Diplomatic Thaw between Iran and the West?
Iran is preparing a package of proposals for the meeting of the P5 + 1 in Geneva on Oct. 15. This includes a proposal to halt production of near-weapons-grade nuclear fuel in exchange for the U.S. and European Union scaling back economic sanctions. The sanctions against Iran have left it largely out of the international financial system and isolated its oil industry. Under President Bush, the U.S. refused to negotiate directly with Iran unless the enrichment program was first suspended. Secretary of State John Kerry, as a Senator in 2009, called the Bush position requiring zero enrichment, “ridiculous” and said Iran has “a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose.” In 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled a shift from the Bush approach when she stated “[Iranians] can enrich uranium at some future date once they have demonstrated that they can do so in a responsible manner in accordance with international obligations.”
President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani had a brief phone conversation in late September during the week of the United Nations General Assembly, the first direct communication between leaders of the two countries in 30 years. The two presidents also shared expressions of good will over twitter following the assembly. Though many in the U.S. administration believe there is an opportunity for progress through negotiations - a departure from Ahmadinejad’s presidency - Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) is seeking a co-sponsor for his bill that would authorize a U.S. military strike against Iran if negotiations fail.
The Iranian parliament has shown support for Rouhani in negotiating a diplomatic agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is not impressed. In his speech to the General Assembly, he reminded the world that the Iranians have lied before about their nuclear capacity, and may still be lying about their plans for nuclear enrichment. Netanyahu claims that Iran has done nothing to earn credibility. He asserts that the goal should be for Iran to stop enriching nuclear fuel for any purpose.
Are all U.S. policymakers on board with President Obama in terms of proceeding with negotiations without Iran first ceasing enrichment? Could next week’s negotiations be harmed by Rep. Frank introducing his bill this week? Will Prime Minister Netanyahu try to scuttle any deal that isn’t all-or-nothing?