Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Offer

According to the Associated Press, the United States is prepared to offer “some” nuclear technology to Iran, in exchange for suspension of uranium enrichment efforts. The offer is reportedly part of a package of incentives developed by the U.S. and its European allies, and presented to Iran on Tuesday.

Call me a pessimist, but this package is probably DOA, although Tehran will probably delay formal rejection of the offer until the time is right. Not only has the Iranian regime declared an inherent “right” to nuclear technology, it’s also doubtful that the U.S. would provide the type of advanced technology desired by Tehran—the very type of dual-use systems now being developed by Iran, capable of supporting civilian applications, or nuclear weapons development.

This proposal illustrates how desperate the U.S. and the Europeans have become in trying to keep the diplomatic option alive. If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, I'd guess that Tehran will not just reject the offer, but come back with a counter-proposal, demanding even more in the way of nuclear technology. Having seen the west's "starting point," Tehran realizes it can press for much more, with some hope of gaining additional concessions from the U.S. and its European partners.

Readers may recall that this "package" also outlines potential penalties for Iranian non-compliance. The AP dispatch makes no mention of those penalties, suggesting that the proposed deal has more carrots than sticks. If that's the case, then perhaps the best scenario for this offer is a quick death, followed by a tougher follow-up offer, balancing rewards and penalties. Call that a diplomatic pipe dream.

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