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Atomic Honesty

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2005 10:47 am    Post subject: Atomic Honesty Reply with quote

Atomic Honesty

August 08, 2005
New York Sun
Amir Taheri


If it looks like a duck, cackles like a duck and flies like one, could it be anything other than a duck? This is the question that some of those interested in Iran's nuclear program have been asking for some time.

The official line from Tehran has been that the program has solely peaceful purposes. Yet two events last week show that this Iranian discourse is the product of the old tradition of dissimulation known as "kitman." Put simply, this means hiding one's beliefs and practices in hostile environments and at hostile times.

The first event was a long letter of resignation from Hassan Rouhani to the outgoing President Muhammad Khatami. As secretary of the High Council of National Defense, Rouhani had headed the Islamic Republic's negotiating team with the European Union over Iran's nuclear program. Those negotiations led to a series of accords under which Tehran agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment program in exchange for EU economic and diplomatic support. (Iran rejected the latest EU offer over the weekend.)

Part of Rouhani's 6,000-word letter of resignation has been leaked in Tehran. He makes two points clear.

First, the decision to acquire a nuclear "surge capacity" was taken 16 years ago, but the process was accelerated in 2003 as the leadership in Tehran feared that America, having toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, would immediately move to bring about regime change in Iran as well. ("surge capacity" means having the scientific knowledge, machinery and material needed to produce nuclear weapons without actually making any.)

Rouhani's letter hints that the Islamic Republic has already secured a good part of the "surge capacity" it wants — that is, that Tehran could start building nuclear warheads within a matter of months. It also shows that the decision to engage the Europeans in negotiations was taken as a tactic to prevent the United States from building a coalition against the Islamic Republic.

The second point in the letter is that the leadership was divided into two groups: the accommodationists and the confrontationists.

The accommodationists wanted to practice "kitman," divide the Europeans and the Americans and drag on the process of negotiations until the end of the Bush presidency. They argued that once Dubya was out of the White House, his successor would revert to the traditional U.S. policy of waving a big stick without using it. All Iran needed to do, in the meantime, was to keep the Europeans happy with negotiations, and the Russians and Chinese licking their lips at the prospect of juicy contracts with Iran.

The confrontationists, on the other hand, opposed engaging Europe in negotiations on what they saw as Iran's domestic affairs.

A speech in Tehran by a key spokesman for the confrontationists, Muhammad-Javad Larijani (aka Ardeshir), is the second telling event: He castigated the Khatami administration for negotiating with Europeans (Britain, France and Germany).

"In handling our nuclear dossier, we have committed strategic errors," Larijani claimed. "We allowed the locus of the argument to shift from the International Atomic Energy Agency to the European Union. We had an argument with the United Nations, not with three of the most savage powers on earth. We allowed the EU to meddle in what was not its business."

Larijani, who is tipped to get a senior post under new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who was inaugurated Saturday), also insisted that Iran should be prepared to abandon the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty altogether to safeguard its right to develop nuclear weapons if and when it so desired.

"We have bloodthirsty foes like the United States and Israel who could attack us with all they have," Larijani said. "Why should we deny ourselves any category of weapons just to please the savage European powers?"

The European policy towards Iran has often been described "sticks and carrots." That policy was based on the assumption that the new president would prove as keen on "carrots" as Khatami. But last June's election gave victory to a man who is not interested in any European "carrots" and is manifestly not afraid of their metaphorical "sticks" either.

Larijani is right. The Europeans had no business intervening in what was an issue between Tehran and the United Nations. The logical course now is to scrap Europe's sideshow and allow the IAEA to deal with the Islamic Republic as a signatory of the NPT.

The row over Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions is not the cause of the current tension in relations between Iran and the major Western powers. The real cause is that Iran intends to reshape the Middle East after its own fashion, and that clashes with the Bush administration's vision for the region.

"The Middle East can have either an American future or an Islamic one led by Iran," Ahmadinejad said during the presidential campaign.

Ahmadinejad is expected to unveil the Islamic Republic's vision for a new Middle East in his address to U.N. General Assembly in September. It will be up to America and its allies to decide whether they can afford to let the Islamic Republic set the agenda in the region.

Ahmadinejad's great merit, so far, is that he refuses to play "kitman."

Iranian author and journalist Amir Taheri is member of Benador Associates.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2005 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Iran Rejects EU Offer, Resumes Uranium Conversion

Iran today resumed uranium conversion activities at its Isfahan nuclear facility, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Aug. 5).

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors first installed surveillance equipment and monitored the removal of seals removed from equipment (Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, Aug. 8).

On Saturday Tehran rejected a European Union incentives package aimed at ending the nuclear standoff.

“The European proposals are unacceptable. ... The package is against the spirit of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and against the provisions of the Paris Agreement,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told state radio. “The proposals do not meet Iran’s minimum expectations.”

Iran’s main objection to the proposal remained the EU failure to acknowledge Iran’s right to produce its own nuclear fuel, Asefi said.

“We had already announced that any plan has to recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium,” he said (Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press/RedNova.com, Aug. 6).

Officials from France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States agreed Friday in Washington to call for referral of Iran’s case to the U.N. Security Council if it resumed uranium conversion, the Washington Post reported.

Conversion is the first component of an extended process that could produce weapon-grade uranium (Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, Aug. 6).

France, Germany and the United Kingdom have circulated an initial draft of an IAEA resolution this weekend that would urge Tehran not to resume uranium conversion, Reuters reported.

The proposed text was not harshly worded, said diplomats in Vienna, increasing the likelihood that Board of Governors would quickly approve it during its meeting this week.

“It’s pretty mild,” said one Western diplomat.

“They’re urging Iran to comply with previous board resolutions by maintaining its suspension of enrichment-related activities and expressing concern at the decision to resume (conversion) activities,” said another diplomat.

However, members of the Nonaligned Movement, who hold a third of the seats on the board, have not taken a stand on the resolution, diplomats said. The coalition of nations has opposed earlier proposals regarding Iran, Reuters reported.

“We will need to handle NAM very carefully,” said a diplomat close to the talks (Francois Murphy, Reuters, Aug. 7).

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said tomorrow’s IAEA Board of Governors meeting has no legal basis, AP reported.

“Iran is not much familiar with the language of threat, and it is not effective,” Asefi said. “What interests us is cooperation. We advise Europe to withdraw its threats” (Nasser Karimi, Associated Press/USA Today, Aug. 7).

British, French, and German foreign ministers and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Friday invited Iranian officials to discuss the EU’s latest proposal on Aug. 31 in Paris, Reuters reported (Reuters, Aug. 5).

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Western countries were not planning for military action against Iran, Agence France-Presse reported.

“I don’t think anyone is currently thinking about military action,” Schroeder told German public television Saturday.

He added, however, that he was “very worried by the path of confrontation that Iran seems to have chosen” (Agence France-Presse/IranMania.com, Aug. 6).

Meanwhile, former state broadcasting head Ali Larijani will replace Hassan Rohani as Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, the IRNA news agency reported today (Reuters/RedNova.com, Aug. 8).
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