Analysts: Obama’s U.N. Bid for Iran Nuclear Deal Is Calculated

Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire
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Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire
Sept. 24, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­id­ent Obama care­fully cal­ib­rated his Tues­day re­marks at the United Na­tions to leave room for a long-sought com­prom­ise with Ir­an on its dis­puted nuc­le­ar pro­gram, ana­lysts told Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire.

He de­livered his speech to the U.N. Gen­er­al As­sembly as pre­vi­ously skep­tic­al West­ern ob­serv­ers were grow­ing in­creas­ingly op­tim­ist­ic about im­prov­ing ties with Ir­an. Their sen­ti­ments wert sparked by over­tures from Pres­id­ent Has­san Rouh­ani, who took of­fice last month pledging to win his coun­try re­lief from harsh sanc­tions im­posed on it be­cause of its atom­ic ef­fort. Ir­an in­sists the pro­gram is peace­ful, but Wash­ing­ton and its al­lies worry it could help Tehran ob­tain a nuc­le­ar-arms ca­pa­city.

Re­cent state­ments by Tehran and Wash­ing­ton “should of­fer the basis for a mean­ing­ful agree­ment,” the pres­id­ent said at the U.N. Gen­er­al As­sembly. He noted that the top dip­lo­mats from Ir­an and the United States are ex­pec­ted to at­tend a Thursday meet­ing to ad­dress the nuc­le­ar is­sue.

Ana­lysts said Obama’s re­marks hin­ted at a sig­ni­fic­ant de­sire for a deal on the nuc­le­ar stan­doff.

John Tir­man, head of the Mas­sachu­setts In­sti­tute of Tech­no­logy’s Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tion­al Stud­ies, said it’s “to be ex­pec­ted” that Obama max­im­ized his po­s­i­tion by press­ing Ir­an to abide by U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil res­ol­u­tions that call in part for Ir­an to fully sus­pend urani­um en­rich­ment, even though Tehran has con­sist­ently de­man­ded ac­know­ledge­ment of its leg­al right to re­fine the sub­stance for peace­ful use.

Any nuc­le­ar com­prom­ise, though, would ul­ti­mately per­mit “some en­rich­ment,” he said.

Tir­man said any agree­ment would most likely also call for “con­trol or dis­pos­al” of Ir­an’s most bomb-us­able urani­um, as well as would be “full-scope” in­ter­na­tion­al audits to en­sure Tehran is not tap­ping its atom­ic as­sets for mil­it­ary ends.

None of the pres­id­ent’s com­ments on Ir­an was “ac­tu­ally new,” but their “con­text mat­ters,” Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion Ir­an ex­pert Su­z­anne Malo­ney said in a tweet. She noted that Obama es­tab­lished a “pos­it­ive link­age” between the nuc­le­ar dis­pute and the Is­raeli-Palestini­an peace pro­cess.

Obama’s ad­dress marked “the most ser­i­ous pub­lic out­reach to re­solve dis­putes with Ir­an since the 1979 re­volu­tion” that over­threw the U.S.-backed gov­ern­ment in Tehran, Robin Wright, a seni­or fel­low with the U.S. In­sti­tute of Peace, told GSN in an e-mail.

“Obama clearly sought bal­ance,” she said. “His over­ture ac­know­ledged past Amer­ic­an at­tempts to ma­nip­u­late Ir­a­ni­an polit­ics, not­ably the CIA-or­ches­trated coup against a demo­crat­ic­ally elec­ted gov­ern­ment in 1953.”

“Now, she said, Wash­ing­ton is not out to change the re­gime in Tehran. But Obama also poin­ted out the many trans­gres­sions by the re­volu­tion­ary re­gime, in­clud­ing seiz­ing the Amer­ic­an em­bassy in 1979 and back­ing ex­trem­ist move­ments that have tar­geted many Amer­ic­ans.”

Is­rael has voiced open skep­ti­cism of Ir­an’s ges­tures to­ward rap­proche­ment. Last week, Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu pressed for Tehran to re­lin­quish all its en­riched urani­um and halt all pro­duc­tion of the ma­ter­i­al.

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