Friday, October 13, 2006

Iran: duplicity and diplomacy


Through the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was recently given the rare opportunity of addressing the people of the world. He used his speech to lambaste the United States and vilify Israel.

Many commentators voiced surprise that Ahmadinejad did not invoke the violent rhetoric the world has come to expect from him. They point out that, on this occasion, he did not call for Israel's destruction and did not call the Holocaust a "myth." However, Ahmadinejad's duplicity is not the mark of a changed or enlightened man. It is part of Iran's subversion and manipulation of the diplomatic process.

Instead of addressing his nation's human rights record, sponsorship of terrorism and nuclear development, Ahmadinejad diverted attention from those issues and accused others of oppressing the weak, stockpiling weapons, destabilizing nations and causing wars. Ahmadinejad continues his distressingly successful war of communications by making further use of the Western media to conduct interviews and present his "rational" and "correct" arguments. His distortions of reality and willingness to stand before the world and pass fallacies as truth rings a loud alarm for the civilized world as it pursues diplomatic efforts with Tehran.

Successful diplomacy requires participants to act in good faith.

While the hallmark of Western diplomacy is honesty and transparency, Iran coordinates diplomatic processes to mask its true intentions. As members of the European Union lead seemingly endless negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program and Western diplomats grasp any seeming progress as a symbol of hope, Iran uses each passing day to continue its nuclear development, support international terrorism and gather national allies to support its desired role of regional leadership and confrontation with the West.

The last three years are littered with Iran's broken promises to the Europeans. Long ago, continued negotiations with Iran were predicated on cessation of Iran's uranium enrichment program and full disclosure of all Iranian nuclear facilities to UN inspectors. These steps were seen as the beginning of a process designed to build confidence in the international community that Iran would not simply ignore obligations under future agreements. Even today, the West is engaged in further negotiations without any assurance that Iran will honor its commitments.

When does the civilized world run out of time? Ahmadinejad's persistent obfuscation reminds us that before negotiators hail any diplomatic breakthroughs, they must ask themselves what practical assurances guarantee that Iran will hold to its commitments. If none exist, the diplomatic process falls into doubt with consequences beyond imagination.

Adam H. Koffler is a resident of Ketchum.

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