Iran declared that Western opposition would not slow its nuclear program. Talks between Tehran and world powers have failed to reach an accord. Production continues at two uranium mines and a yellow-cake plant, marking Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day, according to its state news agency. The U.S. & allies continue their extreme concern that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. Talks between Iran and world powers held in Kazakhstan last week failed to reach a breakthrough.

Cautious optimism seemed apparent in Kazakhstan on Friday when Western and Iranian negotiators began a round of nuclear talks. Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the U.S. met Iranian officials with another attempt to resolve a decade-long conflict over Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran resists pressures and economic sanctions, arguing its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes only. In February, world powers lessened their demands & sanctions that have been strangling Iran’s economy.

Western officials hoped discussion of specific points, (such as closing a nuclear facility and sending enriched uranium stockpiles abroad), might be exchanged in return for easing some sanctions. However, international nuclear inspectors reported Iran’s significant upgrades in its ability to enrich uranium. Both sides accuse the other of not being serious about wanting a deal, leaving all concerned without any solution!
POTUS Obama came to office promising to end war, not begin another. Military action against Iran is generally unpopular in the United States. Iran is also in a tight spot. Israel consistently declares its impatience with diplomacy & may launch military strikes on Iran. Tehran, under pressure from sanctions, worries economic distress may lead to massive protests. They clearly don’t want such a scenario in the wake of upcoming June elections. The added issue connected to discussions is the war in Syria.

Iran is one of Syria’s most important backers. Senior Iranian military officials have been killed in Damascus. The civilian rebels have accused the West of standing by while the ruling Assad government kills tens of thousands of Syrian citizens. Obama hasn’t armed the rebels in part because it hinders negations with Iran.
Vice-President Joe Biden made an offer of direct talks with Iran. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday rejected the offer. He was quoted by western media as saying, “American policy in the Middle East has been destroyed.” But most people involved think a deal that settles the nuclear issue is impossible without direct U.S.-Iranian negotiations. Mutual mistrust lingers since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent U.S. Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran.

Meanwhile, from inside Israel we hear statements exclaiming, “It’s no longer a question of if – but when, Prime Minister Netanyahu responds militarily if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon.” Israeli thinking about airstrikes on Iran appears more accepted by its own people than previously. Even moderate voices have moved from avoidance of an Israeli strike on Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities to inevitability. Just months ago Israeli consensus on Iran was different. But now as Iran moves closer to the likelihood of attaining the ultimate weapon there are additional concerns. There is steadfast agreement among Israelis that they should do whatever it takes so that Hezbollah, (the neighboring terrorist group who gets most of its support from Iran), does not get access to these dangerous materials!

For the U.S., where do we go from here? Sanctions and multilateral talks have not worked. Obama seems unable or unwilling to contain Israeli sentiment favoring a military first strike. Is war between the U.S. & Iran inevitable? An even worse scenario to imagine is this final question. Are we to witness the second time such a horrific weapon is unleashed on an adversary?!

By, Jay H. Berman


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