Praying for Peace, Preparing for War
Talks between the P5+1 and Iran are scheduled to resume April 13th, the first group meeting since June 2008. The P5+1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council: China; France; Russia; United Kingdom; United States plus Germany) came together in 2006 to provide a means of negotiation with Iran over its nuclear program. The goal of the current talks is addressing immediate nuclear proliferation concerns, whether Iran has begun enriching uranium in secret, and continuing dialogue between Iran and the rest of the world. Though there is hope of making this a multi-day event in which actual negotiations take place, as of yet neither the agenda nor the venue have been agreed upon.
On March 8th, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reasserted a 1995 fatwa that viewed the development of weapons of mass destruction as “sinful” and prohibited by Islam. Ten days later, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman declared that war with Iran would be "a nightmare" for everyone in the region. After some promising talks between Iran and Turkey last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed a desire “to translate what is a stated belief into a plan of action.” At the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, President Obama reaffirmed his willingness to use “all elements of American power” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, while at the same time expressed a desire to see diplomatic action win out over military ones, and that he has “a deeply-held preference for peace over war.”
While the rhetoric seems to be moving in the direction of a more peaceful approach, there is still cause for concern. U.S. officials believe that the Israelis have gained access to airbases in Azerbaijan. If Israel were to strike Iran, having a safe place to land instead of having to refuel in midair or having to turn around would help in terms of carrying more firepower, and would make them less vulnerable to counter-attack. Furthermore, the U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced a bill “Recognizing the 64th anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel” which contains some clauses in support of an Israeli military attack on Iran "if no other peaceful solution can be found within a reasonable time…”
What constitutes “a reasonable time” to find a peaceful solution? How would an Israeli strike on Iran affect the U.S.? What authority does the P5+1 have and what could they accomplish? Why has a venue for these talks not been agreed to?