Monday, May 17, 2010

A Tiny but Critical Step toward Resolving Washington's Nuclear Dispute with Tehran

 Rational world leaders must recognize that the Turkish-Brazilian-Iranian nuclear agreement is a tiny but essential first step toward overcoming the paranoia and making a place in the world for Iran.

Ankara and Brasilia have achieved with Tehran a tiny agreement on a technical detail about the normal provision of medical grade uranium to Iran, something that, outside of the current atmosphere of paranoia would never have been noticed by the world media. But there is an atmosphere of paranoia, and medical-grade uranium has become entangled with the whole issue of whether or not the Washington-based international political system can incorporate Iranian demands for foreign policy independence. In between those two extremes, Washington sees the exchange of electricity-grade Iranian uranium for medical-grade Western uranium as a means of postponing the day when Tehran will have managed to accumulate sufficient military-grade uranium (of which it presumably has none whatsoever) to build a single test bomb (the testing of which would destroy the uranium, putting Iran theoretically in the nuclear camp but in practice still weaponless until it could refine more. So the tiny agreement about a tiny exchange becomes in fact major news, offering the first substantive ray of hope that the world will be able to step back from paranoia.

Rather than criticizing Ankara, Israelis should rejoice over a deal that has the potential to enhance Israeli security, reduce the likelihood that Iran will build the bomb, and further integrate Iran into a somewhat reformed international political system. Tel Aviv's shoot-from-the-hip attack on the agreement [Ynet News 5/17/10] appears to be a classic example of the paranoia that bedevils all efforts to resolve this dispute but would perhaps be more accurately interpreted as admission that Tel Aviv recognizes its warmongering game is up.

All the above points are complicated and tenuous; the road to success is replete with pot-holes. By a hostile reaction, the West could destroy the agreement; domestic factionalism in Iran could also destroy it. And the overall nuclear dispute with Iran is far deeper than this issue of medical-grade uranium. Nevertheless, on its face, the agreement represents the most substantive step toward resolution of the dispute made so far. Even if Tehran turns out, as Tel Aviv alleges, to be cheating, the agreement will have the advantage of quickly exposing such intent. If the agreement is implemented, it will in and of itself of course not stop militarization, but the best chance for that is the creation of an international environment in which Iran sees benefits more from cooperation than from hostility to the international system. For that to happen, the international system needs to be reformed sufficiently so Iran can find a secure and welcome place in it while retaining foreign policy independence. No more than Brazil does Iran want to be an American colony; no more than Syria or Palestine does it want to be an Israeli colony. The West should applaud the agrement, put sanctions talk on the shelf, and facilitate the creation of an atmosphere conducive to the agreement's implementation. Once the injustice of denying Iran medical-grade uranium has been redressed, attention can be refocused on Iranian...and Israeli nuclear transparency.

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