Obama's successful election has created an unprecedented positive climate in Iran toward the United States. This is based not only on the substantive hope for change, but also on the person of Barack Hussein Obama. Symbolism matters. President-elect Obama's middle name, which was used to induce suspicion among the American public by Republicans during the presidential campaign, is pure gold in Iran. Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammad, is the central religious figure in Shi'ism. His martyrdom in the 7th Century is the centerpiece in religious observance in Iran. Moreover, there are prophetic rumors flying in Iran of a new "dark" leader coming from the West to bring reform and salvation.
Merely talking to Iran would not pose a problem. Iran's detractors, however, object strenuously to going to the conference table without making Iran pay a price up front.
It is important to clarify what the portmanteau concept "without preconditions" really refers to. Every time the Bush administration has professed its willingness to talk to Iran, it has made it a precondition that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program. Iran did this unilaterally in 2003, and -- guess what -- the Bush administration still wouldn't talk to them, having utterly rebuffed the famous proposal sent to them via the Swiss embassy.
The call for Iranian suspension of uranium enrichment was clearly stated in Security Council Resolution 1696 not as an end in itself, but as a confidence-building measure to assure Iran's non-violation of Article IV of the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), while asserting Iran's "inalienable right" (NPT preamble) to peaceful nuclear development, including uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes. Because there has never been any proof of an Iranian nuclear arms program, and the U.S. NIE report of 2007 asserted that Iran had no nuclear arms program, the resolution is effectively moot. Moreover it is not "international law" as the Bush administration has asserted. For this reason the precondition that Iran cease uranium enrichment before the United States would talk to it is anathema to Iran. It is tantamount to de facto deprivation of what Iranians see as their inalienable right under the NPT.
If the Obama administration would drop this sole precondition -- there has never been any other -- Iran's nuclear program could still be on the table for discussion, and Iran-U.S. relations would move forward.
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Albion Monitor November
13, 2008 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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