Thursday, October 13, 2005

Iran Offers Europeans A Glass Half Empty, Half Full

Iran Press Service:
In a laconic statement that looks like a glass that is half full, half empty, Iran said it was “ready” to go back to negotiation table “without any conditions but at the same time stressed that Iran’s “natural, national and legal rights” to full nuclear cycle must be recognized, a condition that is unlikely to please the European negotiators. READ MORE

“In order to foster reciprocal cooperation with both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and with all its members, including the three European nations, the Islamic Republic is ready to start talks without any preconditions”, the statement from the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry said late Sunday evening, referring to Britain, France and Germany, the European Union’s so-called “Big 3” engaged in tortuous, complicated and complex negotiations with the clerical-led regime of Iran over Iran’s controversial nuclear projects.

Started late October 2003, the series of negotiations were called off by the three European powers after Tehran resumed works at its Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) situated near the historic city of Esfahan in central Iran on 8 August 2005, on the ground that the decision was a “breach” of agreements inked in Paris on November 2004 in which the Islamic Republic had agreed to keep all its sensitive nuclear activities suspended.

This was the start of an unprecedented escalation of bitter exchanges between Tehran and the EU3, with each side accusing the other of breach of agreements and engagements and in an effort to by passes their traditional interlocutors, Tehran invited other nations to also become party to the talks.

As the Iranians were insisting that the UCF was not part of he Paris Agreements, the EU3, backed by the United States, presented the last meeting of the international nuclear watchdog with a resolution calling on the ayatollahs to suspend all nuclear-related activities, including works at the UCF or face the Security Council of the United Nations for possible economic sanctions.

Approved by a large majority of the Board’s 35 members, including India, one of the country Iran had counted on it to counter the EU3, the resolution upset the Iranians because of the abstention of 12 members, among them all the countries Iran had courted, like China, Russia, Brazil or South Africa.

The defeat – that Tehran said was a victory – resulted in weeks of contrary statements, declarations, threats and conciliatory moves, ranging from warnings of leaving the Non Proliferation Treaty and the Additional Protocol to continuation of negotiations, all indications of the lack of experience in international diplomacy of the Government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his new team of negotiators led by Mr. Ali Larijani, the Head of the regime’s Supreme Council on National Security (SCNS).

Taking the standoff on its nuclear issue with the international community to new heights, Mr. Larijani on Tuesday 20 September 2005 raised the spectre of getting out of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and resume enriching uranium if faced with a “language of force”, accusing the West of imposing “political fascism” on other nations aimed at depriving them from advances technologies.

But barely 24 hours he pedalled, stating that Iran has no intention of abandoning the NPT and would continue talking with both the Vienna-based IAEA and the EU3, but would not implement the Additional Protocol.

It was probably for this reason, -- but also stop possible political adventures by the new President, a former Revolutionary Guard officer who has brought with himself several other comrades – that prompted the leader of the regime, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i to transfer parts of his unlimited powers to the Assembly for the Discerning the Interests of the State (ADIS, or the Expediency Council) chaired by the former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, known for his both pragmatism and opportunism.

Iranian political analysts say the Sunday official statement might be the first result of the new responsibilities bestowed on Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, taking into account his recent “advice” to the Iranian nuclear negotiator to “avoid slogans.

According to this disposition, the heads of the three powers, but also the Radio and Television and the military establishment have to submit all their macro-policies and projects to the Expediency Council for examination and carry out the recommendations.

Acting on behalf of he Leader, the Expediency Council supervises and controls the general policies of the State, including programs and policies decided by any organ”, stressed Mr. Mohsen Reza’i, the Secretary of the ADIS, adding that the views of the ADIS are “the last words”.

“Even if the heads of the three powers are not convinced, they must bow to the decisions of the ADIS and implement them”, he reiterated.

Describing the talks with the EU3 as “positive”, the Iranian statement nevertheless reiterates the “natural and legitimate rights” of Iran to full nuclear cycle “in the framework of the NPT and on the basis of its obligations and safeguards”, the communiqué said without mentioning the activities of the UCF, the core of the present stalemate in Tehran-EU standoff.

Iranian analysts and diplomats talking to the Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity said Iran has to decide between accepting the European proposals and stop all nuclear activities, including at the UCF or face the Security Council, something it would avoid.

“This kind of statements is designed to prepare the public opinion for a final nod to what the Chairman of the Expediency Council had described as “putting to sleep” the nation with “luring and wishful declarations” in the hope that it would encourage the spirit of the people”, they said, adding that the attribution of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize to the IAEA’s Egyptian boss Mohammad ElBarade’i has added to Iranian fears.

In fact, while Iranian officials ignored the event or welcomed it reluctantly, the pro-Government media did not hesitate to lambaste the Nobel Committee on its decision, saying the Nobel Peace Jury has awarded Mr. ElBarade’i “for the good services he reserved to the West by taking the Iranian nuclear question as hostage for them”.

“I cannot judge now or say whether this award would improve peace or deteriorate further international relations, however, we shall wait and see if the IAEA would inspect the Zionist (Israel) regime and study the case at close range and also repair the mistake it committed with its last resolution (against Iran)?”, Ali Aqamohammadi the spokesman of the SCNS told the semi independent Iranian Students News Agency ISNA.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry statement also came on the eve of the forthcoming meetings of the US Secretary of State with her French and British colleagues, -- Germany having not foreign minister – centered on the Iranian nuclear issue.

There will not be talks with Iran before work at Esfahan is stopped. The ball is in the Iranian court”, the French news agency AFP quoted a European diplomat who added this will not be enough to avoid referral to the Security Council, a move boldly supported by Washington.