EU-U.S. Train Wreck over Iran?

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 16, 2005 | Go to article overview

EU-U.S. Train Wreck over Iran?


Byline: Arnaud de Borchgrave, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In an otherwise flawless diplomatic performance, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice threw a spark-plug wrench in the fragile machinery of trans-Atlantic rapprochement.

Miss Rice, the second woman to hold America's top diplomatic job, told a breakfast meeting in Paris, Iran is a "totalitarian regime" the United States would not talk to. But the EU3 - the U.K., France and Germany - were to continue negotiations with Iran, with a blend of sticks and carrots, until the country's dominant clerics abandon their nuclear ambitions.

Ranking officials rankled in all three European countries. Miss Rice's position was deemed absurd. The United States holds the only sticks and carrots that might conceivably make a difference. Sticks, short of military action, would be a U.N. Security Council censure of Iran and economic sanctions. Iran can circumvent any sanction regime by buying whatever it needs across the Gulf, in Dubai or Oman, an emirate and a country with close relations with Iran. EU3 countries would continue trading - via Dubai.

The carrots - ranging from $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets in the United States to the nonaggression pact Iran might buy in return for relinquishing its uranium enrichment to weapons-grade quality - can be negotiated only in direct talks with the United States. Several U.S. administrations, beginning in 1953 with a CIA-engineered coup to oust Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and bring back Shah Reza Pahlavi from a brief exile in Rome, to the U.S. betrayal of the shah in 1978, interfered directly in the country's internal affairs.

The United States is willing to talk to North Korea in six-power talks, but not in four-power talks or face-to-face with Iran, where mullahs are models of mental health compared to the Stalinist monarch who tyrannizes his slave subjects in North Korea. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's president from 1989 to 1997, told USA TODAY's Barbara Slavin last week that "al Qaeda terrorists are our enemies, too."

The EU3 are beginning to couple Miss Rice's intransigent rhetoric on Iran with Vice President Dick Cheney's offhand remark that the Israelis might pre-empt before the United States with air strikes against Iran's 12 to 15 nuclear facilities, most of them underground. EU3 have asked their Washington ambassadors if this isn't Iraq deja vu all over again.

Unmanned aerial recon planes have been flying over Iran for months with live video feeds back to the Pentagon on suspected nuclear facilities. Iranian exiles, like Iraqi exiles before the Iraqi war, are reporting Iran is close to achieving WMD capability. Operational plans for lightning raids on suspected Syrian sites, where jihadi volunteers for Iraq are processed, are ready for immediate execution following a presidential order. All the ingredients are in place for a much wider regional conflict.

President Bush's hopefully allegorical reference to a "fire of freedom ... that will burn those who oppose it" and "reach the darkest corners of the world" prompted a number of foreign ministries to ask their Washington ambassadors to reassess the influence of the Born Again Christian Right and the Likud lobby on the Bush Doctrine. The wild card is what the Economist called President Bush's "intellectual love affair" with former Soviet dissident and Israeli Cabinet minister Natan Sharansky.

"There are few things that irritate foreign-policy types more about Mr. …

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