The World from Berlin 'The West Has No Good Options with Iran'

What will come out of Geneva? Many are hoping that the talks between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany will make progress toward halting Iran's nuclear program. German commentators are not optimistic.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili (R) and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana arrive for a meeting in Geneva between the Group of Six and Iran.
REUTERS

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili (R) and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana arrive for a meeting in Geneva between the Group of Six and Iran.


It is hard to know whether Thursday's meeting between representatives of the Group of Six and Iranian diplomats will be a beginning of a dialogue -- or the end.

On the optimistic side of the ledger is P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the US State Department. He told reporters on Wednesday that the "process will take some time." "We're not going to make a snap judgment on Thursday," Crowley added. "We're going to see how that meeting goes (and) evaluate the willingness of Iran to engage on these issues."

The issues in question, of course, center on Iran's nuclear program, one that many are concerned may ultimately result in an atomic weapon. Concern was heightened last week when US President Barack Obama accused Tehran of secretly operating a uranium-enrichment facility at Qom. Iran, though, has said that it's "nuclear rights" are not up for discussion.

On the pessimistic side, though, are those who see the meeting in Geneva this week as just the last step before a strengthened regime of sactions is put into place. Nicolas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs who will be the US's chief diplomat at the meeting, said in a recent interview with SPIEGELthat: "Should the talks fail, it will strengthen international support for tougher sanctions against Tehran."

His Iranian counterpart in the negotiations, Saeed Jalili, countered in a recent interview with SPIEGEL by saying: "Do you really believe there are sanctions that can hit us that hard? We've lived with sanctions for 30 years, and they can't bring a great nation like Iran to its knees. They do not frighten us. Quite the opposite -- we welcome new sanctions."

In Thursday's newspapers, German commentators expressed their belief that the talks would fail and that China and/or Russia would prevent imposing tough new sanctions.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"In its nuclear dispute with Iran, the West doesn't have any good options. The issue really isn't at all about reaching a common decision about what is possible and keeping everyone's eyes on the prize, i.e., keeping nuclear weapons out of Iranian hands. We shouldn't expect China and Russia to play ball in UN Security Council efforts to impose more painful sanctions. That must be accepted to preserve any sort of united front, which is of critical importance in trying to influence Iran. After having already embargoed Iran for 30 years, the US can do little to influence the country alone."

"With this in mind, dialogue isn't the worst option -- though it might be an arduous path. It would at least buy a little time for President Obama, who is under a lot of pressure to act. But if Iran doesn't budge, there is no alternative to sanctions except the worst of all options: a military attack on Iran's atomic program."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"There is one thing for sure: Iran's willingness to negotiate its program depends on how seriously it needs to fear sanctions if it does not comply. If Moscow and Beijing don't back sanctions, the West will be forced to move forward alone."

Left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"The precondition for successful talks in Geneva would be a solid willingness to compromise.... When Barack Obama hinted at détente at the beginning of his term in office, hope bloomed that there could be a political solution. This is particularly true because it marked the first time that the rhetoric calling for a complete suspension of Iran's uranium-enrichment program was put on the backburner for a bit. But this still wasn't enough to help those in Tehran who were ready to compromise to prevail."

"Since Iranian President Ahmadinejad 'won' the recent election through massive electoral fraud and unleashed civil unrest, the nuclear program and reference to external enemies have been used even more than before to help steer the conversation away from domestic problems and to suppress the opposition."

"Even if the UN Security Council had officially taken its demand for an immediate cessation of uranium enrichment off the table via temporary suspensions of its pertinent resolutions, chances are that Iran would have still reached a similar decision about uranium enrichment. If Tehran is determined to build atomic weapons, tougher sanctions won't do much to stop them. But then, of course, the only option still left on the table will be military action. Unless -- and it's only a vague hope -- the people bring down the regime first."

-- Josh Ward

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