reports of an agreement about to be reached in Geneva, even though the terms of that agreement were closely held.
And then the French broke the spell, as well as some of the secrecy, when foreign minister Laurent Fabius went public with demands that Iran stop certain activities, some of which are completely legal under international law. South Carolina's Republican Senator Lindsay Graham went on CNN to gloat, "Thank God for France!" Juan Cole's Informed Comment elaborated on this intervention, concluding:
"One thing France must keep in mind is that hawks in Washington actively want a war with Iran, and that if there is no agreement now, that war will be on the front burner if a Republican comes to power in 2017. Since the French opposed the Iraq War and have been traumatized by their participation in Afghanistan, presumably they don't want to give the American Right such a luscious opportunity, which won't in the end benefit French interests in the Middle East. [French President] Hollande may think he is standing up for France, but he might actually just be making himself subordinate to South Carolina and American arms dealers."
Lindsay Graham represents a broad segment of the American right that openly longs for making war on Iran without being able to explain why any better than former vice president Dick Cheney did recently on a Sunday chat show when he more or less hoped that diplomacy would fail and "resort to military force" would become inevitable.
What makes continued negotiation a "failure"?
Echoing Cheney obliquely are American media like the New York Times. In coverage of the November 9 break in the talks, the Times had a headline that began "TALKS WITH IRAN FAIL"" which conveys a false impression of collapse that is echoed in the lede:
"Marathon talks between major powers and Iran failed on Sunday to produce a deal to freeze its nuclear program, puncturing days of feverish anticipation and underscoring how hard it will be to forge a lasting solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions."