Monday, February 14, 2005

EU-U.S. Trainwreck Over Iran?

Arnaud De Borchgrave, United Press International:
In an otherwise flawless diplomatic performance, Secretary of State Rice threw a spark-plug wrench in the fragile machinery of trans-Atlantic rapprochement.

Rice, the first black women and second woman to hold America's top diplomatic job, told a breakfast meeting in Paris, Iran is a "totalitarian regime" the United States would not talk to. But the EU3 - the UK, France and Germany - were to continue negotiations with Iran, with a blend of sticks and carrots, until the clerics who run the country abandon their nuclear ambitions.

Ranking officials rankled in all three European countries. Rice's position was deemed absurd. The United States holds the only sticks and carrots that might conceivably make a difference. Sticks, short of military action, would be a U.N. Security Council censure of Iran and economic sanctions. Iran can circumvent any sanction regime by buying whatever it needs across the Gulf, in Dubai or Oman, an emirate and a country that enjoy close relations with Iran. EU3 countries would continue trading - via Dubai.

The carrots -- which range from $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets in the United States to the non-aggression pact Iran might buy in return for relinquishing its uranium enrichment to weapons-grade quality -- can be negotiated only in direct talks with the United States. ...

The EU3 are beginning to couple Rice's intransigent rhetoric on Iran with Vice President Dick Cheney's offhand remark that the Israelis might preempt before the United States with air strikes against Iran's 12 to 15 nuclear facilities, most of them underground. EU3 have asked their Washington ambassadors whether this isn't Iraq déjà vu all over again. ...