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THE INDEX—October 2, 2009

At negotiations in Geneva between the P5+1 and Iran, Iran agreed to allow IAEA inspectors into its declared nuclear facilities at Natanz and Qom. It also accepted in principal an offer from Russia and France, with U.S. support, to process most of Iran's low-enriched uranium into nuclear isotopes for medical use in cancer treatment. Still, Friday morning, it appeared that the Iranian government had displayed little interest in abandoning any facet of its nuclear enrichment program that it continues to insist is designed purely for peaceful purposes. After the Geneva meeting, President Obama demanded that Iran allow Mohamed El-Baradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to inspect Iran's nuclear facilities in the next two weeks and to cooperate by making available all relevant personnel and documents. The New York Times reports that "many diplomats and analysts believe that the plant near Qom is only one of a series of hidden installations that Iran has constructed, in addition to its publicly acknowledged ones, for what is considered to be a military program." The medical nuclear isotope proposal exploits Iran's demand for developing cancer treatments for some of its ailing senior leaders. Iran had previously imported relatively low-enriched uranium from Argentina but, in revealing the program to the IAEA earlier this year, admitted its stockpile was quickly depleting. Under the proposal, which Iran has agreed to in principal and is to be discussed in a subsequent meeting in Vienna on October 18, Iran will ship "most" of its nuclear material to Russia for enrichment and to France for conversion to fuel rods before being shipped back to Iran for medical and civilian power use under IAEA supervision. President Obama called the talks a "constructive beginning" but cautioned, "If Iran does not take steps in the near future to live up to its obligations, then the United States will not continue to negotiate indefinitely." At an afternoon meeting of the first U.S.-Iran bilateral meetings in nearly 30 years, U.S. Under Secretary of State William J. Burns (the senior U.S. Foreign Service Officer) met with chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, who later reiterated Iran's commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons but insisted upon Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear energy program. "We are committed to our commitment in the framework of the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), and at the same time we will go ahead and stick to our nuclear rights in the framework of the NPT." For more on Iran's nuclear ambitions, see Kayhan Barzegar's "The Paradox of Iran's Nuclear Consensus" in the new Fall issue of World Policy Journal. In an impassioned appeal at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, Somalian President Sheikh Sarif Sheikh Ahmed implored the international community for increased security and humanitarian assistance in his country. Sharif, who leads Somalia's Western-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG), called on Washington and other nations to live up to their promises of aid. "We received many promises and pledges, but, unfortunately, the government hasn't received the fulfillment of these pledges which has slowed down progress," he said. "The international community seems not be ready to do anything for Somalia." His remarks, delivered at CSIS to a standing-room only audience, followed meetings with U.S. officials and a visit to the United Nations in New York. Back at home, though, fierce clashes between Islamist rebel groups broke out in the southern city of Kismayo. Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, Somalia's two most powerful rebel groups, engaged in fighting on Thursday in the strategic port city, which they had jointly controlled before declaring war on each other earlier this week. As of Friday morning, at least 29 had been killed and more than 80 wounded in the clashes, and Al-Shabaab had taken control of the city. But fears that the fighting could spread are still quite real, and militants have imposed a daytime curfew on the citizens that have not yet fled Kismayo. General Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior military commander in Afghanistan, made his first public statement since his Initial Commander's Assessment was leaked to the public last month. In it, he grounded the mission in Afghanistan firmly within the principles of counterinsurgency and called for an increased U.S.-NATO coalition commitment to the mission. "At the end of the day," he said, "we don't win by destroying the Taliban, we don't win by body counts, we don't win by number of successful military raids or attacks. We win when the people decide we win." He warned that "a strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy," though he did not elaborate. McChrystal's statement comes as the Obama administration is reconsidering the United States' fundamental strategic interests in Afghanistan and South Asia, while determining whether those interests effectively fulfill McChrystal's recent, classified request for forces, or treat the mission as purely a counterterrorist operation. McChrystal left no doubt on Thursday that he strongly believes U.S. strategic interests in Afghanistan are important, are threatened by the prospect of mission failure, and can be addressed through a counterinsurgency strategy that is bolstered by more resources. McChrystal did admit, however, "if that debate is necessary for a strong decision that is backed by resolve, then I think we have to take that time." In public statements, the administration has insisted the mission is not nation-building, but designed to destroy terrorist organizations. Still, the administration's metrics for mission success suggest more ambitious goals, especially metric "3b." The goal, he continued, is to "promote a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function, especially regarding internal security, with limited international support." Highlighting the debate, initial reports Friday morning claim that a NATO air strike killed several Afghans after NATO soldiers began taking fire. NATO air strikes have proven a remarkably effective counterterrorism tactic--killing Taliban fighters and senior leadership--but have been counterproductive in winning Afghan hearts and minds as part of the counterinsurgency effort. For more on the situation in Afghanistan, see this week's "Big Question" on the World Policy Blog. Irish voters head to the polls today for a second referendum on the European Union's Lisbon Treaty after rejecting it in June 2008. The purpose of the Treaty of Lisbon is to streamline EU decision-making. It has been in negotiations for nearly a decade and must be ratified by every EU country before it can take effect, and includes provisions to redistribute voting power within the EU, make its human rights charter legally binding, and reduce the number of commissioners in the European Commission. It also establishes a two-and-a-half year term for the European Council president—currently, presidents rotate on a six-month cycle—and condenses the existing offices of foreign affairs and external affairs chiefs into a High Representative on Foreign Affairs. Such reforms would presumably increase the EU's clout on the world stage, but many argue that it would centralize EU power at the expense of national sovereignty. This was the main issue at stake when Ireland rejected the treaty in its first referendum last June. But the EU has made certain conciliatory gestures toward Ireland in the meantime, like assuring it that it would not lose its commissioner or be forced to change its anti-abortion laws. At the same time, the tumultuous economic climate has left many Irish voters seeking a closer embrace with their government's partnership with its European neighbors. Brian Cowen, Ireland's Taoiseach or prime minister, pleaded with his constituents for a "yes" vote in the referendum, but insists that if it fails, no more will be held. "There will not be a Lisbon Three—that's for sure," he said to reporters on Thursday. As of Friday afternoon, turnout was reported to be "low and slow," though voting in Dublin was up substantially from last year's count. "Friday is an important day for Ireland, and for the whole of the European Union," said European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek on Thursday. "I hope the Irish people do come out and vote in large numbers, and I strongly encourage them to do so."

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