Skip to comments.Iranian Alert - November 29, 2004 [EST] -- Iran Backs Away From Demands on A-Bomb Fuel
Posted on 11/28/2004 9:12:23 PM PST by DoctorZIn
Top News Story
Iran Backs Away From Demands on A-Bomb Fuel
By ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: November 29, 2004
ARIS, Nov. 28 - Iran on Sunday backed off a demand to operate uranium enrichment equipment that could be used either for energy purposes or in a nuclear bomb-making project, European and Iranian officials said.
The Iranian retreat appeared to salvage a nuclear agreement reached Nov. 15 between Iran and France, Britain and Germany to freeze all of Iran's uranium enrichment, conversion and reprocessing activities.
It also paves the way for the 35 countries that make up the ruling board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based United Nations nuclear monitoring body, to pass a resolution that will be only mildly critical of Iran's nuclear program.
Such a resolution, expected to be passed Monday, is certain to disappoint the Bush administration, which is convinced that despite Iran's denials, it has a covert program to build nuclear bombs, not simply to produce energy. The administration had wanted much tougher language in the resolution.
Iran's suspected nuclear ambition has become a leading source of worry in the Bush administration, which has said it will not allow Iran's Islamic republic, with its avowed hostility to the United States, to attain nuclear weapons or even develop a comprehensive peaceful nuclear energy program. In Washington, reports of a new accord with Iran brought expressions of caution from the Bush administration, which has been skeptical about the European efforts to negotiate with Iran.
"We've seen this kind of commitment from Iran before," a State Department official said. "We'll be looking to see whether they stick with what they agree to do. In the past they haven't, so follow-up is very important."
The retreat came in the form of a letter from Iran on Sunday to the International Atomic Energy Agency. In the letter, Iran withdrew its demand to operate 20 centrifuges - uranium enrichment machines - for research and development purposes.
"Iran will permit the I.A.E.A. to place these centrifuges under agency surveillance," said Hossein Mousavian, the chief Iranian negotiator, in a telephone interview from Vienna. "Iran will not conduct any testing."
Asked specifically whether the machines would be turned off, as the Europeans have demanded, Mr. Mousavian said, "We say Iran will not conduct any testing," adding that the matter of Iran's desire to continue research will be discussed when Iran and the European countries begin talks in the coming weeks on possible economic, technological and political incentives for Iran under the European agreement.
After the letter was received, the three European countries formally submitted a draft resolution on Iran to the United Nations agency, said Mark Gwozdecky, the agency's spokesman.
The I.A.E.A. is expected to certify Monday that Iran has frozen its entire program as defined by the agreement with the Europeans.
That will allow the agency's board to pass the resolution on Iran on Monday as well. Unlike the United Nations Security Council, where 5 of the 15 member countries have veto power, the I.A.E.A.'s board generally operates by consensus.
The Bush administration has been continually frustrated in its efforts to persuade the atomic energy agency to punish Iran for its nuclear activities. The three European countries have rejected a flurry of American proposals for a harshly worded resolution against Iran.
The breakthrough between the Europeans and Iran came after Iran suggested a change in the resolution that would more specifically reflect the positive step Iran was taking in suspending its enrichment program, both Mr. Mousavian and a senior European official said. In exchange, Iran abandoned its demand to operate the centrifuges for research.
Mr. Mousavian said the 20 centrifuge machines would not be sealed but placed under camera surveillance, a face-saving move that the I.A.E.A. said would be acceptable in terms of its monitoring capacity.
In another face-saving gesture, the Iranians said in their letter to the agency on Sunday that there would be no "testing," rather than no "research and development."
But a senior European official involved in the negotiations said that under the new arrangement, "The machines will not rotate an inch."
Despite its softer language, the resolution to be adopted Monday calls for continuing investigations into sensitive aspects of Iran's nuclear program.
The resolution also mentions "many breaches of Iran's obligations to comply" with international nuclear safeguards but notes Iran has taken "corrective measures" since beginning to disclose parts of its atomic program in October 2003.
Mr. Mousavian said Iran won a crucial change to reflect the fact that the freeze of its enrichment program was "not legally binding."
As a signer of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran has the legal right to enrich uranium, and the Iranian delegation made the point repeatedly during the negotiations that its country's suspension of its uranium enrichment program was voluntary.
In Tehran on Sunday, Hamid Reza Assefi, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Iran hoped the issue would be resolved at the atomic energy agency. Nonetheless, he struck a defiant tone.
"We are not worried about going to the Security Council," he said. "It is not the end of the world. But we would prefer it be sorted out in the framework of the agency."
There is no national security debate inside Iran that is more intense than over the country's nuclear program, from the highest levels of government to Parliament and the street.
Iranians of all political stripes hold fast to the principle of Iran's sovereign right to conduct whatever activities it deems necessary to develop a peaceful program to produce energy, and the agreement with the Europeans has been wildly unpopular inside Iran.
Iran had agreed in negotiations with the Europeans two weeks ago to suspend all uranium enrichment activities. But that agreement was put in jeopardy last week when Iran demanded that it be allowed to operate centrifuges for research purposes. That demand came in two letters to the International Atomic Energy Agency from Iran's atomic energy agency, whose hard-liners oppose any concessions to outsiders.
But Iran misread the Europeans. At first, the Iranian delegation tried to argue that the centrifuge issue was only a technical matter. Iranian negotiators pointed out that after Iran had reached its first nuclear deal with the Europeans in October 2003, it continued to operate 10 centrifuges for research purposes and both the Europeans and the agency went along.
"With that history and everyone's agreement, we couldn't imagine that a few centrifuges would become a worldwide issue this time," Mr. Mousavian said.
But that first deal with the Europeans fell apart. Iran decided that the Europeans were stalling on delivering promised incentives and interpreted the agreement broadly to continue some uranium enrichment-related activities.
The Europeans were accused of naïveté by some hawks in the Bush administration, and have become less trusting of Iran. This time around, the Europeans negotiated a more precise deal and took an uncompromising no-exceptions line when the centrifuge issue was raised.
Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran for this article, and Steven R. Weisman from Washington.
DoctorZin Note: First, let hope they actually turn off the centrifuges, not simply monitor them. See why here.
But something no one is talking about is Iran's heavy water reactor in Arak. The EU agreement ignores it. Read more about that here.
(AFX UK Focus) 2004-11-29 17:29 GMT:
France says satisfied with Iran's total freeze on uranium enrichment
Article layout: reformatted PARIS (AFP) - France expressed "satisfaction" today at Iran's commitment to freeze all uranium enrichment activities without exemptions which the country initially sought. "We note with satisfaction that Iran is now ready to suspend all its activities to do with enrichment and retreatment as provided for in the November 15 accord signed in Paris," foreign ministry spokeswoman Cecile Pozzo di Borgo said. "We note in particular that Iran has withdrawn its demand to be able to pursue certain research and development activities using 20 centrifuges," she said.
U.S. may seek lone push on Iran sanctionsMon 29 November, 2004 18:02
By Louis Charbonneau and Francois Murphy
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran has escaped U.N. censure over its nuclear programme but Washington, which accuses it of seeking an atomic bomb, says it reserves the right to take the case to the Security Council on its own.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a U.N. watchdog, passed a resolution approving Iran's week-old suspension of sensitive nuclear activities as part of a deal between Tehran and the European Union.
Crucially, and in line with Iranian demands, the resolution described the freeze as a voluntary, confidence-building measure and not a legally binding commitment.
Its passage meant that Tehran, which denies it wants the bomb, had achieved its immediate goal: to prevent the IAEA from referring it to the U.N. Security Council for possible economic sanctions.
"This resolution which was approved by the IAEA was a definite defeat for our enemies who wanted to pressure Iran by sending its case to the U.N. Security Council," President Mohammad Khatami was quoted by state radio as saying.
The United States believes Iran is playing games with the international community and wants to see it referred to the Council. U.S. envoy Jackie Sanders told the IAEA's board of governors that Washington reserved the right to go it alone.
"Quite apart from the question of how this board chooses to handle these matters, of course, the United States reserves all of its options with respect to Security Council consideration of the Iranian nuclear weapons programme," she said on Monday.
"Any member of the United Nations may bring to the attention of the Security Council any situation that might endanger the maintenance of international peace and security."
Sanders also issued a stern warning to companies, including multinationals, against exporting weapons-related equipment to Iran. The United States "will impose economic burdens on them and brand them as proliferators", she said.
The statement reflected U.S. frustration at Iran's repeated success in evading a referral to the Council, despite what IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has called persistent unanswered questions and a "confidence deficit" over Tehran's activities.
Even if Washington took the issue to the Council it could expect strong resistance to punishing Iran with sanctions, including from permanent members Russia and China which both have veto powers.
A spokesman for U.S. President George W. Bush said: "The implementation and verification of the agreement is critical."
"Iran has failed to comply with its commitments many times over the course of the past year and a half...We will see, as time goes by, if they are now finally going to comply in full."
The developments capped five days of diplomatic poker over the terms of a deal Iran struck with the EU this month to suspend all activities relating to enriching uranium. Enrichment generates fuel for use in nuclear power plants or, potentially, in weapons.
ElBaradei said Iran had now withdrawn a request to continue research on 20 enrichment centrifuges, and inspectors had installed surveillance cameras on Monday to monitor them.
"Good progress has been made (but there's), still a lot of work to be done. The ball is in Iran's court," he said.
Iran says it has a "sovereign right" to enrich uranium and is only suspending such work to show its peaceful intentions.
BRITISH EMBASSY STONED
In Tehran, some 500 members of a conservative volunteer militia pelted the British embassy with stones and firecrackers on Monday, protesting that the Iran-EU deal was a sell-out.
The mainly black-bearded men burned a British flag and tried to charge the embassy gates but were pushed back by riot police. "Nuclear energy is our right," the protesters shouted.
At the IAEA in Vienna, there were signs of mounting exasperation from Western diplomats over Iranian tactics.
Several told Reuters that Iran had only firmly committed not to test the centrifuges until December 15, when the EU and Iran meet to discuss a long-term nuclear deal.
Those talks will focus on trade cooperation and peaceful nuclear technology that the Europeans are willing to offer Tehran if it gives up uranium enrichment for good.
Washington, diplomats say, will not block such a deal but it will not actively support it either -- a stance that some experts believe will eventually kill the agreement. A previous EU-Iran deal collapsed earlier this year.
November 29, 2004
Supreme Leader: Iran to keep rights to civilian nuclear technology
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said on Monday that Iran has developed nuclear technology as a national industry and will never overlook its rights to civilian nuclear technology.
In a meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the he said that abandoning nuclear technology for civilian purpose is Iran's red line and that Iran-EU accord on the nuclear program has been made in line with Iranian red line. "The Americans and the western powers know for certain that Iran never goes after acquiring nuclear arms. The propaganda against Iranian nuclear program aims to force Iran to abandon nuclear technology which has become a national industry in Iran," Khamenei was quoted as saying by IRNA.
His comments came as the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency passed a resolution Monday on policing Iran's commitment to freeze all programs linked to uranium enrichment in an effort to defuse a dispute that had threatened to go to the Security Council. (albawaba.com)
November 29, 2004, 9:13 a.m.
Europe is appeasing Iran.The Western counterpart of Irans deception.
The European "solution" to the threat of Iranian atomic bombs bids fair to join the "peace process" as the most boffo running gag in the history of show biz. Every few months, the elegantly dressed diplomatic wizards from London, Paris, and Berlin race across a continent or two to meet with Iranians dressed in turbans and gowns, and after some hours of alleged hard work, they emerge with a new agreement, just like their more numerous counterparts engaged in the peace negotiations. The main difference is that the peace-process deals seemed to last for several months, while the schemes hammered out with the mullahs rarely last more than a week or two. Otherwise, it's the same sort of vaudeville routine: a few laughs, with promises of more to come.
The latest Iranian shenanigan may have set a record for speed. On Monday they announced they had stopped the centrifuges that were enriching uranium. On Tuesday they asked for permission to run the centrifuges again. The Europeans sternly said no. The next scene will be at Turtle Bay, with brief interruptions for somewhat off-color remarks about sexual harassment at high levels (so to speak) of the United Nations.
No serious person can believe that the negotiations are going to block, or even seriously delay, the Iranian race to acquire atomic bombs. The European posturing is the Western counterpart of the Iranian deception, a ritual dance designed to put a flimsy veil over the nakedness of the real activities. The old-fashioned name for this sort of thing is "appeasement," and was best described by Churchill, referring to Chamberlain's infamous acceptance of Hitler's conditions at Munich. Chamberlain had to choose between war and dishonor, opted for the latter, and got the former as well. That is now the likely fate of Blair, Chirac, and Schroeder.
They surely know this. Why do they accept it?
They accept it for many reasons, of which two seem paramount: They have huge financial interests tied up with the Iranian regime (billions of dollars worth of oil and gas contracts, plus other trade agreements, some already signed, others in the works); and Iran is the last place in the Middle East where they can play an active diplomatic role. This is particularly acute for France, which knows it will long be a pariah to free Iraqi governments, and views Iran as its last chance to thwart America's dominant role in the region. Sad to say, there is no evidence that the Europeans give a tinker's damn either about the destiny of the Iranian people, or about Iran's leading role in international terrorism, or about the Islamic Republic's joining the nuclear club. They are quite prepared to live with all that.
I think they expect Iran to "go nuclear" in the near future, at which point they will tell President Bush that there is no option but to accept the brutal facts the world's leading sponsor of terrorism in possession of atomic bombs and the missiles needed to deliver them on regional and European targets and "come to terms" with the mullahcracy. In other words, as the editorialists at the Wall Street Journal have wryly commented, the real goal of the negotiations is to restrain the United States, which, left to its own devices, might actually do something serious. If President Bush found a way to prevent Iran from acquiring atomic bombs, it might well wreck the Europeans' grand appeasement strategy.
There is certainly no risk that the United Nations will do anything serious, which is why the Europeans keep insisting that it is the only "legitimate" forum for any discussion of the Iranian nuclear menace.
At the same time, I rather suspect that the Europeans, like many of our own diplomats, would be secretly pleased if someone else that is to say, Israel were to "do something" to rid them of this problem. When they whisper that thought to themselves in the privacy of their own offices or the darkness of their own bedrooms, they mentally replay the Israeli bombing of the nuclear reactor in Osirak, Iraq, in 1981, an attack they publicly condemned and privately extolled. They would do the same tomorrow, sighing in relief as they tighten the noose around Israel's neck. Rarely has the metaphor of the scapegoat been so appropriate: the burden of our sins of omission loaded onto the Israelis, who are then sacrificed to atone for us all.
This may seem sheer wishful thinking, but wishful thinking is an important part of foreign policy. The idea that "we don't need to do anything, because so-and-so will do our dirty work for us" has in fact been central to Western strategy in the Middle East for quite a while. For example, it was practiced by Bush the Elder in 1991 at the end of Desert Storm, when the president openly mused that it would be simply wonderful if the Kurds and Shiites overthrew Saddam Hussein. They tried it, foolishly believing that if things went badly the United States would support them. But Bush the First was quite serious about his wishful thinking, and stood by as Saddam slaughtered them the scapegoats of the hour by the tens of thousands.
Similar wishful thinking is now at the heart of European and probably a good deal of American strategic thinking about the Iranian nuclear project. That it is a disgusting abdication of moral responsibility and a strategic blunder of potentially enormous magnitude is both obvious and irrelevant to the actual course of events.
I do not believe Israel will solve this problem for us, both because it is militarily very daunting and because successive Israeli governments have believed that Iran is too big a problem for them, and if it is to be solved, it will have to be solved by the United States and our allies. Whether that is true or not, I have long argued that Iran is the keystone of the terrorist edifice, and that we are doomed to confront it sooner or later, nuclear or not. Secretary of State Powell disagreed, and he was at pains recently to stress that American policy does not call for regime change in Tehran even though the president repeatedly called for it. And the president is right; regime change is the best way to deal with the nuclear threat and the best way to advance our cause in the war against the terror masters. We have a real chance to remove the terror regime in Tehran without any military action, but rather through political means, by supporting the Iranian democratic opposition. According to the regime itself, upwards of 70 percent of Iranians oppose the regime, want freedom, and look to us for political support. I believe they, like the Yugoslavs who opposed Milosevic and like the Ukrainians now demonstrating for freedom, are entitled to the support of the free world.
Even if you believe that a nuclear Iran is inevitable, is it not infinitely better to have those atomic bombs in the hands of pro-Western Iranians, chosen by their own people, than in the grip of fanatical theocratic tyrants dedicated to the destruction of the Western satans?
And maybe it isn't inevitable. Faster, please.
Full text of the draft resolution proposed Monday to the Board of Directors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran
Draft Resolution submitted by France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
The Board of Governors
(a) Recalling the resolution adopted by the Board on 18 September 2004 (GOV/2004/79),18 June 2004 (GOV2004/49), 13 March 2004 (GOV/2004/21), 26 November 2003 (GOV/2003/81) and on 12 September 2003 (GOV/2003/69) and the statement by the Board of 19 June (GOV/OR.1072),
(b) Noting with appreciation the Director Generals report of 15 November 2004 (GOV/2004/83) on the implementation of Irans NPT Safeguards Agreement (INFCIRC 214),
(c) Noting specifically the Director Generals assessment that Iranian practices up to October 2003 resulted in many breaches of Irans obligations to comply with its Safeguards Agreement, but that good progress has been made since that time in irans correction of those breaches and in the Agencys ability to confirm certain aspects of Irans current declarations,
(d) Also noting specifically the Director Generals assessment that all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and that such material is not diverted to prohibited activities, but that the Agency is not yet in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear material or activities in Iran
(e) Recalling the Boards previous requests to Iran to suspend all enrichment related and reprocessing activities as a voluntary confidence building measure,
(f) Noting with concern that Iran has continued enrichment related activities, including the production of UF6 up to 22 November 2004, in spite of the requests made by the Board in September that Iran immediately suspend all such activities,
(g) Noting with interest the agreement between Iran, France, Germany and the United Kingdom with the support of High Representative of the EU, made public on 15 November (INFCIRC 637) in which Iran states its decision to continue and extend its suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities; and noting with satisfaction that, pursuant of this agreement, notification of this decision was sent by Iran to the Director General on 14 November with the Agency invited to verify the suspension with effect from 22 November 2004,
(h) Recognizing that this suspension is a voluntary confidence building measure, not legal obligation,
(i) Recognizing the right of states to the development and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, including the production of electric power, consistent with their Treaty obligations, with due consideration for the needs of the developing countries,
(j) Stressing the need for effective safeguards to prevent nuclear material being used for prohibited purposes, in contravention of agreements and underlining the vital importance of effective safeguards for facilitating cooperation in the field of nuclear energy and,
(k) Commending the Director General and the Secretariat for the work they have done to date to resolve all questions relevant to safeguards implementation inn Iran,
- Welcomes the fact that Iran has decided to continue and extend suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities, and underlines that the full and sustained implementation of this suspension, which is a voluntary, non-legally-binding, confidence building measure, to be verified by the Agency, is essential to addressing outstanding issues;
- Welcomes the Director Generals statement of 25 and 29 November 2004 that the above decision has been put into effect, and requests the Director General to continue verifying that the suspension remains in place and to inform Board members should the suspension not be fully sustained, or should the Agency be prevented from verifying all elements of the suspension, for as long as the suspension is in force;
- Welcomes Ifrans continuing voluntary commitment to act in accordance with the provision of the Additional Protocol, as a confidence building measure that facilitates the resolution of the question that have arisen and calls on Iran to ratify its Protocol soon;
- Reaffirms its strong concern that Irans policy of concealment up to October 2003 has resulted in many breaches of Irans obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement; at the same time acknowledges the corrective measures described in the Director Generals report;
- Welcomes the Director Generals intention to pursue his investigations into the remaining outstanding issues, in particular the origin of contamination and the extent of Irans centrifuge programme, as well as the full implementation of Irans Safeguard Agreement and Additional Protocol, with a view of providing the credible assurances regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran;
- Underlines the continuing importance of Iran extending full and prompt cooperation to the General Director in the above pursuit, and requests Iran as confidence building measure to provide any access deemed necessary by the Agency in accordance with the Additional Protocol and;
- Requests the Director General to report to the Board of his findings, as appropriate.
Europe is appeasing Iran.
The Western counterpart of Irans deception.
National Review Online
Sunday, Nov. 28, 2004
Iran, Still DefiantScott MacLeod and Nahid Siamdoust report from Tehran on how it views the nuclear standoff with the West
Iran's hard-liners are back. Even with a reform-minded President formally in charge, the stern mullahs' persistent strength is visible everywhere. Last week the streets around the parliament building in Tehran's Baharestan district were festooned with posters hailing the Basij Islamic militia, radical volunteers who serve as one of the regime's most loyal protection forces. Upstairs in his sixth-floor office, Isfahan representative Hassan Kamran was wearing a white Basiji scarf around his neck in solidarity with the diehards, who are seen by many Iranians as free-ranging thugs. He was ranting against the U.S., warning that if President George W. Bush dares to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, Tehran will retaliate by striking Israel and U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf. "As Imam Khomeini taught us," he says, "we will respond to force with force."
This is the voice of militant Iran, where Islamic conservatives have made a thundering return to political office this year just as their country's nuclear ambitions have sparked growing alarm in the West. Yet despite Kamran's bluster, Iran's government has remained willing to negotiate in the standoff over its nuclear program. The U.S. has charged that what Iran claims to be a peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy is likely part of a rogue regime's covert effort to get its own nuclear weapons. After months of negotiating with European Union officials, Iran agreed to suspend the uranium-enrichment program that is at the heart of the accusations. Ten days later, however, Tehran put the deal in jeopardy by demanding an exemption for research involving a small number of centrifuges that are central to making bomb-grade fuel. By last weekend weary negotiators were still dickering over a compromise to salvage the hard-won agreement. The fits and starts gave ammunition to Bush Administration officials who are ready to send Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. If the deal is to be saved, someone will have to back down.
The agreement Iran hammered out with diplomats from Britain, France and Germany could well be a critical step toward ending the Islamic regime's nuclear brinkmanship. Talks aimed at reaching a permanent understanding are scheduled to start in mid-December. The mullahs have agreed to freeze a variety of activities involving uranium enrichment and plutonium separation, which the West interprets as including the manufacture, import and testing of centrifuges. In return, Iran accepted various sweeteners, such as potential cooperation in economic, security and even nuclear matters that could one day reduce the country's isolation from the West.
It won't be easy for Iran to win the West's trust. When Tehran sought to change the terms of the agreement last week, it fueled doubts that Iran was negotiating in good faith. And according to European diplomats, the ruling clerics show no sign that they would agree to the West's bottom line: that Iran permanently abandon development of all nuclear technology that could give the nation the capability to construct an atomic weapon. The lead Iranian negotiator, national-security chief Hassan Rowhani, head of a commission on nuclear policy that reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, says, "Terminating our enrichment activities has been our red line and still is."
For the U.S. and a growing number of allies, it is unthinkable that an undemocratic Islamist regime that supports terrorism and opposes the Arab-Israeli peace process could get its hands anywhere near an atom bomb. Iranian reformers clearly understand that position. "If we have a democratic government, the world could trust it" on nuclear matters, says Reza Khatami, brother of President Mohammed Khatami and an outspoken reformer who was disqualified from seeking re-election to parliament this year. Iranian leaders were clearly concerned about U.S. pressure, says a European diplomat in Tehran, "or they wouldn't have bothered negotiating with us." Three days after Bush was re-elected, the Supreme Leader made a conciliatory gesture in his nationally televised Friday sermon. Directly addressing Bush, Khamenei said, "No, sir, we are not seeking to have nuclear weapons." Some Iranian officials insist that a compromise is within reach. Ali Akbar Salehi, a former representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who still advises the government, told TIME in an interview last week that Iran's enrichment facilities could perhaps be privatized via an Iranian-European partnership to help eliminate skepticism about secret Iranian intentions. Mohammed Javad Larijani, a pragmatic conservative and leading Iranian mathematician, says, "Iran wants to clear the air of suspicion."
The mullahs publicly deny on moral grounds that Iran plans to enter the nuclear club. The Supreme Leader has said Islam forbids all weapons of mass destruction because they kill innocent civilians. But the on-again, off-again dealmaking causes Western diplomats to wonder whether the resurgent mullahs are courting confrontation with a U.S. Administration that has already sent troops into Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran's immediate neighbors to the east and west. In Tehran defiance is certainly back in the air now that conservatives have wrested control of the 290-seat Majlis from reformers in elections that were widely condemned at home and abroad as rigged. Supporters of the ruling mullahs seem poised to take back the presidency next spring. The up-and-coming pragmatic conservatives, who negotiated the nuclear deal and agree with reformers that Iran should cooperate with the outside world, have been accused of treachery by hard-liners, who control militant organizations like the Basij, the Revolutionary Guards, the Shari'a judicial system and Islamic charities.
Puffed up with grand notions of their country's historical greatness, the mullahs have convinced themselves that their Middle Eastern importance and cunning diplomacy give Iran a tactical edge in the nuclear showdown. They scoff at U.S. arguments that Iran's huge oil and gas reserves make nuclear power needless and point out that before the 1979 Islamic revolution, Washington supported the Shah's plan to build nuclear-power plants. In spite of bitter differences with the mullahs over other issues, like freedom and human rights, moderate leaders, including Khatami, have embraced Iran's nuclear aspirations. The regime has won some key diplomatic victories, such as Europe's formal acknowledgment in the Nov. 14 agreement that Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear technology. This affirms that under IAEA supervision, Tehran is technically entitled to operate facilities, including its two Russian-built light-water reactors in Bushehr, a pilot enrichment facility in Natanz, a future uranium-conversion site in Isfahan and a heavy-water production plant in Arak.
Many Iranian citizens, like U.S. officials, assume the mullahs are seeking A-bombs. The public debate has not been about whether Iran should have nuclear technology but about how to resist international pressure to bar it. Millions of Iranians are avidly following the showdown on Iranian TV talk shows, and the ruling clerics have earned more popular support than they have had in years. Even Iranians who dislike the mullahs are showing pride in the idea of Iran becoming an atomic power. "If the West has nuclear weapons, we need them as well," says accountant Amir Taheri, 25, as he and two female friends sip milk shakes at a U.S.-style shopping-center food court in affluent north Tehran.
Iranians believe the clerics have plenty of legitimate reasons to want atomic weapons: they feel threatened by the U.S.; Iran is encircled by nuclear powers like Israel, Russia, Pakistan and India; and the nation was victimized by Saddam Hussein's chemical attacks in the war with Iraq in the 1980s. Some Iranians think possession of the Bomb would make the Islamic regime untouchable. Others are worried that it could lead to North Korea style isolation and impoverishment.
In private, hard-liners are high-fiving one another because of what they consider declining odds that the second-term Bush Administration will pursue regime change in Tehran. "Don't show your teeth if you can't bite," says Amir Mohebbian, political editor of the conservative Resalat newspaper. Observing U.S. difficulties in taming the Iraqis, Iranian leaders are far less worried than they were two years ago that U.S. forces might motor on toward Tehran. Some commentators are mocking Washington's tough anti-Iran rhetoric, confident that no U.S. allies have the stomach for a new military venture. The mullahs seem sure that Bush doesn't either, despite his "axis of evil" talk. They know U.S. forces are stretched tight and oil prices, important to the U.S. economy, are up to $50 per bbl. In any case, Tehran officials say, Iran's substantial trade ties with Russia and China probably ensure a Security Council veto if the U.S. pursues U.N. sanctions.
Tehran's pragmatic conservatives seem well aware that tensions with the West could rise sharply if dialogue collapses. Stopping short of declaring Iran in formal breach of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires strict international supervision, the IAEA has issued scathing criticisms of Iran's past failures to inform it of suspicious facilities, activities and materials and its chronic foot dragging on cooperation. European negotiators remain skeptical that Iran will stick to its word. That's not surprising when even some Iranian clerics contacted by TIME questioned the validity of Khamenei's religious ruling barring nuclear weapons.
Nuclear politics is fast becoming central to Iran's 2005 presidential-election contest, as the pragmatists jostle with hard-liners for the upper hand. If the mullahs continue to hold sway, it seems unlikely that Iran will give up its nuclear dreams, any more than it would make peace with the Great Satan it broke with 25 years ago in November. Ali Larijani, the leading pragmatic conservative presidential candidate, has hinted that Iran might quit the NPT if the nuclear talks with Europe fail a move that would give Washington justification to push for U.N. sanctions. Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani, loyal to the clerics, warns that Iran would retaliate in the event of an attack and could mount a pre-emptive strike if military commanders calculated that the U.S. or Israel was about to hit Iran's nuclear facilities. "We will not sit with arms folded," he told the al-Jazeera network. Backing up the threat, Iran unveiled 1,300-km-range Shahab-3 missiles at a national parade in September, where one banner bore the slogan WIPE ISRAEL OFF THE MAP.
For the mullahs, brinkmanship carries risks. An aggressive posture on nuclear issues runs counter to Iran's otherwise cautious foreign policy and could further undermine the regime's international legitimacy. Given the depth of their unpopularity at home, especially among young Iranians who want real democracy and better ties to the West, the clerics might not be able to count on the populace to rally around the flag if their reckless actions trigger a serious confrontation with the U.S. Some pro-West Iranians, believing that a showdown with the U.S. is just what is needed to make the mullahs' regime crumble, fault the Europeans for giving the mullahs a way out. "I love George Bush," says Hassan, 22, a businessman awaiting a flight at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport. "He wants freedom for Iranians, and he's against terrorism. He's a cowboy!"
The pragmatic conservatives will probably try to keep the nuclear dialogue alive. They say they would like to expand Iran's limited cooperation with the U.S. on issues like Iraq and Afghanistan. But that posture did not afford much political cover for Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi at last week's regional summit on Iraq's future. At the official dinner, Egyptian hosts seated him next to Colin Powell. But Iran's government, miffed at the Secretary of State's allegation that Iran was adapting missiles for nuclear warheads, rejected any substantive discussion during the rare encounter.
Just like Iran's fading reformers, the pragmatic conservatives will be vigorously opposed by the regime's powerful mullahs if they show signs of moderation. That's what happened to Mohammed Ali Abtahi, a reformist cleric who, in frustration over the right-wing takeover of parliament, resigned a month ago as Iran's Vice President. "They kicked us out of the political field, arguing that we were soft and weak," he told TIME last week. "They do not want to lose the backing of the minority of Iranians who still support them." As long as the mullahs prevail, so may Iran's quarter-century-old confrontation with the West, only now with nuclear weapons in play.
With reporting by Andrew Purvis/Vienna
FoxNews had an Iranian "expert" on Brit's show tonight, his last name was Pollack I believe. He holds little faith that the mullahs aren't lying to us and says that they have become adept at hiding their nuke programs for which Israel is very concerned. Then he proceeds to say that UN inspections / sanctioning could be a good deterrant to the mullahs because of the economic conditions there, the dissatisfied youth etc.
What Pollack didn't say was how we could verify how many sites to have the IAEA inspect if the Iranians are so good at hiding them and if they continue to lie about it.
El Baradai has lost every shred of credibility he might have ever had. WHY are we continuing to put trust and our safety in his efforts and the efforts of Europe is beyond me.
US thwarted over Iran
By Jill McGivering
BBC State Department correspondent
This latest IAEA resolution on Iran isn't the result the United States wanted. Its own intense lobbying at successive IAEA Board of Governors meetings has consistently recommended that the time had come to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.
Iran faces the threat of sanctions if it does not halt its nuclear plans
The US argument had hinged not just on Iran current activities but also on Iran's track record of broken promises and failed deals with the international community.
The thinking in Washington: Iran is a serious threat and enough is enough.
But the US didn't manage to convince fellow Board members.
The so-called European Three - France, Germany and Britain - have consistently responded by arguing that the diplomatic route hadn't yet been exhausted and ultimately would prove more effective than the threat or even imposition of international sanctions.
The EU-Three have been cautious about accepting the US claim that Iran's nuclear programme is about weapons, not about power.
The US says it has evidence to support its claim but it's hard to verify.
After the experience of Iraq and the very public failure to find evidence of WMDs, the US is low on credibility credit.
With the EU-Three determined to pursue diplomacy, the US found itself in awkward isolation.
It tried to minimise its differences with Europe by saying in public that it supported the EU-Three negotiations and repeatedly insisting it was in close contact with the European trio as the talks progressed.
But it was equally clear that the US would take no part in the process.
Some accused the US of undermining the deal by repeating its own suspicions about Iran's sincerity in public as the negotiations reached a delicate stage.
Perhaps it was a deliberate ploy - a strategy of good cop, bad cop.
Or it might just be evidence of another US-European split, evoking more painful memories of Iraq.
As news of the deal broke, the US struggled to put a brave face on what, from a US standpoint, must have seemed disastrous news.
When a reporter asked the US state department spokesman Richard Boucher about the US "losing its battle" to get Iran referred to the UN Security Council, he was accused of looking for the most negative aspect of the issue.
We haven't sprung new faith in Iran's willingness to do this. ...the US remains as sceptical as ever that Iran lives up to the terms of this agreement
Richard Boucher, US State Department spokesman
The State Department's carefully diplomatic response was that this resolution was a positive move.
That the US case against Iran had contributed to, perhaps even been responsible for, the stronger international focus and pressure on Iran which had led to the resolution.
If Iran abided by the terms of the resolution, said Mr Boucher, it would have suspended all uranium enrichment and nuclear development programmes - which was the ultimate US aim.
Reminded of the US position that Iran's past record as well as future behaviour also warranted referral, he agreed - it was still the US view today that Iran should be referred, he confirmed, even before the current deal were tested.
The scepticism about Iran in Washington is writ large.
Mr Boucher, when pressed, spelt it out: "we haven't sprung new faith in Iran's willingness to do this", he said, adding: "the US remains as sceptical as ever that Iran lives up to the terms of this agreement."
Few choices for US
The problem for Washington is that although it's run out of patience, the rest of the world hasn't.
The US doesn't believe Iran's promises. Europe is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Washington sees Iran's nuclear programme as an immediate threat that requires prompt action.
Europe isn't convinced sticks will work better than carrots.
US officials accuse Iran of a proven pattern of brinkmanship, arguing that Tehran buys time with last minute deals to avoid imminent punishment but isn't sincere.
If Tehran is at a crucial stage in developing nuclear weapons, the time it's just bought through its latest European-sponsored deal could prove decisive.
But, however frustrated, Washington has few choices.
A unilateral referral to the UN Security Council is unlikely to get support, especially now that a deal has already been reached.
If in the future the IAEA proves that Iran breaks its latest commitments, the US can once again shout loudly for punitive action.
But by then, some here argue, valuable time will have been lost, and it may be too late.
RE: 'Europe is appeasing Iran'
"The Western counterpart of Irans deception."
Good post, Doctor Zin.
Thanks for the ping to this.
I wasn't all that thrilled about Mr. Pollack. He seemed to play down the threat from Iran ever so slightly. Pollack claims that we wouldn't know if Iran was using the centifuges. This contradicts what John Loftus, et.al., had reported (although Loftus says this information should not have been made public, to try spy on Iran abscence their knowledge).
The IAEA and the UN are a total joke.
Something eucouraging - the US put the world on notice tonight that if you continue to do business with Iran, you'll be viewed as a poliferator. That's good, but there's a 0% the UN would hold any such "poliferators" to account, like France, Germany, Russia, China.
The Europeans don't learn their lesson. Trying to repeat World War II. And - the Iraq War II. The same people who did business with Saddam do business with the mullahs in Iran. Anybody want to bet that some money is going to change hands, if it hasn't already?
"I wasn't all that thrilled about Mr. Pollack."
Neither was I. He never mentioned regime change as a solution.
"The same people who did business with Saddam do business with the mullahs in Iran"
I say we "voluntary" carpet bomb Iran's nuke plants so we can be "confident" they're not making nukes.............
"They have huge financial interests tied up with the Iranian regime"
A new Iranian gov't will need their money, too.
"the real goal of the negotiations is to restrain the United States, which, left to its own devices, might actually do something serious."
Got that right.
Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, said the suspension agreement with Britain, France and Germany -- designed to prevent the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from referring Iran to the UN Security Council --"were carried out while respecting this red line".
Damn, how dumb can the world be? Khamenei is only telling us the truth here. They MUST have "real nukes" being made elsewhere (as is mentioned in previous posts) or they will go ahead and cheat at this plant. After all, like one article said, I'm sure money has crossed hands on this one, sigh. The EU is as spineless as the UN. And all the while, Israel watches.
I think this qualifies as the joke of the year:
You don't say! An excerpt:
The world system to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons is being rapidly eroded, threatening a cascade of proliferation, a high-level panel on UN reform will say this week.
The report, due to be released on Thursday, will recommend the UN Security Council slow the spread of weapons using an explicit pledge of collective action against any state or group that launches a nuclear attack or even threatens such an attack on a non-nuclear-weapon state.
Kofi Annan, UN secretarygeneral, last year established a panel of 16 veteran politicians and diplomats from around the world to identify the main threats facing mankind. It identifies nuclear proliferation as a particular danger and it warns: The nuclear proliferation regime is at risk because of lack of compliance with existing commitments, a changing international security environment, and radical advances in technology.
We are approaching a point at which the erosion of the nuclear regime could become irreversible, and result in a cascade of proliferation. In 1963, only four states had nuclear arsenals. Today eight states are known to have one, and several others are suspected of developing them. Close to 60 states operate or are building nuclear power or research reactors, and at least 30 possess the infrastructure to build nuclear weapons at relatively short notice. Terrorists are also believed to be seeking them.
It's staring you right in the face, Mr. Annan!
It's been a couple of hours since I came across this article, yet I still cannot believe it. Yet it is the UN, so... It is so laughable!
I know the UN does some useful things, but every day I wonder more and more why we stay in the UN. Consider the idea that the world body composed mostly of dictators and their friends is supposed to maintain and encourage freedom around the world.
Ironically, I'd say that it's been the invention of the nuclear bomb that has kept the world relatively peaceful since 1945, not the United Nations.
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