We’ve seen this play before, haven’t we?
You know, the one where the Bush Administration pretends to be interested in a diplomatic solution but is really trying to get its ducks in a row for going to war?
This is the very same ruse that the Administration wheeled out in the months leading up to the Iraq War, and some of the language is identical.
Bush said many times that Saddam Hussein faced a clear choice: to back down or face the consequences.
Condoleezza Rice, in appearing to offer an opening for negotiations with Iran, said the same thing at her May 31 press conference. “The Iranian government’s choices are clear,” she said. And if it makes the wrong choice, “it will incur only great costs.”
Thus does the Bush Administration put the onus on those it intends to attack.
Rice insisted that before the U.S. would sit down and talk with the Iranians (not bilaterally, as they wish, but together with the allies), Iran must first “fully and verifiably suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities” and “persuasively demonstrate that it has permanently abandoned its quest for nuclear weapons.”
It will be difficult for Iran to meet those demands, even if it wanted to, which is unlikely. Those four adverbs—“fully,” “verifiably,” “persuasively,” and “permanently”—allow the Bush Administration plenty of wiggle room to say that Iran is not cooperating.
And even if Iran decided to capitulate on the nuclear issue, it still wouldn’t be out of target range, as Rice made abundantly clear.
“The nuclear issue is not the only obstacle standing in the way of improved relations,” she said. “The Iranian government supports terror, is involved in violence in Iraq, and is undercutting the restoration of full sovereignty in Lebanon.”
She also repeated the belligerent threat that has become a refrain for this Administration: “The President is not going to take any of his options off the table, temporarily or otherwise.”
And, in a phrase that did not receive the notice it deserves, Rice said that if Iran doesn’t suspend its nuclear activities, the United States would apply “greater pressure on the Iranians through sanctions and other measures through the Security Council” and—get this!—“if necessary, with likeminded states outside of the Security Council.”
Can you say “coalition of the willing”?
Listen, this is a setup, plain and simple.
According to The New York Times, some European and Japanese negotiators “questioned whether this was an offer intended to fail, devised to show the extent of Iran’s intransigence.” One former U.S. official added, “It came down to convincing Cheney and others that if we are going to confront Iran, we first have to check off the box” of negotiations.
Behind the façade, “the Pentagon is ramping up two plans for bombing Iran,” Conn Hallinan notes in a piece at portside.org.
And, writes Hallinan, “Reza Pahlavi, son of the former Shah, is organizing a ‘front’ of Iranian ex-patriots to overthrow the present regime in Tehran.”
For Bush, diplomacy is but a formality, a preface, a prelude—mere calisthenics before the big event.