An Irrelevant Point About Iran’s Election

After the last week’s extraordinary events, the following is irrelevant, but it might be worth stating regardless.

It’s been said here and there that Mir-Hossein Moussavi would have been no more enlightened in foreign relations — including the nuclear issue — than the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This “otherwise perceptive and enlightening article”: went so far as to say that Ahmadinejad would be _better_ able to repair relations with the West. (Better able, maybe. At all interested? He’s got a funny way of showing it.)

Common sense indicates that virtually anyone would be better than Ahmadinejad. The Obama Administration’s approach during Iran’s campaign season made sense: neither to “shake a fist”: nor to extend an embrace. This approach avoided validating Ahmadinejad during the campaign. The failure of his “let-them-eat-yellowcake politics”: seems all too clear now.

p=. *Half a Loaf is Better Than None*

Setting aside the nuances of “the suspension issue”: and focusing just on outcomes, there are two issues at stake, broadly speaking:

* Will the nuclear fuel cycle continue to be operated in Iran?

* What sort of safeguards will be in place?

The safeguards issue includes monitoring against diversion at declared sites (notably the enrichment plant at Natanz) and detection of undeclared sites and activities (by such means as the adoption of the Additional Protocol). I’m simplifying a bit, that that’s the basic picture.

In my view, at least, the safeguards issue is of the essence. Consider what would be more reassuring: Shutting down Natanz while keeping the IAEA confined to a handful of declared sites? Or continuing to operate Natanz, while giving inspectors considerably expanded access? Again, that’s a simplification, but it gives the outlines of the picture.

Bearing that in mind, Ahmadinejad has shown no signs of relenting on either issue. (Here’s the latest on “Natanz”: Whereas Moussavi, who campaigned on improving Iran’s foreign relations, has “expressed willingness to negotiate on safeguards”:

bq.. How would you remove tensions then?

Progress in nuclear technology and its peaceful use is the right of all countries and nations. This is what we have painfully achieved with our own efforts. No one will retreat. But we have to see what solutions or in other words what guarantees can be found to verify the non-diversion of the programme into nuclear weapons.

What kind of solutions?

They can be reached in technical negotiations.

p. This is not a small difference. But it seems like a moot point now. The present crisis has gone well beyond who occupies the Iranian presidency.

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