Unless Iran responds positively to President Obama’s offer of talks on its nuclear program by next month, it could face what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls “crippling sanctions.” That was the message from Administration officials touring the Middle East in recent weeks. And it’s backed by congressional moves to pass legislation aimed at choking off the gasoline imports on which Iran relies for almost a third of its consumption, by punishing third-country suppliers. It sounds impressive and, for an undiversified economy like Iran’s, potentially calamitous. But a number of Iran analysts are skeptical that new sanctions will break the stalemate.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government has promised to present a new package of proposals on the nuclear issue to Western negotiators in the coming weeks. But that package is unlikely to reflect any shift in Tehran’s rejection of the U.S. demand that it forgo the right to enrich uranium as part of its nuclear-energy program. “If the U.S. position remains unchanged,” says Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert at the University of Hawaii, “Iran may well come to the table, but only in order to demonstrate to its own people that its regime has been recognized, not to seriously engage with U.S. proposals or give ground.” [continued…]