IRAN: US-EU forced to drop sanctions threats


Doug Lorimer

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who holds the European Union rotating presidency, told the June 9 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that Iran had until the next meeting of the Group of Eight industrialised countries (G8) to respond to an EU package of incentives to agree to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

The G8 summit will take place in St Petersburg, Russia, on July 15-17. The G8 members are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana presented the incentives package — which has been endorsed by the veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the US) — to Iranian officials in Tehran on June 7.

"Resistance by Russia and China to tough UN action contributed to Washington's decision last month to reverse decades of policy and agree to join in multinational talks with Iran — if Tehran accepts a package of rewards, freezes enrichment during the talks and places a long-term moratorium on such activity", Associated Press reported on June 12.

Enriching uranium to produce fuel rods for nuclear power plants is perfectly legal under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory. However, Washington and its EU allies allege that Iran's enrichment program is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

Moscow and Beijing have argued that there is no evidence from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, showing that Iran's enrichment program violates the NPT and therefore no legal basis for a Security Council resolution threatening Iran with punitive measures. This is also the view of IAEA director-general Mohammed ElBaradei, who told Reuters on March 30: "Nobody has the right to punish Iran for enrichment. We have not seen nuclear material diverted to a nuclear weapon."

Moscow and Beijing suspect that Washington's objective in manufacturing an international crisis over Iran's enrichment program is to lay the groundwork for a future invasion of Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter.

Further support for such a view was provided by a May 19 Los Angeles Times report that the Bush administration has established a new Office of Iranian Affairs at the State Department. The OIA is to be headed by David Denehy, an anti-Iran propagandist from the International Republican Institute, who "will work under Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of the vice president".

The LA Times also reported that the OIA will work with a new Iranian directorate at the Pentagon. This "has been set up inside its policy shop, which previously housed the Office of Special Plans [OSP]. The controversial intelligence analysis unit, established before the Iraq war, championed some of the claims of Ahmad Chalabi. A number of assertions made by the former Iraqi exile and onetime Pentagon favorite were later discredited."

The OSP was created by US war secretary Donald Rumsfeld in October 2002 to generate "intelligence" on Iraq's (non-existent) nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs in order to publicly justify an invasion of oil-rich Iraq. Chalabi, a convicted bank embezzler, fabricated this "intelligence" for the OSP, which then fed these lies to the corporate media.

Among those staffing the Pentagon's new Iranian directorate, the LA Times reported, "are three veterans of the Office of Special Plans: Abram N. Shulsky, its former director; John Trigilio, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst; and Ladan Archin, an Iran specialist".

Faced with firm opposition from Moscow and Beijing to its push to have UN-backed punitive action against Iran, Washington has been forced to publicly support the EU-drafted, Sino-Russian endorsed offer to Iran for multilateral talks to find a diplomatic solution to the US-manufactured crisis.

While full details of the EU offer have not been made public, Reuters reported on June 9 that from interviews with EU diplomats the package includes:

  • An offer by the US to join Russia, China and the EU in direct negotiations with Tehran on the incentives package if Iran agrees to voluntarily suspend its uranium enrichment activities during the period of negotiations.

  • The Western powers recognise Iran's right under the NPT to have nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and agree to support building new light-water nuclear power reactors in Iran. European and Russian firms would be prime contractors, but the US would approve licenses needed to permit US-origin components to be transferred to Iran.

  • Although Iran must suspend enrichment while negotiations on the package are underway, it could continue conversion of uranium oxide ore into uranium hexafluoride, a preliminary step to enrichment.

  • Iran can have legally binding guarantees of nuclear fuel, which include partnership in an international nuclear fuel centre in Russia — which is the world's largest producer of nuclear fuel — and establishment in Iran of a new facility containing a five-year nuclear fuel stockpile.

  • Iran would be able to enrich uranium on its own territory in the future but only after meeting strict conditions with UN Security Council approval.

This last point is the one that may scuttle the proposed deal, since it requires Tehran to agree to give Washington a veto over Iran's "inalienable right" under the NPT to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes even before the multilateral negotiations begin.

From Green Left Weekly, June 21 2006.
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