Iran redux

Exactly ten years ago, Tehran promised to open the gates of its nuclear installations and the Europeans promised to assist Iran in developing the peaceful use of nuclear power.

Iranian nuclear talks 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian nuclear talks 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Exactly 10 years ago, on October 21, 2003, the so-called Troika of the European Union (the foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany: Jack Straw, Dominique de Villepin, Joschka Fischer) together with the leaders of Iran issued the “Tehran Declaration.” Tehran promised to open the gates of its nuclear installations and the Europeans promised to assist Iran in developing the peaceful use of nuclear power. It was a breakthrough of historical dimensions, commentators said.
The declaration was welcomed as a victory of “soft power,” a European specialty prepared in the kitchens of pacifist thought, over America’s “hard power,” as served by George W. Bush. It was clear that refined and soft-spoken diplomats could achieve what rough American threats could not: reason with the mullahs and diminish their worries over western hegemony.
The Troika started talking to Tehran only in August of 2003, and The New York Times wrote on October 22: “The agreement on Tuesday came swiftly, apparently enjoying the support of conservatives as well as reformers in Iran’s divided leadership.”
French press agency AFP quoted the self-assured members of the Troika: “The British, French and German foreign ministers hailed Iran’s agreement here Tuesday to open up its suspect nuclear programme, with Germany’s Joschka Fischer saying the accord would ‘stabilize the region. [...]This is an important day. [...]We can move forward in a serious dialogue.’ “British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the deal was ‘an important step forward,’ and France’s Dominique de Villepin said it was an ‘important step in Iran’s commitment to the struggle against proliferation.’” The Tehran Declaration was a great document.
Paragraph 2 (a) was an especially fine piece of work: “The Iranian Government has decided to engage in full cooperation with the IAEA to address and resolve, through full transparency, all requirements and outstanding issues of the Agency, and clarify and correct any possible failures and deficiencies within the IAEA.”
What did Iran get in return for its cooperation with the IAEA? The following: “The three Governments believe that this will open the way to a dialogue on a basis for longer term cooperation, which will provide all parties with satisfactory assurances relating to Iran’s nuclear power generation programme. Once international concerns, including those of the three Governments, are fully resolved, Iran could expect easier access to modern technology and supplies in a range of areas.”
And there was more the Troika promised the mullahs: “They will co- operate with Iran to promote security and stability in the region, including the establishment of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East in accordance with the objectives of the United Nations.”
In other words, the Troika would take care of the Israelis.
What a document. There it was, black on white.
Problem solved.
ITS TRUE value was the piece of paper it was printed on. The Troika – three smart men with enormous political experience – knew it.
Nevertheless, they proceeded as if it was enough to have created an illusion. They set aside everything the knew about the mullahs and played along.
It was delusional, on purpose. They knew the only thing the mullahs wanted was to buy time, not an agreement. The mullahs knew the Troika knew the declaration was bogus, but with western leaders like these the mullahs could easily continue playing out this theater of the absurd. Pretend, cheat, lie, smile, withdraw, consult, return, pretend, cheat, lie – and so forth. Not a single word of the declaration was executed.
The Troika guys knew it was make-believe, but didn’t care. On the contrary, they were convinced that playing along with the mullahs was in their own interest. They were career politicians, not statesmen contemplating the values of liberty and integrity or weighing them against the criminal schemes of Islamist extremists. As much as the mullahs were, the Troika guys were playing for time.
On their return to their respective capitols, they were welcomed by the media as true heroes.
What did British newspaper The Guardian write exactly 10 years ago? “Three European foreign ministers claimed a diplomatic coup yesterday, securing an agreement from Iran over its nuclear programme which could defuse a brewing crisis with the US.”
But the mullahs lied, the Troika lied, the media lied.
The leader of the Iranian delegation with whom the Troika “claimed a diplomatic coup” (George Bush, take that), was “tough but fair to deal with,” Jack Straw recently said.
The name of that negotiator? Hassan Rohani.The author is a novelist and political commentator.