From the New York Post:
BUOYED by their modest electoral success last month, critics of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's provocative foreign policy were preparing to launch a series of attacks on him in the Islamic Majlis, Iran's ersatz parliament. But then Ahmadinejad got an unexpected boost from Barack Obama.
Ali Larijani, Iran's former nuclear negotiator and now a Majlis member, was arguing that the Islamic Republic would pay a heavy price for Ahmadinejad's rejection of three UN Security Council resolutions on nukes. Then the likely Democratic presidential nominee stepped in.
Obama announced that, if elected, he wouldn't ask Iran to comply with UN resolutions as a precondition for direct talks with Ahmadinejad:
"Preconditions, as it applies to a country like Iran, for example, was a term of art. Because this administration has been very clear that it will not have direct negotiations with Iran until Iran has met preconditions that are essentially what Iran views, and many other observers would view, as the subject of the negotiations; for example, their nuclear program."
"Talking without preconditions" would require America to ignore three unanimous Security Council resolutions. Before starting his unconditional talks, would Obama present a new resolution at the Security Council to cancel the three that Ahmadinejad doesn't like? Or would the new US president act in defiance of the United Nations - further weakening the Security Council's authority?
President Bush didn't set the preconditions that Obama promises to ignore. They were agreed upon after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran was in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Acting in accordance with its charter, the IAEA referred the issue to the Security Council.
Dismissing the preconditions as irrelevant would mean snubbing America's European allies plus Russia and China, all of whom participated in drafting and approving the resolutions that Ahmadinejad doesn't like.
Such a move would make a mockery of multilateral diplomacy - indeed, would ignore such diplomacy in exactly the way that critics claim the Bush administration has.
Obama clearly hasn't asked British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy what they think of the United States' suddenly changing course and granting Ahmadinejad's key demand in advance.
Maybe Obama hasn't been properly briefed about the "preconditions" he gets so worked up about. He cites Iran's "nuclear program" as a precondition. Wrong: No one has asked, or could ask, Iran to stop its nuclear program - period. On the contrary, Iran's participation in in the Non-Proliferation Treaty gives it the right to seek help from other signatories, including the US, to access the latest technology in developing its nuclear industry - for peaceful purposes.
The Security Council isn't asking the Islamic Republic to do something dishonorable, humiliating or illegal. All it's asking Ahmadinejad to do is to stop cheating - something the Islamic Republic itself has admitted it has done for 18 years. The Security Council has invited Iran to "suspend" - not even to scrap - a uranium-enrichment program clearly destined for making bombs, in violation of the NPT.
Iran has not a single nuclear-power station and thus doesn't need enriched uranium - except for making bombs. Its sole nuclear plant is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2009. But that can't use the type of uranium that Iran is enriching; the station requires fuel of a different "formula," supplied by Russia, which is building the project, for the next 10 years. (And the Russians have offered to provide fuel for the plant's entire lifetime of 37 years.)
Another precondition asks Tehran to explain why it is building a heavy-water plant at Arak - when it has absolutely no plans for plutonium-based nuclear-power stations. The Arak plant's only imaginable use is to produce material for nuclear warheads.
Finally, the IAEA and the Security Council are asking Tehran to allow international inspectors access to all sites related to the nuclear project - access that Iran is obliged to provide under the NPT.
In short, the minimum show of goodwill on Ahmadinejad's part would be to comply with the UN resolutions before he goes to the White House for talks with President Obama on other issues.
Obama's words on "preconditions" have helped ease domestic pressure on Ahmadinejad to comply with the United Nations and the IAEA. The Iranian president is telling his domestic critics to shut up until after the US election. Why, after all, should he make concessions that a putative President Obama has already dismissed as unnecessary?