Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

P5+1 Coalition Fraying on Eve of Second Almaty Talks with Iran

Tensions over Syria may undermine the unity of the P5+1 powers as they go back to Kazakhstan to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program.

Inter Press Service

On the eve of its second round of talks with Iran on curbing its nuclear programme in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the so-called P5+1 (U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany) is showing signs of growing disunity, according to the European Union’s former top foreign policy official.

Speaking at a forum at the Brookings Institution, Javier Solana, a former NATO secretary-general who was Iran’s chief European interlocutor from 2003 to 2009, suggested that Russia and China, in particular, are likely to oppose any additional sanctions or other pressure against Tehran if the Almaty talks, currently scheduled for Apr. 5-6, fail to yield much progress.

“I think that the level of consistency and coherence of the P5 (+1) is diminishing,” he told a standing-room-only audience. “It is diminishing first because of Syria. Remember that (on) Syria, China and Russia are not in the same place (as) the Americans and the Europeans, and that is an important issue. It is not a minor issue, because… (for) Iran, Syria has an important relationship. If on that we are not together, it will be more difficult to solve” the problem.

Syria was so important to Iran, he went on, that he did not think it possible to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme without also addressing Syria.

But Syria is not the only issue, he added, noting that at the recent so-called BRICS summit in South Africa, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and the host country, who have historically confined their statements to economic issues, jointly expressed growing concern about “threats of military action as well as unilateral sanctions” against Iran and urged all “disagreements with Tehran to be resolved by political and diplomatic means” alone.

Emerging powers, said Solana, are increasingly unhappy with Western pressure to curb imports of Iranian oil and gas, especially in light of the latest estimates of a possible spike in energy prices next year if Iranian supplies are kept off the market.

“That is something the Chinese (and) nobody wants,” he said, adding that China may be forced to increase Iranian imports to maintain its high economic growth rate.

Solana’s remarks come amid bubbling speculation about possible progress at Almaty which will take place two weeks after technical talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Istanbul.

According to Laura Rozen, an especially well-informed observer of the talks for the Al-Monitor website, the Iranian delegation agreed to consider suspending their 20-percent enrichment of uranium for a six-month period and to convert their existing 20-percent stockpile to uranium oxide for medical use in exchange for some relaxation of Western economic sanctions as a confidence-building agreement.

Their presentation was regarded as moving Tehran marginally closer to a P5+1 offer tabled during the first Almaty round in February.

At that time, the six powers agreed to provide modest sanctions relief, primarily by permitting Turkey and other countries that have traditionally imported Iranian oil and gas to pay in gold in exchange for Tehran’s suspension of 20-percent enrichment operations at its underground Fordo facility, shipping its 20-percent stockpile out of the country; and ramping up inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

According to Rozen’s sources, however, Iran raised numerous objections to the proposal at the Istanbul meeting.

Gary Samore, who served as President Barack Obama’s top nuclear adviser during his first term, told the Brookings audience that he thought the P5+1 offer was a “good deal” for Iran “if it is looking at ways to create a respite” from further economic sanctions which, he added, Washington and the three European countries are certain to push through in the absence of some interim agreement.

But he was doubtful that one would be achieved later this week in Almaty. “I have such low expectations for what’s going to come out of this next round of talks that I think it’s a mistake to try to set the bar,” he said. “If they agree to another round of meetings, that will be the process continuing, but I think that it really is unrealistic to expect that there’d be some kind of breakthrough in these talks.”

“Both sides are using diplomacy for their own purposes: the Iranians use diplomacy in an effort to show there’s progress and therefore no further sanctions are justified, and to the extent it looks like there’s progress, it helps maintain the value of the rial,” said Samore, who is now at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

“The U.S. and the P5+1 use diplomacy in order to demonstrate that Iran is being intransigent and unreasonable, and therefore more sanctions are required.”

“And that process is going to continue. …(I)f this next round of talks doesn’t produce results, the U.S. and the EU will be looking for additional sanctions in order to increase pressure,” he said. “…I think it’s possible Iran could decide after the presidential elections (in June) to accept the small deal on the table now.”

He stressed that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, both wants to avoid a U.S. military attack and to obtain a “nuclear weapons capacity” because he views the nuclear issue as part of a much broader struggle with the United States (which) “he believes is trying to destroy the Islamic Republic.”

On Syria, Samore argued that regime change will make a deal with Iran “more likely because the Supreme Leader will feel more isolated, under greater pressure, more likely to make tactical concessions in order to relieve further isolation and pressure.

“Of course that’s not going to change his fundamental interest to obtain a nuclear weapons capacity. I think it will confirm for him is the best way to defend himself against countries like the United States is to have that capacity.”

For his part, however, Solana said the West should be “much more engaged with Russia” on both Syria and Iran. Having met with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow two weeks ago, Solana reported a high level of distrust vis-à-vis the U.S. and regarding Washington’s intentions in Syria, and “my fear is that they may get cooler with relation (to) Iran, and we may break an agreement that the P5 may be maintained.”

He said the cohesion the P5+1 has maintained to date had been a “miracle” but suggested it was increasingly under threat.

Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is one of the Senate’s more vocal hawks, and one of the prime vacillators among Republicans between objecting to and supporting Donald Trump.


Ron Dermer is the Israeli ambassador to the United States and has deep connections to the Republican Party and the neoconservative movement.


The Washington-based American Enterprise Institute is a rightist think tank with a broad mandate covering a range of foreign and domestic policy issues that is known for its strong connections to neoconservatism and overseas debacles like the Iraq War.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Since taking office Donald Trump has revealed an erratic and extremely hawkish approach to U.S. foreign affairs, which has been marked by controversial actions like dropping out of the Iran nuclear agreement that have raised tensions across much of the world and threatened relations with key allies.


Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and an evangelical pastor, is a far-right pundit known for his hawkish policies and opposition to an Israeli peace deal with the Palestinians.


Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is known for her lock-step support for Israel and considered by some to be a future presidential candidate.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share