Iran Empowered

Kenneth Bandler
March 4, 2013

The International Olympic Committee’s decision to drop wrestling from the quadrennial games marks a rare defeat for Iran. The sport is very popular there. The country’s athletes have excelled for years, bringing home medals from the Olympics and other international competitions.

On several occasions, though, Iranian wrestlers suddenly dropped out, even forfeited matches, to avoid bodily contact with Israelis. The individual Iranian competitor, though, was the real loser, victimized by his own government’s hateful foreign policy.

Iran has time to rectify what it considers an IOC mistake. Is wrestling less important than curling? Whatever the outcome, by 2020, when the IOC decision will take effect, Iran will likely be a more self-assured, dangerous nation. Indeed, in recent days, Iran has shown that its real wrestling prowess is in the arena of international diplomacy.

Iran’s representatives came to Almaty, Kazakhstan’s capital, last week for talks with their counterparts from the six world powers that have tried to dissuade Teheran from its perilous quest for nuclear weapons capability. The last time Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US – the P5+1 group – met with Iran, in Moscow in June 2012, the talks ended as inconclusively as the previous two gatherings, in Istanbul and Baghdad.

The most significant outcome in Almaty was an agreement to meet again. After a technical team holds discussions in Istanbul later this month, the policy dignitaries will reconvene in the Almaty in April. There could well be delays in firming up the actual dates for these follow-up meetings – if they take place at all – but one thing is certain. By the time the five UN Security Council permanent members and Germany sit down again with Iran, the IAEA will issue another report on the progress of Iran’s nuclear program.

“Iran’s nuclear train will never stop,” Iran’s legislature declared ahead of the Almaty gathering.

Indeed, the two-day meeting ended with no brakes applied to the steady, forward movement of that train, which, despite Iranian denials, is steadily heading toward crossing the threshold of nuclear weapons capability.

In a sign of Iran’s arrogance, it informed the IAEA in January of plans to install advanced uranium enrichment machinery at its Natanz facility. And the IAEA director, on the eve of the Almaty meeting, confirmed that development, and then stated, as he has done before, that he “is unable to report any progress on the clarification of outstanding issues, including those relating to possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program.”

CONFIDENCE THAT much of the world stands with them empowers Iran’s leaders. The Non- Aligned Movement unanimously endorsed Iran’s nuclear program, including the right to enrich uranium, last August. The NAM summit in Teheran marked the beginning of Iran’s three-year chairmanship of the largest bloc of nations in the UN.

Even as the NAM met in Teheran, the IAEA issued one of its reports, concluding that Iran had sanitized the Parchin military base, suspected of being a nuclear test site, and doubled the number of centrifuges at the Fordo underground uraniumenrichment plant.

This veneer of negotiations has served the Iranians very well, as a former deputy director general of the IAEA told the Wall Street Journal’s David Feith. “By making promising public statements,” said Olli Heinone, “the Iranians build a kind of hope, and the diplomats buy it.”

Iran scored other victories in Almaty. The P5+1 dropped their demand that Iran shut down Fordo, and intimated readiness to ease, selectively, sanctions.

It is difficult to maintain a united front of six disparate nations that include powers that have opposed the oil embargo and other economic weapons against Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Any weakening of what’s been a firm, united stance on Iran’s nuclear program will only gratify its defiant rulers. No wonder Iran’s chief negotiator proclaimed Almaty “a turning point.”

Before any further consideration is given to softening the international community’s stance on Iran’s nuclear program, all concerned should recall the evil Iran has committed without nuclear weapons.

Almaty took place the same week that Iran’s leaders prepared to celebrate approval by the Argentine Congress of a sinister agreement to jointly investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. It was another triumph for Iran’s diplomatic prowess.

In the past year alone, terror plots with Iranian fingerprints were foiled in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Singapore against Jewish and Israeli targets, while one Israeli was killed in a car bombing in India.

Iran denies any responsibility for those, just as it has dismissed connection with operatives recently arrested in Nigeria planning to stalk Israelis, like the Hezbollah agent on trial in Cyprus and those who carried out the attack in Burgas, as proven by the Bulgarian government.

Also, Iran feels no diplomatic pressure near home. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was welcomed to Cairo last month to attend the Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting, the first visit of an Iranian leader to Egypt in more than 30 years.

Internationally, Teheran’s rulers are feeling good.

That doesn’t bode well for global security.

The writer is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.

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212-891-6771 / bandlerk@ajc.org