Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Opportunity for Iran to Seize the High Ground

So far, there seems to have been no Iranian response to the Gulf Cooperation Council proposal to set up a consortium to provide enriched uranium for all Mideast countries. Iran is missing an opportunity to seize the moral high ground on the nuclear issue. Acceptance of the GCC proposal would:

  • Minimize the likelihood of a Saudi-Iranian nuclear arms race;
  • Make Iran look like a peacemaker;
  • Strengthen its charm offensive toward other Persian Gulf states;
  • Take some wind out of the sails of the Washington war party;
  • Take an initial step toward a new principle that Iran should welcome: nuclear equality in the Mideast rather than an Israeli nuclear monopoly.

Refusal by Iran, conversely, would:

  • Provide evidence for those who claim Iran is a threat;
  • Support the contention that Iran intends to build nuclear bombs;
  • Make it easier for anti-Iranian Arabs to argue in favor of a US or Israeli attack.

Iran may feel that its international position is strong, given how the US invasion of Iraq has played into its hands, but it should think hard before rejecting a compromise offer from its neighbors. Such an agreement might well come at a personal political cost to Ahmadinejad, however, for he would lose his bully pulpit of using uranium enrichment as the symbol of Iranian nationalism and independence. Will Iranian decisionmakers see this contradiction between Iranian national interest and Ahmadinejad’s personal interest? Look for discussion of this issue in the Iranian media…

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