Samore on the Unsupportable U.S. Line in the SandPosted: July 26, 2013
I really think this quote from Gary Samore, a former key NSC official, sums up one of the central problems in the dispute between the West and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program.
The establishment of a bilateral channel is a necessary but not sufficient condition for coming to an agreement,” Mr. Samore said. “They want a nuclear weapons capability, and we want to deny them a nuclear weapons capability. Finding a compromise between those two objectives is going to be very difficult.
You see he’s actually being candid here about the line in the sand that the US has drawn in the negotiations. They want to deny Iran the capability to build a nuclear weapon. And therein lies the problem. That standard has no basis in international law whatsoever. That means this line in the sand drawn by the US is completely arbitrary and subjective. It has no authority or precedent as an international norm. And as I’ve said many times it is profoundly discriminatory. There are many states around the world that have the capability to build a nuclear weapon. They just choose not to. Iran is in no different technological situation than they are. In fact, they are at the moment quite technologically behind many of them in terms of this capability. So why single out Iran for this arbitrary standard? That is the problem that makes the Western approach to negotiations with Iran so bereft of legitimacy and so unsupportable. They’re just making up an arbitrary, subjective, standard that has no basis in international law or norms, and that is blatantly discriminatory. And they are enforcing it on Iran through crippling economic sanctions that are increasingly harming ordinary Iranian civilians. In a nutshell, that explains why I feel so strongly that this is an issue that needs attention and why I spend so much time writing about it.
Now, in the same article in which the Samore quote appears, and in this WSJ article (subscription, unfortunately) as well, it is reported that the US has recently loosened some of its sanctions on Iran with regard to trade in medical and agricultural products. This appears to me to be a very welcome act of goodwill on the part of the US, so I want to give credit where its due. Again, it appears to be an action aimed at signalling to President-elect Rouhani, US willingness to negotiate in good faith about sanctions relief, and to invite good faith efforts on his part as well. If that’s true and if that willingness on the part of the US is genuine, then I think this is a very welcome development, and one of the first signs I’ve seen of real good faith effort on the part of the US administration.