Saturday, March 17, 2007

Walter Isaacson: A Way Out of the Persian Stalemate

(image via gwu)

Is Walter Isaacson the new Thomas Friedman? Remember the extraordinary manner in which Crown Prince Abdullah presented the 2002 Saudi Peace Proposal to the New York Times Op-Ed writer? Now it seems that Aspen Institute CEO is a similar "delivery system" for a backdoor diplomatic proposal vis-a-vis The United States and Persia.

N'Orleans-accented media Establishmentarian Walter Isaacson, who is whispered often in certain circles as possible-future Secretary of State material (An expressionless silence), astonishes us in the latest issue of the newly designed Time Magazine. Isaacson, who, to this date, is only one of two journos to ever actually lay a glove on Kissinger -- the other is the late, great, intense, but somewhat cracked, Orianna Fallaci -- with Walter's definitive, cool, objectively-observed biography "Kissinger." The action in Issacson's essay begins thusly, not without the melodramatic echoes of High Journalism and High Diplomacy in simultaneity; from Time:

"Javad Zarif, Iran's polished U.N. ambassador, is noted for being unexpectedly jovial for a person with such a difficult job. But soon after I arrive for a visit to his Manhattan office a few days ago, he turns rather serious and nods at a pad of paper for me to take notes. He wants to go on the record, which is unusual."

Cue to Rimsky-Korsakov; continue:

"When he invited me to see him, I thought it was to say farewell. A law professor turned diplomat, he is not a supporter of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Instead, he has been aligned with the more pragmatic elements in Iran, and last month he was told that he was being recalled. But upon arriving, I find that he has been given a reprieve (or, perhaps, an extension of his sentence) by leaders in Tehran. They want him to stay for one last attempt to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

"The U.S. insists there should be no direct negotiations until Iran suspends its uranium-enrichment program. To break that impasse, Zarif argues that both sides should discuss what their final aims would be. 'We could start with two premises,' he says. 'One, that Iran has the right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Two, that Iran should never move in the direction of building nuclear weapons."

"Yes, but how to guarantee that the technology is not used for illicit purposes? Zarif builds on an approach that Iran floated last October. 'Iran could agree that its nuclear facilities, including all of its enrichment plants, could be jointly owned by an international consortium. All countries with concerns, including the U.S., could participate in that consortium. Their people and other foreign nationals could come and go to work at the facilities, which would allow for the best type of monitoring.'

"An agreement could also have other elements the U.S. would want. 'You can put in a legal agreement that Iran could not withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,' which it ratified in 1970. In addition, he said, there could be protocols for intrusive monitoring."

Astonishing. Is this a way out of our "foreign entanglement" with Persia? This, even as "300" -- the popular rendering of a moment in the eminently sober Greek Historian Thucydides'"Pelopennesian War" -- hints at another West-versus-Persia Grand Historical Moment. Curious.


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