We’re closing in on the best week of global politics for the year; the (68th) annual United Nations General Assembly session. Although I don’t think were in for any treats such as Chavez calling Bush the devil (and smelling sulphur), 100 minutes of Qaddafi accusing the United States of creating swine flu and killing Kennedy, Ahmadinejad’s 9/11 conspiracy theories or even anything as good as last years Palestine-Slovenia-Israel sandwich.
Like last year, my Prime Minister will be in New York for the occasion and once again (to my delight), he will be boycotting the United Nations. This is not a stand against diplomacy, but a stand against an arena that can claim its only accomplishment of attributing Zionism as the cause of all evils in the world (Yes Sudan, all the deaths in Darfur were caused by Zionism and had absolutely nothing to do with Omar Bashir).
You can tell how close the meetings are just from the op-eds being featured in the New York Times. Since publishing their prominent piece on Yom Kippur advocating for the abolishment of Israel, they have already released one article calling Israel an international pariah that needs to relinquish its nuclear weapons, one article about why allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons (containment) is a good idea, why the West needs to give Iran a chance and about a dozen articles on how Rouhani is a moderate.
In Netanyahu’s speech this year, he is going to talk about the risks of a bad deal with Iran. In fact, I believe the mantra is “a bad deal is worse than no deal at all”. He will draw a comparison to Western diplomacy and North Korea, which through an enamourment of “diplomatic agreements” (really just appeasement and fear of reprisal), allowed North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons relatively unscathed.
The truth of the matter is that Hassan Rouhani was appointed for one reason and one reason only, to ameliorate the Iranian economy through the relief of international sanctions. To put it in broad categories, Iran does three distinct “bad” things. Firstly, they deny basic human rights to their own citizens, secondly they actively cause and promote sectarian conflicts (read: terrorism) across the Middle East to further the interests of Shia Islam and lastly, they are trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Nobody in the world cares about the first one, only Israel (and behind the scenes, the Gulf countries) care about the second, and only because Israel makes them; Western countries care about the last one.
No matter what, Iran will not stop doing the second thing on that list and will definitely not stop the first one. However, there is still a fleeting chance that the third one can be stopped. To some, it seems that Iran is willing to do everything in its power to prove to the West that they are a changed country. However, it also seems to others that they are trying to do everything in their power to acquire nuclear weapons while relieving international sanctions through deceiving the West (in fact, Rouhani literally wrote his book about this doctrine; taqiyya – negotiating while enriching).
There are three people and one organization primarily responsible for the hurdles that Iran has faced so far and direct cause of its latest overture; Mark Kirk, Bob Menendez, Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC. The Kirk-Menezdez amendment, one of the only effective tools against Iran was almost defeated by Barack Obama who actively fought against the measure (first by not allowing it to become law and then by trying to take out its teeth). Fortunately, international sanctions are hard to ease and out of reach for the President; for example, American sanctions on the Soviet Union only came off the books last year.
It is important to understand that Iran may actually decide to give up their nuclear program. However Rosh Hashanah greetings, freeing political prisoners, and nice Op-eds in American newspapers are not a reflection of this. If Iran wants to seriously negotiate, it will relinquish enriched Uranium, in addition to dismantling the Fordow, Natanz and Arak facilities. Without this, everything else is for show.