The incoming Barack Obama administration has already been inundated with reports, policy recommendations and position papers vying for the president-elect’s attention on the Iran nuclear issue. Although nicely wrapped in the semantics of a “fresh” or “game-changing” approach, the majority are familiar and lack novelty, and this should come as no surprise as many were penned by old US foreign policy hands like Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk.
As a result, even when they seem to be suggesting a reasonable “new thinking” in the US’s Iran policy, wedded to the idea of “engagement” and or “dialogue without preconditions”, these noble efforts are, however, undermined by their reliance on dubious assumptions. Not to mention their restrictive methodologies, which ultimately veer them back towards the same old plans for “coercive diplomacy”.
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
There are also the limits to the “dialogue without preconditions” logic put forth by, among others, the president of Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, in a new collaborative report with Indyk published by the Brookings Institution. Although positive in many respects and apparently earning the disapproval of Israel, the Haass-Indyk call for engaging Iran in dialogue without preconditions falls short of what is really necessary and lacking in Washington today, that is, dialogue without false assumptions.
One such false assumption that has been adopted like an article of faith by nearly all the pundits and nuclear experts in the US today, is that Iran is fast approaching a “nuclear breakout capability” – in light of Iran’s double process of mastering the nuclear fuel cycle and advancing its missile technology. This has warranted the word “crisis”, to quote US Senator Jon Kyl.  Not to be outdone by politicians, a number of nuclear experts, such as David Albright, have echoed the sentiment.
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Ahmadinejad, Iran Worry Oil’s Price Shrinks Thier Importance
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has for the first time admitted that the fall in world oil prices will affect the economic projects of his government, local media reported on Thursday.
“If we fix the oil price at 30 dollars a barrel in the budget, we will have to abandon much of our economic projects … We have to set it at 30 to 35 dollars as we don’t determine the oil price on international markets,” he said.
He acknowledged that “oil prices will be low for some time” because of the global recession.
Iran, which is OPEC’s second largest producer, has an official oil output of 4.2 million barrels a day, with half of the country’s budget dependent on its crude exports.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (left) Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Tehran on December 1, 2008. Ahmadinejad has for the first time admitted that the fall in world oil prices will affect the economic projects of his government, local media reported.(AFP/File/Atta Kenare)
Ahmadinejad boasted only last month that his government could run the country “with a barrel of oil priced at between eight and five dollars.”
“Even if we reach the point where the enemies do not buy our oil any more, we can manage the country. Thanks God, fluctuations in oil prices will have no effect on the next budget,” he said.