Shadowboxing with Wolves
Posted by Heather Hurlburt
If you're too transfixed by the prospect of the US losing its seat on the IAEA board of governors, losing Japanese funding through UNESCO for police training in Afghanistan, and potentially losing global patent protection, all over the Palestinians' effort to join the UN and an outdated 1994 law, you'll miss the fun of a new Iran bill coming through the House that apparently attempts to catch what international cooperation the 1994 law may have missed.
The bill bars US diplomats from even talking to their Iranian counterparts without prior certification by the President and notification to Congress 15 days in advance. Imagine if JFK had had to tell Cognress before he called the Soviets during the Cuban missile crisis. More to the point, US and Iranian diplomats have been sharing a conference room discussing the political future of Iran's neighbor Afghanistan this week. The New York Times reported that the Administration had quietly reached out to Iran to attempt to bring it into a political discussion around Afghanistan's future stability. No more of that.
And the number three official at the State Department, Bill Burns, had a meeting with an Iranian counterpart that, among other topics, proved important in releasing the first of the three American hikers from Iranian custody. Does that not matter? Also, are the CIA and DoD still allowed to talk to Iranians? Just asking.
In fact, the substantive problem with this bill doesn't lie so much in that ridiculous provision but in its efforts to sanction Iran's Central Bank. NIAC points out that this has been tried before, with Iraq, and failed; that sanctions on the Bank will further increase the hardships faced by ordinary Iranians, and create some measure of unity among Iranian factions -- the same impact it had on Iraq.
We have effective ways to "get tough," show our displeasure with Iran and make things more difficult for its rulers. When a Special Rapporteur criticized Iran's human rights record at the UN last month, the country got less support than Burma or North Korea -- a significant global embarrassment. Where is Cognress's support for the rapporteur's next steps? The IAEA is days away from presenting its latest report on Iran's nuclear activities, and it would seem that Washington's real priority ought to be garnering global support for a unified response. Other nations have made it clear that they won't follow us against the Central Bank, much less imposign a gag order on our own diplomats.
Of course, Washington has to be represented at the IAEA's executive council for such a strategy to work. Which makes you wonder whether Iran's hard-liners aren't secretly cheering every shadowboxing move we make.