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    Middle East
     Apr 11, 2007
Page 1 of 2
A win, win, win ending for Tehran
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Even as Iran basks in worldwide praise for its handling of the crisis over the 15 British sailors and marines it seized and then released after two weeks, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has ensured that the focus stays on his country by announcing that Iran has the ability to produce enriched uranium at "industrial scale".

This presses the point that, technologically speaking, Iran has reached a point of no return and henceforth the best the West can



hope for is to negotiate over the "objective guarantees" regarding the peaceful use of Iran's nuclear technology.

In a speech at Natanz, Iran's main nuclear site, Ahmadinejad said on Monday that 3,000 centrifuges had been installed in an underground facility, allowing Iran "to produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale".

Earlier, The Times of London wrote, "For the first time in his 20- month presidency, Ahmadinejad made a magnanimous gesture to the West," adding that Iran's president had achieved a "huge publicity coup" by his decision to free the 15 captives.

A German leftist daily, Der Tageszeit, has also written about Iran's "PR coup", suggesting that British Prime Minister Tony Blair could learn from Ahmadinejad.

Overnight, from constant vilification, the British and other European media have shifted gears to praise Iran's "gesture of magnanimity" hailing the "triumph of diplomacy over force" in causing an abrupt end to the two-week-long conflict between Iran and Britain.

While we are too close to this event to draw more than tentative conclusions, with crucial facts about the behind-the-scenes negotiations between Tehran and London or the decision-making process inside Iran that culminated in its act of clemency still to be revealed, this much is clear: from the outset, this was a crisis of opportunity for Iran, and the trick was not to get carried away with it, but rather cash in on the immediate gains for the sake of long-term goals and objectives.

Ahmadinejad's position stronger
Without doubt, both domestically and externally, Ahmadinejad's government has been strengthened as a direct result of this crisis. To many experts, both inside and outside Iran, the whole episode showed Iran's statecraft at its best, combining determination, resolve, stamina and deft diplomacy, as a result of which Iran has managed to get more mileage out of this crisis than could have been anticipated when the British sailors were seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guards on March 23.

Tantamount to a new Iranian "charm offensive", Ahmadinejad's maneuvers are bound to have significant ripple effects on nearly all facets of Iran's foreign policy, strengthening its hands in the nuclear standoff, in inter-state relations in the Persian Gulf, and beyond.

By standing up to a Western power, Iran has added new potency to its regional clout at a time when nearly all its Persian Gulf neighbors sheepishly toe the US line. The symbolic importance of Iran's taking on the British forces goes beyond the question of who was right or wrong and is empowering Iranians and their friends in the region.

No matter how Blair seeks to put a positive face on the "firm and resolute" British diplomacy, the basic fact is that his government was badly bruised by an Iranian initiative that set back the Western hegemonic policies in the Persian Gulf region.

Understandably, certain elements of the US and European media are putting the opposite spin on "the lessons", one being how this crisis "tarnished Iran's image". Such self-serving analyses are blind, however, to how this is played out in the Arab, Muslim and Third World streets, adopting instead a Eurocentric interpretation.

As expected, the US media have been rather tongue-in-cheek, to put it mildly, about the ramifications of Iran's behavior. A correspondent for ABC (American Broadcasting Co) News reporting on the release of British service personnel boldly stated, without bothering to elaborate, that this "deepens suspicions of Iran's nuclear intentions".

Another US network, on the other hand, ran a report on how upset the US government has been with the British conduct in Persian Gulf, questioning why Britain did not engage the Iranians, and so on. It failed to mention that the British may have acted wisely by not playing America's game.

At the same time, the US is keen on taking some credit for the diplomatic breakthrough, with some White House officials telling the New York Sun that the highest US officials in the administration of President George W Bush chose to free an apprehended Iranian diplomat in Baghdad.

Promoting the idea of an indirect, or rather "soft", quid pro quo, the paper also claims that Iran's request for a visit to the other Iranians in US custody in Iraq has been part of the deal. If so, that ought to set a positive tone for the US-Iran meeting at the Iraq summit scheduled in Istanbul for this month.

The generally negative inputs by the US media and government are hardly surprising: the United States' coercive approach toward Iran is now put on the defensive, seeing how the British proved that diplomacy can work with Iran, and the US media and politicians are plainly incapable of giving the devil its due, some simply accusing Iran of engaging in "theatrics" with the sailors.

Clearly, the US is now in the danger of appearing as the odd man out, with the likely improvement of the Iran-European Union 

Continued 1 2 


Iran takes the wind out of US sails (Apr 6, '07)

US dangles tempting bait for Iran (Apr 5, '07)

 
 



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