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Experts Differ On How To Deal With Iran

Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Alexis Fabbri
Washington (UPI) Jun 06, 2006
Experts are divided in whether Iran will seek to head off a confrontation with the West over its nuclear program. A conference last week at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, heard conflicting assessments on how Tehran was likely to react to the latest proposals presented to them about dismantling their nuclear program from the United States and the European Union Trio, or EU3 nations of Britain, France and Germany.

Ali Jalali, former Interior Minister of Afghanistan, told the conference said he felt optimistic that Iran would accept some form of compromise.He said he had had had many chances to talk to ordinary Iranians and he believed they were more open-minded than most people in the West think. "There is room to change the attitude of Iran," he said.

Jalali said he could endorse economic sanctions. "Iran is very vulnerable economically. Without subsidies, people cannot make ends meet," he said.

If Iran's already flailing economy suffers further, it would hurt Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad politically. The outspoken and often outrageous Ahmadinejad gained the support of his people based on promises of economic reform and recovery. Sanctions would undo his popularity, Jalali said.

Another option -- military strikes -- must be ruled out, he said. Even the threat of force could drive Iranians into activating terrorist cells in sensitive areas.

"Iran has the means to create difficult positions for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan," Jalali said. Iran was already funneling money to the Iraqi insurgency and it bankrolled the Shiite Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon, he said.

Armed conflict would also alienate potential U.S. supporters in Iran. Jalali said. "It's difficult to imagine that the military solution would be the answer," he said.

Avraham Poraz, former interior minister of Israel and a member of the Israeli parliament, told the conference that the Iranians were not likely to accept whatever terms and restrictions that were laid out in the international offer.

"I'm not so optimistic that (the United States and Europe) are able to convince (Iran)," he said.

Israel has been the target of much of Ahmadinejad's vitriol. He has called for Israel to "be wiped off the map" and has denied the holocaust ever took place.

The irony was Israel's own president, Moshe Katsav, was born in Tehran and is fluent in Persian. The two countries' diplomats often sit next to each other at international conferences, where seats are assigned alphabetically (Iran, Israel), Poraz said. They never speak, he said.

Poraz said Israel took some comfort in its proximity to the Palestinian Authority territories since a nuclear weapon launched at Israel would most likely take out some Muslim Palestinians as well.

However, unlike Jalali, Poraz said he would not rule out the military option, even a preemptive strike, he said.

"The only question is what is happening if crazy leaders have (nuclear weapons)," he said. "The reality is that if Iran has nuclear capability they might use it and we should not tolerate that," he said. "I think we should all be worried."

Looking at the Iran situation from the Palestinian perspective, Rami Nasrallah, head of the board of directors of the International Peace and Cooperation Center in East Jerusalem, said more military action in the Middle East region would hurt his people. "The Palestinians are victims of any conflict," he told the conference.

Besides, the United States' war scorecard seems to have too many marks in the loss column lately, Nasrallah said. "If you would like to add Iran to the defeats of the Americans, be my guest," he said.

Nasrallah said he supported the idea of a completely nuclear-free Middle East, including Israel.

However, Poraz disagreed. "The problem with Iran is not related to whether Israel has an atom bomb. Israel has had the atomic bomb for 40 years. It has never used it. The Iranians might use it the next day when they have it. This is the problem," he said.

Nasrallah said democracy was the key to change in Iran. "Israel is a democracy, so (nuclear weapons) are allowed. Iran is not a democracy so it is not allowed. Get Iran a democracy," he said.

Source: United Press International

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Iran will not discuss its right to enrichment: Ahmadinejad
Tehran (AFP) Jun 3, 2006
Iran will not discuss its "absolute rights" to nuclear technology, notably the enrichment of uranium, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a televised address Saturday.

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