Dominance, Not Deals: Why Diplomacy With Iran Has Failed

John Glaser, January 23, 2013

The Obama administration’s diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear program is in shambles. In the broadest terms, this is because the so-called diplomatic opening Obama initiated upon coming into office never actually happened; Washington has been more apt to continue to bully Iran diplomatically while using draconian economic warfare to squeeze the Islamic Republic, despite Washington’s inability to identify any substantive Iranian transgressions.

But there is another, more specific detail to this story that is obstructing any political deal between Iran and the US (the P5+1 are there only to repel the impression that the US is actually engaging with Iran). And that detail is the obsession that the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has with the Iranian military site Parchin.

Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist and professor at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, writes about this absurdity in Foreign Policy:

Following two days of talks last week, officials from Iran and the IAEA threw in the towel, failing again to clinch a deal on access to sites, people, and documents of interest to the agency. The IAEA’s immediate priority is to get into certain buildings at the Parchin military base near Tehran, where they suspect Iran may have conducted conventional explosives testing — possibly relevant to nuclear weaponry — perhaps a decade or so ago. There is no evidence of current nuclear work there (in fact, the agency has visited the site twice and found nothing of concern). But by inflating these old concerns about Parchin into a major issue, the agency risks derailing the more urgent negotiations that are due to take place between Iran and the P5+1 countries (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany).

The IAEA again wants access to the site because of secret evidence, provided by unidentified third-party intelligence agencies, implying that conventional explosives testing relevant to nuclear weaponization may have taken place a decade or so ago at Parchin. The agency has not showed Iranian officials this evidence, which has led Iran to insist that it must have been fabricated. (This could well be true, given that forged documents were also passed on to the IAEA before the 2003 Iraq war.) As Robert Kelley, an American weapons engineer and ex-IAEA inspector, has stated: “The IAEA’s authority is supposed to derive from its ability to independently analyze information….At Parchin, they appear to be merely echoing the intelligence and analysis of a few member states.”

Olli Heinonen, the head of the IAEA’s safeguards department until 2010, is also puzzled at the way the IAEA is behaving: “Let’s assume [inspectors] finally get there and they find nothing. People will say, ‘Oh, it’s because Iran has sanitized it….But in reality it may have not been sanitized….I don’t know why [the IAEA] approach it this way, which was not a standard practice.” And Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, weighed in, stating, “Any country, I think, would be rather reluctant to let international inspectors to go anywhere in a military site. In a way, the Iranians have been more open than most other countries would be.”

This last point is corroborated by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett in their new book Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran, in which they report current “agency [IAEA] officials have told us they have better access to these [Iran’s nuclear] facilities than to analogous sites in some Western countries.” These inside accounts by experts in the field run in stark contrast to the media hype that Iran is somehow blocking IAEA access to facilities that could be hiding work on nuclear weapons.

But this isn’t the case. The IAEA doesn’t have jurisdiction over military sites like Parchin. They are being insistent on the Parchin issue despite having full access to all of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities and confirming time and again the non-diversion of Iran’s nuclear material.

And anyways, the allegations of weapons development at Parchin are that Iran was conducting work there a decade ago. Not only is that irrelevant to whether Iran is currently conducting weapons development, but even if it were true (which, again, is highly questionable) “Iran would not have violated its IAEA safeguards agreement,” Butt writes.

That said, the IAEA’s peculiar approach, under the self-described pro-US chief Yukiya Amano, is not the only roadblock. Most of Obama’s so-called diplomacy with Iran has been “predicated on intimidation, illegal threats of military action, unilateral ‘crippling’ sanctions, sabotage, and extrajudicial killings of Iran’s brightest minds,” writes Reza Nasri at PBS Frontline’s Tehran Bureau. This, despite a consensus in the military and intelligence community that Iran is not currently developing nuclear weapons and has not even made the political decision to do so.

Two experienced academics and diplomats, writing in Foreign Affairs back in October, also found the so-called diplomatic opening Obama brought was anything but: “for the past three years, the United States and Europe have stubbornly refused to seek a negotiated solution with Iran.”

Rolf Ekéus, Executive Chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq from 1991 to 1997, and Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer, Stanton Nuclear Security Junior Faculty Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, write that “calling for war while intensifying pressure on Iran, without also clearly defining steps Tehran could take to defuse the tension, removes any incentives for Iran to change its behavior.”

The last carrot the US offered Iran was spare parts for civilian airplanes, a pathetic offer they must have known Iran would (justifiably) balk at.

As Butt notes, former CIA analyst Paul Pillar has pointed out that the sanctions are “designed to fail.” Congress’s legislation links the sanctions to a long list of Iranian policies not at all related to their nuclear program. This makes lifting them really difficult in the context of nuclear negotiations.

Ayatollah_Khamenei_300After the failed talks in 2009 and 2010, wherein Obama ended up rejecting the very deal he demanded the Iranians accept, as Harvard professor Stephen Walt has written, the Iranian leadership “has good grounds for viewing Obama as inherently untrustworthy.” Paul Pillar has concurred, arguing that Iran has “ample reason” to believe, “ultimately the main Western interest is in regime change.”

In their Foreign Affairs article, Ekéus and Braut-Hegghammer say explicitly that they think the sanctions have “the long-term objective of regime change,” not a diplomatic settlement. Back in the 1990s, when the US-led sanctions regime in Iraq was killing millions of innocent people, Saddam’s regime actually met the Security Council requirements to get the sanctions lifted, but the US refused to provide any sanctions relief. When the sanctions were imposed, Washington insisted they were about blocking Iraq’s nuclear program. Then, “In the spring of 1997,” the authors write, “former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave a speech at Georgetown University in which she stated that even if the weapons provisions under the cease-fire resolution were completed, the United States would not agree to lifting sanctions unless Saddam had been removed from power.”

This is why a deal with Iran has not been forthcoming. Tehran knows and understands this. As Ayatollah Khamenei said in August 2010, “If they [the US] do not resort to bullying and step down from the ladder of imperialism…we will not have problems with negotiations. But negotiations are impossible as long as they behave like this.”

53 Responses to “Dominance, Not Deals: Why Diplomacy With Iran Has Failed”

  1. Time and again the US has shown itself to be the untrustworthy back-stabbing lout that it is. Who could possibly "negotiate" with lunatics who are bound and determined to kill you? The Iranians have even gone so far as issuing fatwas prohibiting nuclear weapons, something even Israelis haven't the courage to do, and that in itself seems to stick in Uncle Scams eye! Why is that so? With all the death and destruction that DC visits upon the world why would Iran comply with anything the murderous Washington "regime" babbles about?

  2. once again, just a few sentences in and all I can say is John Glaser is surely the village idiot. Thank your christian god john you were given a job in America where you can spout any crap you want. You certainly couldnt do that in these countries you seem to love so much. Try writing in Iran instead Just understand, you cant speak your mind in those countries.

  3. Oh, and that thing about non threats in north Africa…..guess we all know your wrong on that. Just ask the algerian military. John your a class act weenie.

  4. Even if Iran was to give up all Nuclear ambitions tomorrow No Power, No Medical Isotopes, Let alone its legal ability to enrich to its current standard, the United States wouldnt change a thing, as this isnt about Nuclear anything its about Regime Change, The US is still angry that they were kicked out and that they cannot any longer control the Oil, China is now getting it and that means it is more difficult to keep China in Check!

  5. Then, “In the spring of 1997,” the authors write, “former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave a speech at Georgetown University in which she stated that even if the weapons provisions under the cease-fire resolution were completed, the United States would not agree to lifting sanctions unless Saddam had been removed from power.”

  6. seems iran cant speak its mind here, however.

    we have blacked out irans english news channel.

    so much fr freedom of speech and press.

    god bless ameriker, eh bob?

  7. Bob, the Christian God is the same God of the Muslims and the Jews. The Abrahamic religions are the most violent religions to ever walk the earth. Why don't the people of Abraham go die and leave the planet to the humans.

  8. Perhaps now in his second term President Obama will not bow to the those negative influences that controlled his 1st term policies.

  9. As long as we are name-calling, I would say that you have a good deal of idiocy yourself. Glaser is not defending Iran – he is defending the US against the crazed war-mongers.

  10. I wouldn't count on that – at least not in any meaningful way .

    To blame any president for such policy ; is much like criticizing Micky Mouse for Disney's low quarterly profits . This has substantially more to do with our Congregational prostitutes …

  11. Thank you john for an excellent article. Imbeciles such as "bob" want nothing short of war with Iran. A man, such as you, who informs the people about the perils of an unjustified, illegal, and perhaps criminal war with Iran – just the way it happened with Iraq – is a true patriot, not those who either blindly accept whatever propaganda they are sold, or carry water for the neocons, the War Party, Israel lobby, and Israel itself, all of which want a perpetual state of war in the Middle East.

  12. Diplomacy with Iran? Who has used diplomacy with Iran? All I've seen is terrorist threats, terrorist actions, demands, extortion but diplomacy? Not so much. Maybe if the Axis of Terror tried diplomacy for a change, they may get somewhere. Then again, you can't get oil from a stone. If Iran is not involved in nuclear development, they simply can't stop what they're not doing.

  13. We asked the Algerian military. They told us that it was all the fault of the West for their interventionist colonialist/imperialist actions in Mali. Who woulda thought, eh? And thanks for the suggestion, at least now we know.

  14. I'm FAUX NOISE and approve of this message.

  15. bob you seem to be talking out of your as$. the article is all true and based an factual event.the iaea intelligence unknown 3rd party"probably israel" has no prove. it is all fabricated by mossad with no basis. it is like the cia arrests you w/o telling you why. they don't even tell iranian what it is that they are accused of. it is all bs and if you are so ignorant not to see the facts, then you are as good as a sheep following main stream media ran by pro israelis.

  16. bob oh and north africa and mali is yet another war and invasion by the west to strip yet another country of their natural resources specifically oil, uranium and gold. in defence of john you are a class act ignorant warmongerer.

  17. the problem is that most of these sanctions against iran is legislated and would be impossible to lift them since it has to go through the senate and the house. but I sure hope obama could find a way to end this madness.

  18. I agree. I bit that mossad will come up with another fabrocated allegation to deter a successful negotiation.

  19. Who's got two war fleets in the Persian Gulf? Note that's not off the coast of the USA.

    Purely defensive war-mongering is, somehow, different from the other kind?

  20. Great article

    Also coppied from RaceForIran:

    Lately, for the first time, a purely scientific ‘Report’ on Iran has surfaced that more directly and more convincingly reveals the colossal folly of aggressive anti-Iran actions. It also shows how rewarding a ‘De-escalation’ (and by extension a rapprochement with Iran) can bear mutually beneficial fruits.

    It is a Special Report dated November 2012 published by Federation of American Scientists entitled Sanctions, Military Strikes, and Other Potential Actions against Iran.

    According Wikipedia: The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) is a nonpartisan organization intent on using science and scientific analysis to attempt to make the world more secure. FAS was founded in 1945 by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs.

    See the 30 page PDF report in the following link:

  21. […] effective altering policies in one direction or another, which is why I’ve argued – and reiterated again yesterday – that the Obama administration is either extremely stupid, or they’re […]


    I like the de-escalation option … it's time to stop the Zionist insanity.

  23. If war with Iran happens, how will the US justify the new missiles in Poland, Romania and on ships in the Black Sea in Bulgaria ? A threat from North Korea ? The Russian NATO-Ambassador asked in Washington, "If Mars-people had disarmed Iran completely, would you still deploy the missiles ? And they answered, "Yes, that will go ahead as decided!" The Russian NATO-Ambassador said, "They think we are stupid!" Of course, the Russians will install Launch On Warning when necessary, probably by 2017. The missiles in Eastern Europe are to take out the Russian missile silos not hit by Minuteman-3 and Trident-2 according to missile engineer Bob Aldridge

  24. More like state/crony capitalism, ie the state stealing third world resources for corporate profit. Congress matters no more than the President, dig deeper and follow the money trail and ask qui bono.

  25. You got that right, Budd.

  26. To sum up:

    US diplomacy is doing precisely what it is designed to do. Not work.

  27. Do you have anything factual to say "bob"? You need to overcome your fear of foreigners. Thank your Christian god that we DO have John Glaser and to give us the detail about Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons program! And Iran's lack of freedom of speech is irrelevant to this issue.

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  30. Please put down the idiot nationalism for two minutes so that you might….just MIGHT begin thinking. Whose the country playing empire moron. Its not Iran DUH!

  31. Uh, no it isn't.

  32. Oh yeah Obama is completely innocent in all of this. If only the fuhrer knew…..LOL!! Are you mentally ill? Both him, the Senate, AND congress is to blame. Their all part of the Imperial City.

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  49. Oh, and that thing about non threats in north Africa…..guess we all know your wrong on that. Just ask the algerian military. John your a class act weenie.

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