The Middle East Channel

The nuclear bazaar

Next week’s nuclear talks with Iran, when top diplomats from the world’s biggest powers are slated to sit down with Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili, will take place in the shadow of WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of sensitive U.S. documents. It is now spectacularly public knowledge that when it comes to the Islamic Republic, the Arabs ...

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images
ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

Next week's nuclear talks with Iran, when top diplomats from the world's biggest powers are slated to sit down with Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili, will take place in the shadow of WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of sensitive U.S. documents. It is now spectacularly public knowledge that when it comes to the Islamic Republic, the Arabs can sound more warlike than even the Israelis. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is quoted saying in a confidential U.S. diplomatic cable that the United States should attack Iran in order to "cut off the head of the snake." Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan meanwhile sounded the alarm by saying Iran is looking to "reestablish a Persian empire in the 21st century." (He was, needless to say, pessimistic about the possibility of cutting a nuclear deal with Iran.) While other Arab leaders, including some Saudis, are quoted urging talks, Arab and Western leaders seem to agree at a minimum that the Iranians are not to be trusted and must be heavily pressured.

All this only reinforces the reigning pessimism about next week's "P5+1" talks in Geneva, the first time Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States have sat down with Iran in over a year. The Islamic Republic says it is always open to talks but does not want its nuclear program questioned. The United States insists, however, on discussing precisely this issue. Meanwhile, some 4,000 centrifuges are chugging away at Iran's Natanz site, enriching uranium that could be refined further into material for bombs.

Next week’s nuclear talks with Iran, when top diplomats from the world’s biggest powers are slated to sit down with Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili, will take place in the shadow of WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of sensitive U.S. documents. It is now spectacularly public knowledge that when it comes to the Islamic Republic, the Arabs can sound more warlike than even the Israelis. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is quoted saying in a confidential U.S. diplomatic cable that the United States should attack Iran in order to “cut off the head of the snake.” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan meanwhile sounded the alarm by saying Iran is looking to “reestablish a Persian empire in the 21st century.” (He was, needless to say, pessimistic about the possibility of cutting a nuclear deal with Iran.) While other Arab leaders, including some Saudis, are quoted urging talks, Arab and Western leaders seem to agree at a minimum that the Iranians are not to be trusted and must be heavily pressured.

All this only reinforces the reigning pessimism about next week’s “P5+1” talks in Geneva, the first time Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States have sat down with Iran in over a year. The Islamic Republic says it is always open to talks but does not want its nuclear program questioned. The United States insists, however, on discussing precisely this issue. Meanwhile, some 4,000 centrifuges are chugging away at Iran’s Natanz site, enriching uranium that could be refined further into material for bombs.

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Michael Adler is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He covered the Iranian nuclear crisis while a correspondent in Vienna for Agence France-Presse from 2002 to 2007.

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