Iran weakness may hinder nuclear deal, strategists say

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As six world powers prepare to meet Iran in Kazakhstan at the end of the month, the problem international negotiators may confront is Iran’s reluctance to negotiate from a position of weakness, analysts said Wednesday.

“Rather than play a positive game, it pursues a negative game: to deny the objective of its adversaries,” Middle East analyst Jon Alterman told an Iran conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Wednesday. “It does not have a positive goal.”

“Iran has the conviction that …if the U.S. accepts the offer, it must be disadvantageous to Iran,” he said. “So they will work to get the offer down again. To keep from getting the deal that people in the US government would like to strike.”

If the dynamic can’t be changed, “I fear we may spiral down away from a resolution,” he said.

“A negotiated settlement may be doable,” ret. Maj. Gen. James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the panel.

If it comes to the point that “diplomacy has run out,” — and it hasn't yet, Dempsey said, military power could be brought in to “reset the diplomacy.” But “you need to be sure the military options exercise fit the activity and desired end in sight.”

Western negotiators have to understand that they can’t “un-invent” Iran’s nuclear program, but they can try to change Iran’s calculus, Cartwright said. “Once the manufacturing and intellectual capital are mastered, you are not going to kill all the intellectual capital. Once understood, it’s very difficult to make it go away.”

Former Israeli Defense Forces intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told journalists this week that he preferred an imperfect deal to the military option.

“I will prefer an agreement, to the bomb or bombing,” Yadlin told journalists on a call arranged by the Israel Policy Forum Tuesday. “However, we have to be very careful that the agreement is a reasonable agreement… [that would not] allow Iran to break out …in a short time.”

Such an agreement would limit the number of Iranian centrifuges, send “Iran’s enriched uranium out of Iran, reprocessed [fuel] can be brought back to Iran, Iran gets recognition of its right to enrich, but you don’t let them possibility to break out in such a short time,” Yadlin said.

The issue is expected to be high on the agenda when President Obama meets with Israeli leaders on his first visit to Israel as president next month.

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