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Iran Apparently Agrees to Stop Enrichment
Iran Apparently Has Agreed to a Full Freeze of Its Uranium Enrichment Programs, Diplomats Say
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, right, talks with Iraqi Vice-President, Ibrahim al-Jafari, during their official meeting in Tehran, Iran, Saturday Nov. 27, 2004. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
The Associated Press
VIENNA, Austria Nov 28, 2004 Backing down before a deadline, Iran apparently has given up its demand to exempt some equipment from a deal freezing uranium enrichment programs that can make nuclear weapons, diplomats said Sunday.
Diplomats from the European Union and elsewhere said the International Atomic Energy Agency received a letter containing a pledge not to test some centrifuges during the freeze.
The pledge appeared to resolve a dispute that threatened to escalate into possible referral of Iran to the U.N. Security Council for defying the IAEA board. The Security Council could then impose sanctions against Iran.
But the diplomats told The Associated Press the letter still needed close examination to determine what exactly the Iranians had agreed to.
Only if the Iranians agreed to totally suspend enrichment including all use of the centrifuges would the dispute be resolved, they said.
Iran's Conservatives Consolidate Power[Excerpt]
Critics Fear Reform Movement Will Be Shut Down, Restrictions Broadened
By Robin WrightWashington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 29, 2004; Page A10
International treaties, he said, do not prevent nuclear proliferation. After India conducted a nuclear test, the United States imposed sanctions, only to lift them and deepen ties when U.S. interests shifted. "Such a situation urges us to have a nuclear bomb," Shariatmadari said.
TEHRAN -- After eight years of a bold but bungled experiment with reform, Iran's government is in the throes of a takeover by conservatives determined to restore the revolution's Islamic purity, according to Iranian politicians and analysts.
The transformation is symbolized by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose limited scholarly credentials were questioned even by his peers when he was selected 15 years ago. ...
Today, however, they said, Khamenei is more powerful than at any time since 1989, when he succeeded the leader of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Critics said his control is as far-reaching as that of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi before he was overthrown in 1979.
"The pendulum has swung. Khamenei is in a better position than he's ever been," a senior Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the subject. "There's a real cockiness in the stride of his camp."
Khamenei's consolidation of power, partly through a new parliament that took office in May, has given even more leverage to religious institutions, including the judiciary, the Revolutionary Guards and vigilante groups such as Ansar Hezbollah, analysts said.
As a result, fear, intimidation and harassment have become instruments of the state in ways reminiscent of the early fervor following the 1979 revolution, Iranians complain. Women can still get away with relaxed dress, but the debates over political openings and reforming Islam have gone behind closed doors, or ended.
Conservatives say they are merely putting the Islamic republic back on course and restoring limits on discourse while not undoing social change.
"Islamic values in all aspects of the system are necessary to sustain the system. . . . And nobody can change them according to his taste or interpretation," said Hussein Shariatmadari, a leading ideologue and editor of the Kayhan newspaper chain.
"For instance, it is not important that women wear the chador or wear light colors or dark colors, but they should wear decent hijab," or traditional veils, he added. "When we talk about Islamic values, that's what we mean. . . . Voting and higher education for women have not been forbidden."
But critics warn of a future with further restrictions, particularly after a presidential election next year that many Iranians expect conservatives to win.
"We are going to move from something trying to be a democratic government to what will become a totalitarian regime," said Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, a reformist editor who has been jailed three times and who has worked for five newspapers that have been closed. "Conservatives think this democratization trend has to be stopped."
Beyond Khamenei, Iran's future is still far from settled. The big question in Tehran these days is about which conservatives will dominate. Their camp now offers at least four distinct philosophies about running the country and dealing with the outside world:
The ideological conservatives take the most puritanical line. They are sometimes called Kayhanis, after the newspapers that reflect their views. Shariatmadari, their editor, is the faction's most public voice. They take a tough stance in dealing with the outside world and on Iran's nuclear energy program.
Shariatmadari, a slight man with a neat salt-and-pepper beard who wields enormous influence, opposed a deal signed this month under pressure from Europe to suspend uranium enrichment for Iran's nuclear energy program, which critics say could be diverted for a nuclear weapons program. "I believe that we should have exited the Non-Proliferation Treaty two years ago," he said in an interview.
At the same time, he said, the production of a bomb would not be accepted under Islamic belief, in part because such a weapon does not distinguish between an enemy and innocent civilians, and also because it is not an effective deterrent. "If all countries have this technology, then the world will be in chaos," he said.
This faction generally opposes renewing ties with the United States. Despite smaller numbers, its adherents are disproportionately powerful because they are highly vocal and are backed by vigilante groups such as Ansar Hezbollah.
The new right, or neoconservatives, represent the most influential political faction. They have the largest presence in the new parliament, the judiciary and the powerful Guardian Council, a body of 12 unelected clerics that can veto new laws and political candidates.
They include leading candidates for Iran's presidency, such as Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister, and Ali Larijani, the chief of state broadcasting. Both are close to Khamenei.
The neoconservative platform mixes religious ideology with aspects of modernity. "Conservatism means conserving the letter and spirit of the constitution," said Mohammed Javad Larijani, an analyst and brother of the presidential contender.
This camp emphasizes Islamic thought, competent government and the private sector. "Jobs should be created by increasing production. We shouldn't create jobs by making government fatter than it is," he added.
This faction also developed a reluctant consensus on the deal with the Europeans to suspend uranium enrichment, analysts said. Its terms for reengaging with the United States, however, are tough.
The pragmatic conservatives, once the most prominent faction, include former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and parties such as the Moderation and Development Party and the Servants of Construction. They are not bound by a rigid ideology, analysts said.
"They want to open up the economy, work within the established world order and culturally they're more relaxed," said Nasser Hadian, a political scientist at Tehran University.
The traditional conservatives are represented by the Shiite clergy, many of whom live in the holy city of Qom. Many tend to be less political, and are often secluded and focused more on Islamic culture. This faction also includes many bazaar merchants.
Although the largest group, it is now the least active in politics, analysts said.
Dan Darling's Thoughts on the Al Qaeda in Iran
Iran said on Sunday that is has never allowed any terrorists to cross into Iraq from its territory and offered its help to restore security in its neighbour, including the training of police and border guards. "Iran has never permitted the transit of terrorists to Iraq or any other country from its own territory," deputy interior minister Ali-Asghar Ahmadi told reporters two days before Iran is due to host a regional meeting on Iraq.
Iran has invited the interior ministers of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and Egypt to the meeting here on Tuesday. "No leader of al-Qaeda is in Iran," added the minister, responding to frequent allegations from the United States that Iran has supported or harboured members of the militant network. The official also condemned the actions of an Iranian group that has been present at officially organised events to enlist volunteers for suicide operations in Iraq, Israel and elsewhere. "This is not legal," he said. "If the activity of these individuals stays theoretical, that is up to them, but if they move into action, we will prevent them. We cannot accept such things in Iran. The Islamic republic of Iran has never been and is not a place of activity for terrorist groups." He insisted that Iraqi officials "have never shown proof of the crossing of terrorists from Iran. Iran is ready to help train Iraqi police and border guards and cooperate with Iraq to control the border."
For his part, foreign ministry spokesperson Hamid Reza Asefi said the themes of the conference here would be "security, stabilisation and fighting terrorism. The Iraqi government has the basic responsibility to sort out its domestic situation. It is not enough to accuse others of infiltrating its borders. The main problem lies inside Iraq. It is the Iraqi governments responsibility to fight terrorism, although the neighbours should help."
11/28/04 Iran ready to train Iraqi police: official Tehran, Nov 28, IRNA -- An Iranian deputy interior minister announced Sunday Tehran's readiness to train Iraqi police and border guards as well as help with the country's reconstruction.
The announcement came as Iran prepared to host a two-day meeting of Iraq's neighbors on November 30 at interior minister level as part of efforts to restore security in the war-torn country.
The head of the meeting, Ali Asghar Ahmadi, who is Iran's Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs, stated that topics for discussion will be 'Iraq's situation, control of common borders, assistance to Iraqi border guards as well as cooperation among neighboring countries and the Iraqi government'.
He said the interior ministers of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt as well as a representative of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will participate at the meeting.
"The inaugural ceremonies of the meeting will be on the afternoon of Tuesday, and the meeting of the specialists and specialized roundtables will be held Wednesday in the presence of the interior ministers of Iraq and Egypt," Ahmadi added.
The official said bilateral as well as multilateral meetings will be held on the sidelines of the meeting, including with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.
"The meeting will be wrapped up Wednesday with the release of a statement," he said, adding 'fighting terrorism' as well as 'emphasis on Iraq's independence and territorial integrity' are among the points incorporated into the draft document.
Ahmadi touched on bilateral issues of Iran and Iraq, including their security concerns because of terrorist activities inside the war-torn country, which he said would be tackled at the meeting.
He said Iranian border guards are currently in charge of guaranteeing security at the two countries' 1,609-kilometer common border.
"The Islamic Republic is ready to train Iraqi police and border guards and even equip them as well as help with the country's reconstruction," Ahmadi said.
"Cultural amenities among the Iranian and Iraqi nations, geographical closeness as well as the two countries' common interests and persuasion provide an even ground for Iran's participation in Iraq's reconstruction," he added.
The official reiterated Tehran's rebuttal of allegations that Iran sought to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs.
"The Islamic Republic, since the invasion and occupation of Iraq (by US-led forces) has announced that it does not accept this invasion.
"Iran has also indicated that it wants the issue of guaranteeing Iraq's security and the country's administration be left to the Iraqis," he said.
Ahmadi further rejected reports about alleged arrest of Iranian nationals for involvement in terrorist activities in Iraq, saying '(interrogation of) the arrested suspects has shown that there is no Iranian among them'.
The official also stressed the need for confronting all terrorist groups in Iraq, including the terrorist Iranian opposition Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO).
"Terrorist groups, including the Munafeqin (Iran's description of MKO which means hypocrites in Persian and Arabic) grouplet which has taken refuge in Iraq since the era of Saddam Hussein, must not be given chance of any activity in Iraq," Ahmadi said.
The MKO, classified as a terrorist organization by the US State Department as well as Europe, was reportedly dismantled in the wake of the US-led invasion of Iraq, but since then there have been increasing reports about clandestine cooperation between the group and the US intelligence.
Ahmadi reiterated Iran's willingness to increase cooperation with Iraq and expand the two countries' economic and trade ties.
"The Islamic Republic stresses the need for protecting Iraq's independence, territorial integrity and unity as well as leaving administration of the country to the Iraqis and avoiding interference in the country's domestic affairs."
The official further reiterated Tehran's call for withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and deployment of UN peacekeepers until general elections are held in that country.
Iran says it has never allowed terrorists to cross territoryAFP: 11/28/2004
TEHRAN, Nov 28 (AFP) - Iran said Sunday that is has never allowed any terrorists to cross into Iraq from its territory and offered its help to restore security in its neighbour, including the training of police and border guards.
"Iran has never permitted the transit of terrorists to Iraq or any other country from its own territory," deputy interior minister Ali-Asghar Ahmadi told reporters two days before Iran is due to host a regional meeting on Iraq.
Iran has invited the interior ministers of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and Egypt to the meeting here Tuesday.
"No leader of Al-Qaeda is in Iran," added the minister, responding to frequent allegations from the United States that Iran has supported or harboured members of the militant network.
The official also condemned the actions of an Iranian group that has been present at officially-organised events to enlist volunteers for suicide operations in Iraq, Israel and elsewhere.
"This is not legal," he said. "If the activity of these individuals stays theoretical, that is up to them, but if they move into action, we will prevent them. We cannot accept such things in Iran."
"The Islamic republic of Iran has never been and is not a place of activity for terrorist groups," he insisted, adding that Iraqi officials "have never shown proof of the crossing of terrorists from Iran".
"Iran is ready to help train Iraqi police and border guards and cooperate with Iraq to control the border," he added.
For his part, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the themes of the conference here would be "security, stabilisation and fighting terrorism."
"The Iraqi government has the basic responsibility to sort out its domestic situation. It is not enough to accuse others of infiltrating its borders. The main problem lies inside Iraq. It is the Iraqi government's responsibility to fight terrorism, although the neighbours should help," he added.
11/28/2004 14:55 GMT - AFP
Iran warns of 'trouble' over Kazemi case
CTV.ca News Staff
An Iranian government spokesman has warned Canada's new ambassador will get into "trouble" if he pursues the Zahra Kazemi case.
"If anyone enters Iran on this mission they get themselves into trouble. This is a domestic issue of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Hamid Reza Asefi, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters on Sunday.
Kazemi, a photojournalist, was a Canadian citizen born in Iran.
The 56-year-old woman was taking photos outside a prison near Iran in July 2003 when authorities detained her.
A court exonerated the one official charged in her death and said her skull was fractured as the result of an accident. However, it cut the trial short and didn't hear a number of key witnesses.
Iran's handling of her case led Canada to recall its ambassador this past July -- considered a very strong diplomatic protest.
Gordon Venner is the new ambassador to Iran. In announcing Venner's appointment this past week, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said the Kazemi case remains a priority.
"Canada remains deeply committed to this case ... Justice denied is offensive to Canadians. This case will be pursued energetically," Pettigrew said Tuesday.
Asefi said Sunday the case was still open.
"It is nevertheless being followed up by the government and the judiciary, and I hope the rights of nobody, including those of the Kazemi family, are ignored," he said.
Part of the issue is that Iran doesn't recognize dual citizenship. It believes Canada has no say in the matter.
Pettigrew said another reason to appoint a new ambassador to Iran was growing world tension over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Iran said Sunday it was abandoning its demand to continue some uranium enrichment for research purposes.
The country had reached a European Union-brokered deal on Nov. 7 to freeze its uranium enrichment programs.
Iranian women read papers of registration indicating their readiness for martyrdom (suicide attack) under a photo of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Khomeini, as they attend in a rally to support Palestinians in Tehran on Nov. 12, 2004. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)
A Nuclear Iran
Is it a question or "if," or "when"?
by Christian Lowe
11/29/2004 12:00:00 AM
IRAN'S RECENT PUBLIC DECISION to halt its uranium enrichment program could be the first move in a gradual opening of its society and an attempt by Iran's moderate factions to integrate Tehran into the world's economy. Could the pursuit of nuclear weapons be merely a bargaining chip for greater concessions by the Europeans and the United States to take pressure off the Islamic regime? Should Iran's agreement to halt its nuclear weapons program and open its research facilities to U.N. inspectors be taken at face value? The prospects for success are not encouraging, one expert writes. And based on Tehran's latest attempt to maintain some of its uranium enrichment capability despite its earlier pledge to abandon it, it seems that Iran is still unwilling to forego the nuclear option.
Iran's history of waging war through terrorist proxy forces, its decrepit military, the growing strength of the United States in the region, and lessons learned from a host of regimes who developed covert nuclear programs lead to the suspicion that Iran will likely forge ahead with its nuclear weapons program despite its recent pledge not to. In the August 2004 edition of the U.S. Army War College's professional journal, Parameters, Richard Russell contends that Iran's mullahs believe that the path to security is paved with the bomb.
Russell--a professor of Near-East and South-Asian security studies at Washington's National Defense University and an adjunct professor of security studies at Georgetown University--believes that a confrontation with Iran is more than likely.
"The good news
is that assertive multilateral diplomacy still has some running room for negotiating a stall or derailment of Iran's nuclear weapons program," Russell writes in his article titled Iran in Iraq's Shadow: Dealing with Tehran's Nuclear Weapons Bid. "The bad news is that the prospects are dim for achieving this end without the resort to force over the coming years."
Not only does Iran have "geopolitical aspirations" to be a major player in the Middle East, as Iraq did under Saddam Hussein, but it has also invested billions in its covert nuclear weapons program. The further deterioration of the regime's armed forces--which Russell contends are weaker now than at any time since the 1979 revolution--combined with the U.S. victory in Iraq "have fueled Iran's insecurity and geopolitical sense of encirclement." Nuclear weapons, therefore, are "a means to fill the void in military and deterrent capabilities," Russell writes.
Don't take Iran's latest pledge at face value, Russell adds. The mullahs in Tehran have been developing their nuclear weapons program in secret for years and have seen how Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea have developed theirs clandestinely and with little firm protest or reprisal from word powers. Iran will likely continue to develop its bomb secretly and deny it publicly until the project is complete--despite U.N. controls and inspections. "Iran has had plenty of opportunity to learn lessons on beating the IAEA inspection regime from watching Iraq and North Korea, which both cheated successfully against IAEA inspectors. . . . The Iranians would be foolhardy to undermine their civilian nuclear power cover story and announce their quest for nuclear weapons, only to increase their vulnerability to American and Israeli preventative action," Russell writes.
THE KIND OF DIPLOMACY spearheaded by Germany, France, and Britain is unlikely to lead to a successful dismantling of Iran's nuclear weapons programs, Russell contends. Sanctions would hurt the Iranian people more than the Islamic regime and could undermine U.S. efforts for regime change. America could offer formal diplomatic relations, economic aid to modernize Iran's oil industry and the release of frozen Iranian assets, but making sure Tehran was using the aid for its intended purpose would be nearly impossible, Russell contends. Likewise, the military option is not without significant risk. An airstrike would involve hundreds of targets; invasion would require more forces than the U.S. has to commit: "The United States now has a significant portion of its total ground forces committed to Iraq and would be hard-pressed to mount a comparable or larger operation simultaneously against Iran."
None of the options are perfect, Russell argues, but some things are sure: Iran will continue its nuclear weapons program until it obtains the bomb once and for all--it is seen as a matter of military necessity and the key to Tehran's influence in the region--while hiding behind ambiguity and concealment. A nuclear Iran, however, cannot be tolerated. Iran is well known for its sponsorship of terrorist organizations and has conducted a foreign policy of violence by proxy. The risk that Iran will transfer its nuclear technology to groups such as Hezbollah, whom Iran supports with an estimated yearly stipend of more than $100 million, is great. Additionally, a nuclear-armed Iran would be
emboldened to strong-arm America's regional allies into pulling away from the United States or run the risk of an atomic attack by terrorist proxies.
"Tehran might be tempted to harness the threat of nuclear weapons for leverage in the political military struggle against the United States for power and influence in the Persian Gulf," Russell writes. "The Arab Gulf states would be more vulnerable to Iranian political pressure to reduce security cooperation with the United States, particularly in the event of a regional contingency."
Christian Lowe is a staff writer for Army Times Publishing Company and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.
Problem shelved, not problem solved after Iran freezes nuclear fuel cycle
Mon Nov 29, 6:45 AM ET
Mideast - AFP
TEHRAN (AFP) - A major international crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions may have been averted for the time being, but the fundamental problem remains -- the Islamic regime still wants its very own nuclear fuel cycle.
In a deal set to keep its nuclear ambitions away from the United Nations (news - web sites) Security Council for the time being, the Islamic republic has yet again agreed to suspend, but not abandon, its uranium enrichment-related work.
Enrichment has been and remains at the heart of the stand-off at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based UN body set up to check the spread of nuclear weapons across the globe.
Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to low levels, so as to produce fuel for a series of atomic power stations it has yet to build. And it zealously guards its "right" under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to have a peaceful nuclear programme, including the full fuel cycle.
But Britain, France and Germany -- the European trio who have been leading diplomatic efforts aimed at solving the issue -- all fear that Iran's fuel cycle drive belies an effort to acquire a dangerous "strategic option".
"The only things that stands between the fuel cycle and a nuclear bomb is intention," said one EU diplomat close to the issue.
"It's that simple: if Iran has the fuel cycle, it has the strategic option to build a bomb. We could have a peaceful programme one day, under full IAEA supervision, and then the next day the inspectors are kicked out and soon after Iran has a nuclear bomb."
Iran asserts it does not want, or even need, what it says is an "unIslamic" type of weapon -- even if it has been lumped into an "axis of evil" by the US administration, surrounded by US troops, and in a neighbourhood of nuclear-armed states.
But sceptics point to nearly two decades of concealment from the IAEA, and even if IAEA inspectors have still found no "smoking gun" to back up allegations from the United States, they have found plenty of reasons to remain suspicious -- suspect sites having been razed and "sterilised", and black-market shopping for "dual use" technology.
Iran also agreed to suspend enrichment over a year ago -- only to seek loopholes in that agreement and press on with enrichment-related work.
Furthermore, even after agreeing to the new suspension, Iran has again drawn allegations of being in "bad faith" -- by asking for 20 centrifuges be exempted from the freeze for "research" purposes.
Iran backed down on that request late Sunday.
So once the current IAEA meeting is out of the way and the new suspension deal with the EU-three is in force, a fresh round of difficult negotiations will be underway with the stated objective of striking a long-term deal.
"With the board of governors (of the IAEA) out of the way, we will have passed a very difficult stage. That said, the way things went at Vienna were not very encouraging -- a deal was struck, then placed in doubt at the last minute," said another Tehran-based diplomat.
In return for the suspension, the EU is offering Iran a package of incentives -- due to be hammered out in more detail when negotiations begin in mid-December -- on trade, security and technology.
This is to include supporting Iran's bid to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO), an eventual Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, adressing Iran's regional security concerns and sharing peaceful nuclear technology.
But in tandem -- and this is the hard part -- the EU also wants "objective guarantees" that Iran is not, and will not seek to divert its programme to make weapons.
"We have no concrete idea what these objective guarantees can be. Ideally we would like Iran to give up the fuel cycle, because this is the best guarantee, but I don't think we can," said another EU diplomat close to the dossier.
"So we can imagine various mechanisms controlling the fuel cycle, but it will take some serious thinking if we are to arrive at a point where Iran has the fuel cycle and the rest of the world has guarantees."
For its part, Iranian officials say they will give the negotiations a few months before it evaluates its commitment to the freeze -- meaning it could be back to Vienna, or even New York, in the springtime.
Stones, petrol bombs thrown in demo outside British embassy in Iran
Mon Nov 29, 9:09 AM ET
Mideast - AFP
TEHRAN (AFP) - Hundreds of members of Iran's hardline Basij militia rallied outside the British embassy in protest at Britain's military deployment in Iraq (news - web sites), throwing stones and petrol bombs at the already damaged compound in Tehran.
But the some 400 male and female members of the militia's student wing, a volunteer branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, were prevented from getting too close to the embassy walls and main gate by dozens of anti-riot police.
The demonstrators chanted slogans calling for the expulsion of Britain's ambassador, Richard Dalton, and for the embassy to be shut down. They also demanded a boycott of British goods and a halt in trade with London.
After torching British, American and Israeli flags, some demonstrators threw stones at the embassy.
Three petrol bombs were also thrown, exploding harmlessly in the road in front of the embassy.
Police beat back some demonstrators, but no arrests were made before the demonstration wound down.
The protest was organised in protest over Britain's presence in Iraq, but some demonstrators also shouted slogans condemning Iran's agreement with Britain, France and Germany to suspend its work on the nuclear fuel cycle in order to avoid possible UN sanctions.
The embassy was the target of angry demonstrations earlier this year against US-led coalition attacks inside the Iraqi Shiite holy shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, as well as against the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
Some of the protests saw Islamist radicals attempt to storm the compound, prompting clashes with security forces. The rallies have also been marked by the throwing of home-made bombs and stones.
Britain's embassy has yet to replace the windows shattered in the protest, fearing they will only be broken again.
The US embassy in Tehran was stormed by Islamist students after the 1979 revolution, triggering a 444-day hostage crisis and the breakoff of diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran.
Iran Escapes Censure After Nuclear Cat-And-MouseMon Nov 29, 2004 10:10 AM ET
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran scored a key diplomatic success Monday by fending off the threat of being reported to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program, which the United States says is a cover for building an atomic bomb.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, passed a resolution approving Iran's week-old suspension of sensitive nuclear activities as part of a deal with the European Union, a senior diplomat told Reuters.
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 seeking the bomb, had achieved its immediate objective of avoiding being hauled before the Security Council for possible sanctions.
Washington believes Iran is playing games with the international community and wants to see it referred to the Council.
The resolution capped five days of hectic back-and-forth negotiation in which Iran first raised new demands and then backed down again, at one point throwing the EU deal into doubt.
The dispute focused on Tehran's request to exempt some 20 centrifuges from the Nov. 14 agreement in order to continue research with them.
Centrifuges are devices that spin at supersonic speeds to enrich, or purify, uranium for use as fuel in nuclear reactors. Highly enriched uranium can be used in an atom bomb, although Iran insists its aim is purely to generate electricity.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran had now withdrawn the exemption request, and IAEA inspectors Monday installed surveillance cameras to monitor the centrifuges.
"This is clearly a positive step in the right direction. It would help mitigate international concern about the nature of Iran's program, and over time should help to build confidence ... I call naturally on Iran to sustain that suspension," he told reporters.
But there were signs of mounting exasperation from Western diplomats over Iranian tactics.
Some said they believed Iran had created a new loophole that it could try to exploit within three weeks. One complained that bargaining with Tehran was like "negotiations with the Mafia over continued criminal activity."
Iran insists it has a "sovereign right" to enrich uranium and is only suspending such work to assure the world of its peaceful intentions.
In Tehran, some 500 members of a conservative volunteer militia pelted the British embassy with stones and firecrackers Monday, protesting that the Iran-EU deal was a sellout.
Protesters from the basij militia, mainly black-bearded men, burned a British flag and tried to charge the embassy gates but were pushed back by a cordon of some 100 riot police.
"Nuclear energy is our right," the protesters shouted.
Several diplomats told Reuters that Iran had only promised not to test the centrifuges until Dec. 15, when the EU and Iran meet to discuss a long-term nuclear deal.
President Bush said Friday that Iran's compliance with any deal needed to be verifiable. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the IAEA would be able to hold the Iranians to account.
The head of Iran's IAEA delegation, Hossein Mousavian, told Reuters: "We informed the IAEA officially that these centrifuges, we will not test them." Asked how long this would apply, he said: "In our coming negotiations with the Europeans we will talk about it."
Next month's EU-Iran 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.
(Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers)
Blair promises to 'hold Iran to account' over nuclear pledges
Mon Nov 29,10:34 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) pledged that he would "hold Iran to account" over its promises to halt its uranium enrichment programme, a move likely to see Tehran escape UN sanctions.
"France, Germany and Britain have been working very closely on this," Blair told his monthly press conference in London, referring to the European countries which have brokered a deal with Iran over its alleged nuclear programme.
"Our task has been to get the undertakings from Iran, but to recognise that in the end we will have to make sure (we use) the right authority -- in this case the (International) Atomic Energy Authority -- then make sure the undertakings they have given are actually adhered to."
Diplomats in Vienna told AFP on Monday the IAEA had verified Iran had suspended all uranium enrichment activities, meaning it was likely to escape a referral to the UN for possible sanctions.
The international community had "made some progress" over the spread of weapons of mass destruction, Blair said, pointing to concessions by Libya as well as Iran.
The issue of North Korea (news - web sites) was also "extremely important", Blair said, adding he would discuss the issue with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun when he arrives in London for a state visit on Wednesday.
He added: "But we will make sure we hold Iran to account."
Blair also expressed sympathy with pro-democracy campaigners in Iran, saying: "We support those who would like the same democratic rights as we have here."
Britain's embassy compound in Tehran was on Monday the target of stones and petrol bombs thrown by members of Iran's hardline Basij.
(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.
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
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.