On Iran, a ‘Turkish model’ that makes sense

On Iran, a ‘Turkish model’ that makes sense

Were there international penalties on the “disinformation water boarding” that the world’s consciousness has endured since renewal of the Iran nuclear debate in November, the dock at The Hague would be crowded. 

One day the International Energy Atomic Agency leads the debate toward the most dire scenario; one day it tracks backward - all with the same data. One day Israeli officials murmur of an imminent strike on Iran, the next they retreat. Rhetoric among U.S. politicians – including the president – plays to paranoia. Iran’s irresponsible rhetoric soars ever higher. Meanwhile, our lexicon of weapons jargon grows, newly enriched by the tit-for-tat use of “sticky bombs” in Tehran, New Delhi and Tbilisi. The tails of leak-savvy officials wag the great dogs of the global news media. Sanctions will work, we are told; no they won’t, counsel other sages.

Yes, the crowd that should answer for this bedlam of manipulation would be large. But that’s just wishful thinking. For politics in the age of media, hyperventilation and threat-inflation is now the norm.
Which is why anyone really interested in this seeming run-up to Armageddon should examine the new report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group: “In heavy waters: Iran’s nuclear program, the risk of war and lessons from Turkey.”

Surprisingly, it has garnered little media attention in Turkey. But its rational and well-argued 47 pages of clear analysis offer a suggestion: that the current looming sanctions-or-strikes tool kit draw upon the Turkish-Brazilian initiative in 2010 that faltered amid Great Power objections.

A “world community in desperate need of fresh thinking could do worse than learn from Turkey’s experience and test its assumptions: that Iran must be vigorously engaged at all levels,” the ICG report argues.

The report details the history of the crisis, reaching concretely back to 2002 and abstractly much earlier. It chronicles the current stalemate, spear-headed by the IAEA in November. It also details what Turkey proposed in 2010 with a minimum of technical jargon: Basically an Iranian deposit of 1,200 kilos of low enriched uranium in Turkey in exchange for 120 kilos of 20 per cent enriched fuel for its reactor. Perfect? No. But it did mirror almost exactly an earlier deal offered by the West. More important, the ICG points out that “had it been accepted, Iran presently would have 1,200kg less of LEU and a step would have been taken towards building trust.”

The report quotes one Turkish official on the current, U.S.-led approach: “This is a waste of time, like beating the grape-grower instead of eating the grapes.”

Turkey and Iran have their tensions and points of competition, notably today in Iraq and Syria. But the two countries also have a $16 billion trade relationship and growing cultural ties that include the almost 2 million Iranian tourists to Turkey last year. From this environment can flow fresh thinking and it should, concludes the ICG:

“Pursuing a meaningful and realistic diplomatic initiative, with the kind of energy and commitment through which countries like Turkey and Brazil were able to produce at least a modicum of progress and trust, would not be a bad place to start.”

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