Obama has gotten himself into a diplomatic bind, investing so much of American prestige in the old neo-con campaign to force Iran to accept humiliating special nuclear restrictions while nuclear rogue Israel flaunts its blank check. Now key Iranian national security official Ali Larijani has given Obama a way out.
During his current visit to Japan, Larijani stated that Iran will follow the Japanese model
– having the technical capacity for militarization of nuclear technology without actually taking the final step. This achieves Iran’s presumed desire for status and security while following in the footsteps of perhaps the most respected modern country, the one that officially rejects the right to self-defense (albeit with some very large caveats, of which Japan’s technical competence in nuclear matters is surely one). It also leaves Iran in a moral position on nuclear matters far superior to that of its key adversary, Israel.
But most interestingly, Larijani’s statement opens the door for the U.S. to respond, “Fine. It’s certainly your right and it’s a deal.” That would in a superficial sense solve Obama’s dilemma.
The question of whether or not Iran might cheat of course remains. But it exists for Japan and Brazil and every other NPT signatory with technical knowledge as well. So Obama would still be faced with a tough problem, but it would be one vastly easier to manage that the current insulting effort to humiliate Iran into proving a negative. Instead of demanding that Iran alone of all nations on earth “prove” that it lacks the “intention” of militarizing, Obama’s challenge would be to lay out a fair set of standards for application to all nations with the technical capacity to go nuclear.
Rather than singling Iran out for treatment that no government could ever be expected to accept, the approach would be to ask:
- What do the Japans, Brazils, Germanies of the world do to demonstrate their sincerity?
- Is there a common element within the answer that can be articulated by the IAEA as the “standard?”
- In what way is Iran falling short of that global standard?
It would be much easier for Iran to cooperate with the IAEA to meet such a clearly articulated global standard and much more difficult for it to resist than in the current situation where humiliation rather than solving the nuclear dispute often seems to be Israel’s real goal, if not Washington’s.
It does not matter whether or not Larijani has correctly stated the official Tehran position or if they can be trusted to adhere to it. Its public enunciation is an opportunity for Obama to back out of a bad position and take a significant step toward enunciating clear and defensible standards for global nuclear non-proliferation while simultaneously putting the onus on Iran for meeting those standards.