Whither(ing) negotiations?

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By Greg Hom
Nov 15, 2013

Christopher Bridwell's recent opinion piece in Al-Jazeera "Iran is negotiating with the wrong US officials" is useful in understanding some serious issues with the Iran/P5+1 negotiations.

In particular, the piece points out how the sanctions relief that the Obama administration is possibly calling for will still have to contend with the many laws enforcing sanctions on Iran passed by the U.S. Congress. The Obama administration just clashed with Congress on the best way to be involved in Syria; the current debates between the administration and Congress are another symptom of elites having serious differences on what the extent of American power can be in the world at this moment. While this fight with Obama is certainly useful for many Congress members for domestic reasons, it is clear that there are a number of people who believe that having the most conflict possible in the Middle East is the best policy the U.S. can have. After two major failures in the Middle East, hawks are still hoping for a regime-change war they can win. Reality seems set against them, but that doesn't seem to be stopping them.

Additionally, for those not aware of the sanctions that exist to punish Iran, Bridwell writes about the difference between direct and indirect sanctions.  Indirect sanctions, which target the whole economy of Iran, and not just individuals in Iran, have been in place since 1996.  And as Bridwell points out "Although Iran wants immediate relief from these indirect sanctions, they are unfortunately not the kind the Obama administration can easily waive or revoke."  Indirect sanctions are collective punishment of a society, and therefore shameful.

As for why France has been getting praise from the likes of John McCain (no longer shouting about Freedom Fries), a short article from the AntiWar blog has some to-the-point answers about why French negotiators have been derailing any deal with Iran. France is looking to strengthen its relationship with Saudi Arabia and Israel (both countries hate the idea of some kind of detente with Iran), the country is in a hawkish mode of expanding its foreign reach (they are "involved" in Mali, for example), and France may be snubbing the U.S. for not taking it up on its offer to attack Syria earlier this year.

None of these diplomatic moves or hawkish posturing is geared towards creating a more just foreign policy. But we should continue to demand that foreign policy go in a more sane direction and push for negotiations that lessen the effects of more than a decade of war in the Middle East.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

Greg has written book reviews for Left Turn Magazine, and volunteered with Prison Radio.

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