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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Iran's public diplomacy

The Bush administration just appointed Karen Hughes to head America's "public diplomacy" effort, but it is important to keep in mind that other states engage in this activity as well.

Two weeks ago, Iran (specifically, the Expediency Council, which is a great name for a national security agency) hosted an International Conference on Nuclear Technology and Sustainable Development. Iran invited a number of westerners who work on international security issues in hopes of reassuring them that they are not such bad guys.

I've heard two of the participants discuss this conference and they both noted that Iranian speakers seemed to be free to say whatever they wanted. Some speakers were in favor of nuclear arms acquisition, others played up the energy angle, and some were anti-nuclear. Jeffrey Boutwell of Pugwash agrees that the dialogue was useful:
The conference was characterized by a very open and candid exchange of views among all participants. Substantive differences of opinion over the nature, rationale and international ramifications of Iran’s nuclear program were aired in both the plenary and break-out sessions, with the result being a genuine dialogue.
Some participants in the conference, including Harvard's Steve Miller, got to dine with the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Dr. Hassan Rohani.

Some even flew to Esfahan for a 6-hour tour of Iran's notorious nuclear facility. They didn't get to see the famed tunnels, but then again, they didn't ask in advance!

Iran basically said that it isn't going to abandon the nuclear program for a few economic incentives. Their program is legal, even the uranium enrichment, and the violations found by the IAEA have all (save for the traces of highly enriched uranium found on the used equipment) involved failures to report legal activities. The NPT and IAEA are quite forgiving on that score. Once the efforts are reported, states can go back about their business, as normal.

The US, meanwhile, is trying to change the meaning of the NPT -- unilaterally.

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