UN General Assembly 2019: The Last Chance for Diplomacy?

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This week in New York, the chief diplomats of the United States, and Iran are entering the UN General Assembly with two specific mission goals, and guidelines regarding how to best achieve them. What transpires in Manhattan this week will almost assuredly affect the national interests of Iran, and the US. In the case of the former, the same holds true with regards to its economic wellbeing, and overall security.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s mission is to convince world leaders to pressure the United States into loosening the economic sanction noose it has fastened around Iran’s neck. Zarif has been dangling the possibility of talks between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US President Donald Trump taking place on the sidelines of the General Assembly this week in exchange for a loosening of the sanctions. Washington has shown no interest in this approach, and its not likely that Zarif will find too many sympathetic world leaders who possess the clout, or willingness to persuade the US to go easier on Iran.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo comes into the General Assembly looking to lay the foundation for a diplomatic outcome to the crisis. Contrary to the opinions expressed by countless left-leaning journalists, politicians and talking heads, the United States does not want to begin a war with Iran. SecState, and the rest of the Trump administration’s national security team have left no stone unturned while searching for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Regrettably, none have been found. Despite its claims otherwise, Tehran has demonstrated no sincere desire to resolve the current issues through diplomatic means. The Iranian government only wants to return the US-Iran relationship to what it was previous to President Trump’s inauguration and that is not going to happen.

So, as the week begins and the drama starts to unfold in Manhattan, it will be useful to keep in mind that if there is no diplomatic breakthrough by Friday, the Trump administration will begrudgingly admit that diplomacy has failed. From that point on, the US focus will shift towards non-diplomatic means to contain Iran. And by non-diplomatic means, I’m referring to the application of military power, of course. 😊

Iran Promises ‘All Out War’ If Attacked

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Less than twenty-four hours after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labeled the Iranian attack against Saudi oil facilities to be an act of war, his Iranian counterpart warned the world that any US or Saudi military action against Iran will lead to an ‘all out war.’ Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif went on to explain that while Iran does not wish for war, it is prepared to defend itself should war come. His comments today have escalated the war of words presently underway between the Iranian regime and the Trump administration.

Zarif’s verbal barrage comes on the heels of not only Pompeo’s words, but also Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it believes Iran ‘unquestionably sponsored’ the attacks. Riyadh stopped short of openly blaming Iran, however. In yesterday’s statements, the Saudi government did explain its intention to gather more information on the attack. Specifically, determining the launch points of the cruise missiles. As I hinted at in a post the other day, this explanation could be little more than a screen to hide what is taking place behind the scenes. The US has incontrovertible proof that Iran is entirely responsible for the attack and the intelligence has been shared with the Saudi leadership and its military.

The other Gulf States appear to be aligning themselves with the United States as the crisis escalates. Today the United Arab Emirates announced it would be joining the US-led maritime coalition now being put together. Bahrain has previously said it too would be a part of the effort. Kuwait has raised the alert level of its military and security services as a precautionary measure. The Kuwaitis are also investigating the detection of unidentified UAVs over its territory earlier in the week, in an attempt to determine if there is a link to Iranian actions and future intentions.

 

The Interim Deal With Iran: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

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Iran and the White House are obviously on separate pages regarding the interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that was reached in Geneva. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif contends that the concessions agreed to by his side have been misunderstood by the US. During an interview on CNN, Zarif was adamant that his country is not dismantling any portion of its nuclear program. “We are not dismantling any centrifuges, we’re not dismantling any equipment, we’re simply not producing, not enriching over 5%.”

The US and Iran each regard the language of the agreement differently. This comes as no surprise. What is questionable, though, is the level of expectation that the White House had in mind for the interim agreement. Did the Obama administration expect Iran to begin dismantling its nuclear program at some point in the near future? It’s apparent that is not going be happening. Zarif, using diplospeak, just told the White House to go take a flying f**k.

Clearly, Tehran wants to strike a long term deal with the West and they want the terms to be as favorable to Iran as possible. Favorable in this instance means the removal of the economic sanctions that have strangled Iran’s economy, without having to agree to restrictions being placed on the nation’s nuclear program. From the Iranian perspective, a best-case scenario would be the lifting of sanctions coupled with the eventual acquisition of a nuclear device. On the other side of the equation, this result is a worst-case scenario for the United States and the other Western powers.

Iran’s leaders understand that time is on their side. The longer the negotiation process is drawn out without resolution, the closer Iran gets to a workable nuclear weapon. US Secretary of State John Kerry has stated that if an agreement cannot be reached, the military option remains on the table. His words are little more than tough talk. Kerry’s hawkish warning has not been backed up by decisive action by the Obama administration. After the US inactions in Egypt and Syria, Iranian leaders probably believe that they have little to fear from American cruise missiles and warplanes. The sad part is that they might be correct.

Israeli missiles and warplanes, on the other hand…….