Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

  “We’re closer now to war against Iran than we’ve ever been”

So said Joseph Cirincione this evening at a lecture on nuclear proliferation in Lancaster, PA. A highly respected expert in the field, and until recently the Director for Non-Proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Cirincione’s comments deserve attention, even from those who don’t believe the situation is that dire.

One of the themes of his talk was that coming to grips with the fear that nuclear weapons cause, and becoming aware of how actors on the political stage evoke and manipulate that fear, is the only way for humans to take control of their own destiny and pull back from the abyss of virtually unchecked nuclear proliferation. People everywhere want to see the end of nuclear weapons, he said, yet the stoking of fear keeps causing us to seek out ever more perilous solutions to the problems.

During the question period I asked him whether he gives credence to reports that the Vice President and his friends were responsible for spreading false stories recently about a supposed nuclear facility in Syria. Cirincione said emphatically that he does believe them: “Absolutely.” As I discussed earlier today, the fear-mongering regarding Syria may be an indication of the direction this administration intends to take with Iran.

Cirincione also stated that he had confirmed that the Bush administration received from Iran a sweeping offer to negotiate a grand bargain in April 2003. The first detailed account of the Iranian offer was given by Gareth Porter last May.

The proposal, a copy of which is in the author's possession, offered a dramatic set of specific policy concessions Tehran was prepared to make in the framework of an overall bargain on its nuclear program, its policy toward Israel, and al-Qaeda. It also proposed the establishment of three parallel working groups to negotiate "road maps" on the three main areas of contention -- weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and regional security, and economic cooperation.

The offer reportedly was drafted by the Iranian ambassador to France, Sadegh Kharrazi, and passed on to the U.S. through the Swiss ambassador to Iran, Tim Guldimann. When the corporate media finally noticed the story last winter, Condoleezza Rice tried to cast doubt on it.

Rice was questioned about the document on Capitol Hill last week. She said she did not recall seeing it when she was national security adviser. "I just don't remember ever seeing any such thing," she said.

This evening, however, Joe Cirincione said that he has spoken to Kharrazi, who confirmed that he drafted the offer, as well as to Guldimann, who confirmed that he had passed it on to the U.S. The offer was (as we now know) rejected more or less abruptly by the neocons in the Bush administration, because they believed the US could force the collapse of the Iranian government. Cirincione described the Bush administration’s refusal to negotiate in 2003 as one of the greatest policy disasters of the last 30 or 40 years in regard to Iran.

It was while describing the consequences of that blunder that he expressed the view that we are closer now than we’ve ever been to war with Iran. It’s a view that a depressingly large number of people have been reaching.

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