Monday, April 30, 2012

Keeping It Cool On Iran

It looks like the Obama administration, by keeping cool and focused, has spooked Iran into serious talks about nuclear weapons and backed Israel away from a dangerous preemptive strike. As war fears recede, score a win for the president. But as James Risen writes, much hinges on May's followup talks in Iraq:
Mr. Obama made it clear that he would not be willing to pursue a policy of “containment” on Iran, in which the United States would accept an Iranian nuclear weapon while seeking to prevent a further nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Abandoning containment as a policy option was the result of an intense debate within the administration, and moved Washington a bit closer to the Israeli position, and it was considered by the White House to be the biggest reward they were willing to give Mr. Netanyahu during his [March] visit. Yet Mr. Obama also made it clear that he believes now is the time to give diplomacy a chance.

But some analysts warned that the Iran crisis could heat up again if there was not much progress at the Baghdad talks. The Istanbul meetings were designed simply to determine whether Iran was serious about beginning a new round of negotiations, but in the Baghdad sessions, the United States and other countries are expected to demand that Iran begin to discuss the details of a possible deal. That would require that Iran show a willingness to compromise on its uranium enrichment program, perhaps by agreeing to halt its efforts to enrich at 20 percent, a level that is higher than is needed for civilian nuclear power.

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