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Old Wednesday, January 18, 2006
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Default Iran's Nuclear Crisis

Iran’s growing N-crisis

Earlier this month the Iranians, in the presence of IAEA inspectors, broke the seals on some of the equipment in the Natanz facility to recommence what they said was research activity on the nuclear fuel cycle. The fresh crisis this precipitated was the catalyst for the European request, after consultations on Monday with the Americans, Russians and Chinese in London, for the meeting of the IAEA board of governors on February 2 and 3, more than a month before the regularly scheduled meeting of the board in March.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that the US feared that if the IAEA waited until March, Iran would use the time to further “obfuscate” over any nuclear weapons plans.

It appears that the Europeans and Americans have been able to persuade Russia to go along with the call for the IAEA meeting and that even the Chinese, while saying in a foreign office statement “All relevant sides should remain restrained and stick to resolving the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiations” have not been sufficiently strident in their opposition to the calling of the IAEA meeting. Diplomats participating in the London discussions have cautioned that there remains a great deal of work to be done by the Europeans and the Americans to persuade the other members of the IAEA board to go along with any action, specifically a referral to the UN Security Council, that the Europeans will propose.

There is reason for this. President Ahmadinejad’s intemperate statements may have adversely influenced public opinion and provided grist for the West’s propaganda mills. But none of Iran’s actions so far have been in violation of the NPT, the safeguards agreement that Iran has with the IAEA or the additional protocol to which Iran has agreed, voluntarily, to adhere (the agreement has not been ratified by the Iranian majlis).

In September last, the EU and the US found that there was opposition to an immediate reference to the UN Security Council and ultimately settled for a resolution asserting that Iran’s nuclear activities and “the resulting absence of confidence” about its nuclear programme being “exclusively for peaceful purposes” had given rise to “questions that are within the competence of the Security Council, as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.” Even at that time 12 members, including Russia and China, abstained on the resolution breaking the long tradition of decisions by consensus that had been the practice in the IAEA.

These abstentions were prompted by the concerns not only of Russia and China about their lucrative oil deals with Iran but equally importantly by developing countries — India being the notable exception — that Iran was being penalized for what a number of other countries had also done but without suffering penalties. South Korea, Taiwan, Egypt among others were countries that had engaged in nuclear activities without informing the IAEA or subjecting these activities to IAEA safeguards. These activities were subsequently investigated by the IAEA and the countries in question were given a clean bill of health — in the Korean case the IAEA accepted the Korean government’s explanation that scientists had engaged in uranium enrichment only on an experimental basis and without official authorization.

Further, according to one calculation some 106 countries, have yet to sign the additional protocol which would give the IAEA unfettered access to all declared or suspected nuclear-related sites and enable it to certify that there were no clandestine nuclear activities. Iran has voluntarily adhered to this protocol and at least until November Dr Baradei seemed to think that he was making progress in getting access to all suspect sites in Iran.

In November when the board met again Dr Al-Baradei presented what could be seen as a reasonably good report on Iranian cooperation in resolving outstanding issues and there was, therefore, no effort on the part of the EU to pursue a referral to the UN Security Council.

Many will argue that by resuming research activities under IAEA safeguards Iran has not done anything illegal and that this should be seen as an assertion of the right Iran enjoys under the NPT to develop its nuclear know-how and as a way of pressuring the Europeans to return to the negotiating table and present an offer better than the one put forward in August and rejected by the Iranians as “humiliating”. Many others will argue that the “red line,” if there is to be one, should be the commencement of uranium enrichment and this the Iranians have refrained from doing.

Do the Iranians have a reasonable case on the question of the EU’s negotiating stance? Iran signed the additional protocol in December 2003 having agreed to do so in October 2003 and after Dr Baradei had stated in November 2003 that there was no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons programme. In November 2004, Iran agreed with the EU negotiators to halt all uranium enrichment activity. In January 2005, the IAEA got access to the Parchin site situated in a military facility but no sensational discovery was made. In April 2005, Iran threatened to resume uranium gasification but was persuaded to await detailed EU proposals promised by the end of July. No proposals were made by the indicated date Then, Iran announced the resumption of uranium gasification at the Isfahan facility and this acted as the spur for the submission, at long last, of a 31-page proposal by the EU for improved relations between the EU and Iran.

The main point seems to be that Iran would be required to commit itself to being bound by the NPT in perpetuity — renouncing its right to opt out of the treaty — and to for swear in perpetuity its right under the NPT to develop a nuclear fuel cycle and in return it would receive assurances for the supply of fuel for its nuclear reactors and for its research activities, apart from cooperation in other fields such as admission to the WTO. Earlier the US had said that it would, as part of the package, not stand in the way of Iran’s application for WTO membership and would allow the export of spare parts for Iran’s air fleet.

In a joint article by the foreign ministers of Germany, France, the UK and the EU foreign affairs commissioner, published on the eve of the September meeting of the IAEA board, these proposals were termed as “the most far-reaching ideas for relations between Iran and Europe presented since the 1979 Iranian revolution and would provide the foundation for a new relationship based on cooperation”. Not only the Iranians, other objective observers were also doubtful about the value of these proposals. The US controlled or influenced the major sources of nuclear fuel and, in the words of noted nuclear expert George Perkovich, “I don’t understand how the Europeans can guarantee fuel supply if the US isn’t explicitly saying it won’t impose sanctions on companies that cooperate with the Iranians”.

Equally importantly, the Europeans knew that the Iranian establishment, before President Ahmadinejad came to power, had been extremely concerned about the US military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq and was seeking security guarantees from the United States in this context. One is sure that there was also an Iranian expectation that the United States would offer some concessions on sanctions that it had currently in force on Iran and that it would also offer to release $8 billion in Iranian funds that remained frozen in American banks. In the event, the EU was able to offer only European security guarantees and these as George Perkovich says, were not “relevant when it is the United States that Iran is worried about”.

Essentially it would seem that Iran — a proud and rich country — was being asked to accept a mess of pottage in exchange for giving up what it had set its heart upon and what had become a symbol of national pride. I don’t think that there is any developing country that does not empathize with Iran’s position and will not suggest that even if concerns about Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapon capability are justified — and that can almost be taken as said — there must be greater effort to address Iran’s needs and apprehensions than the present EU approach suggests.

Are these concerns and apprehensions justified? Israel has nuclear weapons and Ahmadinejad’s unwise provocative statements or the arranging of a conference on the “Holocaust” are less relevant to Israel-Iran relations than the fact that Israel is intent on ensuring that there is no country in the Middle East that can challenge it militarily. There is no advance on proposals for making the Middle East a nuclear weapons free state.

Given what appears to be implacable American hostility, Iran has also to contend with the fact that on its other borders, it has a nuclear-weapon Pakistan allied with the United States in the war on terror, a nuclear-weapon India seeking a strategic partnership with the United States, an American-occupied Afghanistan and an American-occupied Iraq. Iran’s traditional friendship with these countries (and the influence it wields in Iraq) and continued deft diplomacy to keep these relations on an even keel does not detract from the dangers that the situation could pose. Saddam Hussain had waged a chemical war against Iran and there are even today some 100,000 survivors of these attacks serving as a grim reminder of Iran’s vulnerability.

Iran has had problems in its Kurdish region and on a smaller scale similar problems have arisen also in the Arab minority province of Ahwaz. The hand of foreign intelligence activities has been suspected at least by the Iranians. The uprisings have been brought under control by the deployment of massive military force in the Kurdish areas and harsh repressive measures in Ahwaz but the unsettling prospects of internal disturbances remain a factor in Iran’s security calculations.

Under these circumstances, the Iranians could be forgiven for believing, even if they do not say so, that in the absence of the normalization of relations with the world’s sole superpower and its allies, their country’s security requires the possession of a nuclear deterrent.

With the new president in Iran it is not certain that the West’s fears, or indeed the world’s fears, about potential proliferation will be addressed as satisfactorily as the West would like, but an effort in that direction has to be made, and that effort has to be far better than what has been put on offer. The fact that the Iranians have not rejected the Russian proposal for enrichment activity being carried out in Russia on Iran’s behalf and that the talks on this are continuing may be only a deft diplomatic move to win time but it may also be a serious signal that Iran has not entirely slammed the door on certain elements of western proposals.

How the drama is likely to unfold in the next few weeks, how this will impinge on Iran’s relations with the countries of South Asia and how this will affect the prospects of the proposed pipeline will be the subject of my next article.

By Najmuddin A, Shaikh
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Default US-Iran stand off!

This article has been extracted from Dawn Encounter, 21st Jan. 2006.

Mr. M Shahid Alam is an expert at writing articles. He always explains things with historical aspects. Below is a must-read article for everyone.

Why the US is hesitating to invade Iran

By M. Shahid Alam

“Anyone can go to Baghdad. Real men go to Tehran.”
— Senior Bush official, May 2003

THE United States and Israel have been itching to go to Tehran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. That revolution was a strategic setback for the two powers. It overthrew the Iranian monarchy, a great friend of the US and Israel, and brought to power radicals who considered themselves to be the true defenders of Islam.

As a result, the Iranian revolution was certain to clash with both the US and Israel, as well as their client states in the Arab world. Israel was unacceptable because it was an alien intrusion that had displaced a Muslim people: it was a foreign implant in the Islamic heartland. But the US was the greater antagonist. On its own account, through Israel, and on the behalf of Israel, it sought to keep the Middle East firmly bound in the chains of American hegemony.

The US-Israeli hegemony over the Middle East had won a great victory in 1978. At Camp David, the leading Arab country, Egypt, chose to surrender its leadership of the Arab world, and signed a separate ‘peace’ with Israel. This freed Israel to pursue its plans of annexing the West Bank and Gaza, and to project unchecked power over the entire region. The Arab world could now be squeezed between Israel in the West and Iran to the East, the twin pillars of US hegemony over the region’s peoples and resources.

The Iranian revolution of 1979 ended this partnership. At that point, real men in Washington would have loved to take back Tehran from the Mullahs but for the inconvenience of Soviet opposition. But great powers are rarely stymied by any single development, however adverse. It took little encouragement from Washington to get Iraq to mount an unprovoked invasion of Iran. In the 20th century, few Arab leaders have seen the difference between entrapment and opportunity.

The war between Iran and Iraq served the United States and Israel quite well. It blunted the energies of Iran, preventing it from any serious attempts to export the revolution, or challenge American influence in the region. The Israeli gains were more substantial. With Egypt neutered at Camp David, and Iraq and Iran locked in a bloody war, Israel was free during the 1980s to do what it liked. It expanded its settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, expelled the Palestinian fighters from Lebanon, and established a long-term occupation over much of Southern Lebanon. Israel was closer to its goal of commanding unchallenged power over the Middle East.

The end of the Cold War in 1990 offered a bigger opening to the United States and Israel. Freed from the Soviet check on their ambitions, and with Iran devastated by the war, the United States began working on plans to establish a military control over the region, in the style of earlier colonial empires. This happened quickly when, with American assurance of non-intervention in intra-Arab conflicts, Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

The US response was massive and swift. In January 1990, after assembling 600,000 allied troops in Saudi Arabia — about half of them American — it pushed Iraq out of Kuwait, and mounted massive air strikes against Iraq itself, destroying much of its industry, power-generating capacity and infrastructure. The US had now established a massive military beachhead in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. It established permanent military bases in Saudi Arabia, continued its economic sanctions against Iraq, created a Kurdish autonomous zone in the north of Iraq, and, together with Britain, continued to bomb Iraq on a nearly daily basis for the next thirteen years.

With the US beachhead in place, where did the real men in the US and Israel want to go next? There was no secrecy about their plans. At a minimum, the neoconservatives in the US and their Likud allies in Israel wanted ‘regime change’ in Iraq, Syria and Iran. This would be delivered by covert action, air strikes, or invasion — whatever it took — to be mounted by the US military. Israel would stay out of these wars, ready to reap the benefits of their aftermath.

The Likud plans were more ambitious. They wanted to redraw the map of the Middle East, using ethnic, sectarian, and religious differences to carve up the existing states in the region into weak micro-states that could be easily bullied by Israel. This was the Kivunim plan first made public in 1982. It would give Israel a thousand years of dominance over the Middle East.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 were the ‘catalyzing event’ that put these plans into motion. The US wasted no time in seizing the moment. Instantly, President George Bush declared a global war against terrorism. The first target of this war was Afghanistan, but this was only a sideshow. On January 29, 2002, Bush announced his initial targets for regime change: the ‘axis of evil’ that included Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

The plan was to invade and consolidate control over Iraq as a base for operations against Iran, Syria and perhaps Saudi Arabia. This sequencing was based on two assumptions: that the invasion of Iraq would be a cake-walk and American troops would be greeted as liberators. The US invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003 and Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003. It was indeed a cake-walk, and it appeared to television audiences that American troops were also being greeted as liberators. Understandably, the mood in Washington and Tel Aviv was triumphant. The US is unstoppable: it was time for real men now to go to Tehran.

Nearly three years after the Iraqi invasion, the real men are still stuck in Baghdad. Yes, there has been a great deal of talk about attacking Iran: plans in place for air strikes on Iran’s revolutionary guards, on its nuclear installations and other WMD sites, and even talk of a ground invasion. There have been reports of spy flights over Iran and operations by special forces inside Iran. Israel too has been goading the US to strike, and if the US shrinks from this duty, threatening to go solo.

What has been holding back the real men in Washington and Tel Aviv? One reason of course is that the cakewalk very quickly turned into a quagmire. The apparent Iraqi welcome was replaced by a growing and hardy insurgency, which has exacted a high toll on US plans for Iraq even though it was led mostly by Sunni Arabs. As a result, close to 150,000 US troops remain tied down in Iraq, with little prospect that they can be freed soon for action against Iran. Most Shias are not resisting the American occupation, but they are ready to take power in Iraq, and want the Americans to leave.

While the US cannot mount a full-scale invasion of Iran without a draft, it does possesses the capability — despite the Iraqi quagmire — to launch air and missile strikes at Iranian targets, using nuclear weapons to destroy underground weapon sites. On the other hand, despite its saber-rattling, most analysts agree that Israel does not possess this capability on its own. Unlike Iraq, Iran has dispersed its nuclear assets to dozens of sites, some unknown. Then, why hasn’t the US mounted air attacks against Iran yet? Or will it any time soon?

More and more, as the Americans have taken a more sober reckoning of Iran’s political and military capabilities, they realize that Iran is not Iraq. When Osirak was attacked by Israel in June 1981, Iraq did nothing: it could do nothing. One thing is nearly certain: Iran will respond to any attack on its nuclear sites. Iran’s nuclear programme has the broadest public support: as a result, the Iranian revolution would suffer a serious loss of prestige if it did nothing to punish the attacks. The question is: what can Iran do in retaliation?

Both the CIA and DIA have conducted war games to determine the consequences of an American air attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. According to Newsweek (September 27, 2004), “No one liked the outcome.” According to an Air Force source, “The war games were unsuccessful at preventing the conflict from escalating.” In December 2004, The Atlantic Monthly reported similar results for its own war game on this question. The architect of these games, Sam Gardner, concluded, “You have no military solution for the issues of Iran.”

What is the damage Iran can inflict? Since preparations for any US strike could not be kept secret, Iran may choose to preempt such a strike. According to the participants in the Atlantic Monthly war game, Iran could attack American troops across the border in Iraq. In responding to these attacks, the US troops would become even more vulnerable to the Iraqi insurgency. One participant expressed the view that Iran “may decide that a bloody defeat for the United States, even if it means chaos in Iraq, is something they actually prefer.”

Iran could also join hands with Al Qaeda to mount attacks on civilian targets within the US. If Iranian losses mount, Iran may launch missiles against Israel or decide to block the flow of oil from the Gulf, options not considered in the Atlantic Monthly war game.

What are the realistic options available to the US? It could drag Iran to the UN Security Council and, if Russia and China climb on board, pass a motion for limited economic sanctions. Most likely, the US will not be asking for an Iraq-style oil embargo. Not only would this roil the markets for oil, Iran will respond by ending inspections, and accelerate its uranium enrichment. If Iran is indeed pursuing a nuclear programme, then it will, perhaps sooner rather than later, have its bomb. Once that happens, one Israeli official in the Newsweek report said, “Look at ways to make sure it’s not the mullahs who have their finger on the trigger.” But the US and Israel have been pursuing that option since 1979.

It would appear that US-Israeli power over the Middle East, which had been growing since World War II, may have finally run into an obstacle. And that obstacle is Iran, a country the CIA had returned to a despotic monarch in 1953. Paradoxically, this has happened when American dominance over the region appears to be at its peak; when its troops occupy a key Arab country; when it has Iran sandwiched between US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; and when it has trapped this country inside a ring of US military bases running from Qatar, through Turkey and Tajikistan, to Pakistan.

Could it be that Al Qaeda’s gambit is beginning to pay off? It had hoped that the attacks of September 11 would provoke the US into invading the Islamic heartland. That the US did, but the mass upheaval Al Qaeda had expected in the Arab streets did not materialize. Instead, it is Iran that has been the chief beneficiary of the US invasion. As a result, it is Iran that now possesses the leverage to oppose US-Israeli aims in the region. Al Qaeda had not planned on a Shia country leading the Islamic world.

It is possible that the US, choosing to ignore the colossal risks, may yet launch air attacks against Iran. President Bush could be pushed into this by pressure from messianic Christians, by neoconservatives, by Israelis, or by the illusion that he needs to do something bold and desperate to save his presidency. By refusing to wilt under US-Israeli threats, it appears that the Iranians too may be following Al Qaeda’s logic. We cannot say if this is what motivates Iran. But that is where matters will go if the US decides to attack or invade Iran.

No one has yet remarked on some eerie parallels between the US determination to deepen its intervention in the Islamic world and Napoleon’s relentless pursuit of the Russian forces, retreating, drawing them into the trap of the Russian winter. It would appear that the United States too is irretrievably committed to pursuing its Islamic foe to the finish, to keep moving forward even if this risks getting caught in a harsh Islamic winter. On the other hand, the neoconservatives, the messianic Christians, and the Israelis are convinced that with their searing firepower, the US and Israel will succeed and plant a hundred pliant democracies in the Middle East. We will have to wait and see if these real men ever get to add Tehran to their next travel itinerary — or they have to give up the comforts of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

The writer teaches economics at a university in Boston.

"The race is not over because I haven't won yet."

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Default Iran on the Warpath

Iran on the Warpath

During the reign of Raza Shah Pehlevi Iran was the bastion of US power in the region. But after the fall of the Shah and the radical Islamic revolution led by Ayatullah Khomeni in 1979, Iran became the bitterest enemy of the US, which the Ayatullah called 'Shaitan-e-Buzung' ('Great Satan'). Soon after, Islamic revolutionaries attacked the US embassy in Tehran and held members of its staff hostage, which caused great humiliation to the US. Since then America and Iran are not on talking terms.

However, when the moderate cleric Mohammad Khatami became Iran's president, tension in the Iran-US relations eased somewhat and the grip of orthodox mullahs over Iran's sedate and colourless social and cultural scene loosened to some extent opening a small window of fresh air for personal freedom of thought and action. This window however, was suddenly closed when a rabidly orthodox young man, who was a member of 'Pasdaran' guards of Ayatullah Khomeni, was elected president of Iran.

He immediately returned Iran to religious orthodoxy and opened several hostile fronts against the US, Israel and the European countries. Following Ayatullah Khomeni's edict he banned playing western music and declared the Jewish holocaust in Nazi Germany just a "myth" and called for Israel to be "wiped out of the map". This rash and unrealistic canard shook not only Israel but the entire western world.

European leaders said Ahmadinejad's remarks were the latest "provocative political move" from Tehran. These comments are wholly unacceptable and have no place in the civilised political debate. EU leaders warned Tehran that they would review diplomatic options for possible sanctions against Iran. They said they were "gravely concerned at Iran's failure to build confidence that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful. Iran's recent decision to resume work on enriching uranium only adds to the EU's profound concerns about Iran's intentions.

On Ahmadinejad's comments regarding the holocaust, Iran's interior minister said that the West had 'misunderstood' what the Iranian leader was saying. Ahmadinejad wanted to say that the nation which harmed the Jewish community and created problems for them have to pay the price themselves. He said "a historical incident had occurred, correct or incorrect. We don't want to launch research or carry out historical investigation about it". In Berlin, German lawmakers unanimously condemned the Iranian president's remarks calling them 'completely unacceptable'. Lawmakers urged the German government to "counter any policy that disputes Israel's right to exist and denies the holocaust."

Ahmadinejad told a public meeting in Zahedan that those who are responsible for the Holocaust should give a part of their own land in Europe, US, Canada or Alaska so that the Jews can establish their own country. Israeli defence officials say they have not ruled out a military strike against Iran if it furthers its advances towards obtaining nuclear weapons. Most significantly Iran has removed UN seals at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant and resumed nuclear fuel research drawing sharp Western criticism but no immediate threats of punitive action. Tehran denies wanting nuclear technology for anything other than a civilian energy programme to meet the Islamic republic's booming demand for electricity.

But the United States and the European Union doubt that Iran's atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful and are likely to ask the UN Security Council to impose economic sanctions. Western powers had called on Iran to refrain from any work that could help it develop atomic weapons. The European Union was quick to denounce the resumption of research, which an EU spokesman labelled "a step in the wrong direction".

Enrichment, the step that follows conversion, purifies uranium to the level needed to fuel power plants or, if enriched further, to the level needed to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran, while saying it prefers resuming negotiations rather than open confrontation, has reiterated its resolve to develop its own nuclear fuel cycle, as it is its sovereign right as a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

There are two kinds of concerns among the international community arising out of Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. The first is that Iran may become an Islamic proliferator. Second the nuclear weapon acquisition by Shia Iran will unleash a Sunni Arab backlash, particularly from Saudi Arabia. A nuclear Iran, if it ever manages to become one, will have a totally destabilising effect over West Asia. Already the US worries about the effect of a second Shia state emerging in Iraq and the impact of Iran on that state.

President Ahmadinejad, says, and rightly so, that Iran as a sovereign state has the right to develop nuclear energy and he is willing to negotiate within the UN framework of necessary safeguards against producing nuclear weapons. But this should not prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power in due course so long as Israel has nuclear weapons and can use them against Iran and other Muslim nations. The US and all western nuclear powers, cannot deny weaker nations their right to have nuclear arsenal, as long as they and their allies, particularly Israel do decide to de- nuclearise themselves.

by Burhanuddin Hasan The News 26-01-06
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U.S is putting diplomatic pressure on India to go against Iran if IAEA handover Iran Nuclear issue to Security Council... What about China and Russia? They're going to veto it I am sure. China needs cheap oil Iran can provide that. As for Russia they always had a soft corner for Iran.
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Default Iran's nuclear Defiance

Iran's nuclear defiance

Ghani Jafar

Pakistan clearly has its plate full both within the country and in relation to any number of areas involving bilateral and international relations. From the devastating earthquake, the situation in Balochistan and controversy over water reservoirs to the US air assault on Bajaur and talk of peace with India, the daily fare is providing us with an unusually high dose of concern and anxiety.

Nevertheless, one issue fast hotting up right next door, the aggravating impasse over Iran's nuclear programme, has come to be neglected in public discourse due to our current preoccupations. It seems that little known to us, the Iranian revolution, far from expending itself over the last quarter-century, is all set to exercise its most fundamental and far-reaching impact on the post-Second World War global order.

The crux of the matter here lies in Tehran's unrelenting challenge to the scheme of things as worked out between themselves by the victors of the War. At the core of this international order is the primacy accorded to themselves by the so-called 'Big Five' (the US, Russia, China, France and the UK), most crucially in the form of permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council which comes with the unbridled power of vetoing any resolution.

The same arrangement of their lording over the world subsequently came to be formalised in the realm of nuclear weapon capability as well through the adoption of the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) in 1970. While according legitimacy to the arsenals of the 'Big Five', the treaty barred the remaining members of the international community from acquiring such weapons. That, however, was not the ultimate objective of the NPT.

The purpose of the agreement was the total elimination of nuclear weapons all over the world. Conversely, all member states were to be equally entitled to peaceful use of nuclear technology. A global watchdog in the form of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had already existed (since 1957) "to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies".

The 'Big Five' were, however, to consistently make a mockery of both declarations. The first dimension of the undertaking involved that they not only get rid of their own weapons but also indiscriminately prevent all other countries from acquiring nuclear capability. They have flouted each of those conditions without compunction. While they have continued to bolster their respective nuclear arsenals, one of more of them have also actively helped their lackey states develop the weapon over the 36 years since the NPT came into force.

With reference to the right bestowed by the NPT on the entire international community to make full use of nuclear technology for non-war purposes, again power politics rather than adherence to the treaty's obligations has characterised the conduct of the 'Big Five'. The Iranian case, in a nutshell, is an outcome of this latter aspect. And that is precisely the premise Tehran seems determined to lock horns with through the exercise of its sovereign and equal right to develop and employ indigenous means to muster nuclear technology for the peaceful purpose of power generation.

What then is all the fuss about? Shorn of the technical details, the issue in its essence is that the United States -- fully backed by the two West European permanent members of the UN Security Council, Britain and France, with Germany tagging along for good measure -- is simply not prepared to let Iran acquire those means to make peaceful use of nuclear technology. The grounds for the western opposition are entirely frivolous: that such a capability would enable Tehran to further develop the technology and make the bomb. Utter nonsense.

Iran is not only a signatory to the NPT but has, ever since the western powers' espousal of their fears of its secret nuclear programme based on dubious intelligence reports some three years ago, has fully cooperated with the IAEA which has conducted frequent inspections of relevant sites and facilities. The nuclear watchdog has have found no evidence of Iran being involved in anything other than its oft-repeated peaceful intent. Undeterred by the absence of any tangible case against Iran, the western powers continue to up the heat on Tehran. Israel and its sympathisers in the United States are at the forefront of this campaign, advocating once again the folly of an armed attack on Iran despite the misadventure in Iraq, where similarly cooked-up pretexts of involvement in international terrorism and pursuit of nuclear weapons were advanced a short three years ago.

It is in this context pertinent to also take a passing look at some of the specifics in the case of Iran. As already pointed out, there is no justification whatsoever for any punitive action against Iran either through the UN Security Council or outside of it by any country or group of countries. The new position taken by some western powers of throwing the onus of innocence on the nuclear question over to Iran is as preposterous as the IAEA's bogey of the country's 'parallel' nuclear programme.

Secondly, the random application of the tag of 'evil' or 'terrorist' on any country by the United States proves nothing. On the contrary, not a single Iranian government functionary, or even a citizen for that matter, has ever been found involved in any activity that could conceivably fall under any of the many definitions of 'terrorism' as applied by the West. If anything, Iran, quite on its own and most expeditiously, has undertaken to dispatch back to their respective countries an undisclosed number of Arabs that could possibly subscribe to the al-Qaeda creed.

Last but not least, Iran is the only country in the entire Middle Eastern region with a robust democracy. Regardless of whatever internal political differences that may currently exist in the country, the nation is one on claiming its due right to develop an indigenous nuclear programme for peaceful purposes.

As is true of the genesis of any number of other contemporary global issues agitating the western world -- Iraq, Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and the Taliban -- the irony here as well is that none other than the United States can take credit for the initiation of Iran's nuclear programme in 'the good old' days of the Shah.

All said and done, what makes Iran and its nuclear programme so undesirable to western powers? The answer lies in the fact that the country's leadership has, since the triumph of the revolution, had the gumption of taking on a fundamental pillar of the legacy left by former European colonial powers, right in the Muslim heartland, in the form of Israel.

In the context of Iran's nuclear programme, whatever implications Tehran's open challenge to Tel Aviv may or may not come to exercise, it has for the first time brought into sharp focus the real threat to regional peace and security posed by Israel's nuclear arsenal. This has not only highlighted the West's complicity in the matter but has also graphically exposed the policy of duplicity in the field of nuclear non-proliferation.

Thanks to the stand taken by Iran, Israel's Arab neighbours as well as Turkey have felt encouraged to come out openly in pointing out the double standards of the West on this score. At the same time, the Iranian crisis has also brought to the fore certain other dimensions of the western pick-and-choose approach toward nuclear matters. Prime among them is the agreement arrived at last year by the United States with India to help the latter develop the peaceful dimension of its nuclear programme, even though it is not a signatory to the NPT.

The regional perspective of the Iranian nuclear debate requires separate treatment that is best left to a subsequent occasion. Suffice it to say for now that the creation of Israel and the bestowing of a formidable nuclear prowess upon it are as basic to the post-War order in this part of the world as is the permanent composition of the UN Security Council with regard to the world at large. Need one repeat how the current Iranian defiance hits at the very roots of this arbitrary scheme of things?
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Default Iran N-Crises

Little progress seen in Iran-Europe talks

BRUSSELS (AP) — Talks between Iran and European nations appeared to make little progress Monday in ending the diplomatic standoff over Tehran's nuclear program.
"To be frank, we didn't detect anything new in their approach," said John Sawers, a senior British official at the talks with Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator, Javad Vaedi. The meeting, which included diplomats from Britain, France and Germany, was not a formal negotiating session.

Instead, European Union foreign ministers planned to jointly call on Iran again to end all nuclear enrichment-related activities, warning they otherwise would seek to take the case to the U.N. Security Council, diplomats said.

Vaedi was a little more upbeat however upon leaving the meeting. "Now we can continue opening the chance for talks," he said.

The issue will be picked again up again in London late Monday, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was joining foreign ministers from the four other permanent U.N. Security Council members — Britain, France, Russia and China — to try to break the diplomatic deadlock over Iran's nuclear program. Germany also will take part.

"We will now be reporting to our ministers who will discuss this matter," Sawers said.

The talks came at the start of a pivotal week to try to resolve the crisis over Tehran's nuclear activities.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the meeting indicated Iran, which recently restarted nuclear work, had not abandoned efforts to find a diplomatic solution.

"The fact that Iran asked for these discussions this morning — they are not negotiations — illustrates the fact that Iran is ... concerned about its international position," Straw said.

The European Union has led negotiations meant to ease international concerns that Iran could use its nuclear program to produce weapons. Tehran says it only wants to generate nuclear power.

An EU draft statement said recent Iranian actions "run counter to International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions and ... are a rejection of the efforts to explore whether a basis can be agreed for resuming negotiations."

In light of this, it said, the ministers could seek to take Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council, but added that the "issue can still be solved by negotiations." It said this would "require a cooperative and transparent approach on the part of the Iranian government."

The Russian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said China might join Moscow's proposed program to enrich uranium for Iran.

The EU said it was still hopeful of finding a diplomatic solution. The 35-nation board of the IAEA meets Thursday at the U.N. agency's headquarters in Vienna, to discuss possible Security Council referral.

Britain, France and Germany, representing the 25-nation bloc, and the United States have called for referring Iran to the Security Council, a move that could lead to sanctions. China and Russia remain unconvinced.

Europe has led negotiations meant to ease international concerns that Iran could use its nuclear program to produce weapons. Tehran says it only wants to generate nuclear power.

"We still remain committed to a diplomatic solution," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the EU would maintain its tough stance against Iran's desire to fully restart its program. Earlier this month, Iran broke U.N. seals at a uranium enrichment plant and said it would resume nuclear fuel research after a two-year freeze.

The Iranians "have taken decisions that were absolutely incompatible with the commitments that they have made," Solana told reporters.

The EU said Russia's proposal to enrich uranium for Iran could be the way forward.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said Moscow was considering the possibility of China also taking part in a program to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said talks on the Iranian nuclear issue should focus on persuading Iran to resume an enrichment moratorium, the Interfax, ITAR-Tass and RIA Novosti news agencies reported.

The EU and Washington have backed the Russian proposal. Iran's top nuclear negotiator visited Moscow last week to discuss the proposal and said it needs more work.

The Russian proposal could provide more oversight and ease fears that Tehran is using its pursuit of atomic power as a front for a nuclear weapons program.

The European powers are wary of allowing Iran to carry out nuclear fuel production on its own territory. Enriched uranium can be used as both fuel for nuclear power and in the production of weapons, depending on how it is processed.

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Default Iran: the crisis worsens

Iran: the crisis worsens

BY a vote of 27 to three with five abstentions the International Atomic Energy Agency board has approved a resolution to report Iran’s nuclear programme to the UN Security Council. One Muslim country, Syria, voted against the resolution, three Muslim countries, Indonesia, Algeria and Libya, abstained while Egypt, a prize catch for the US-EU sponsors of the resolution, voted for the resolution.

The resolution was passed in the face of strong opposition from the IAEA’s director-general, Mr ElBaradei, who argued that the proper time for “reporting” or “referring” the Iran dossier to the UN Security Council would be after the scheduled March 6 meeting of the IAEA meeting at which the director-general was to have presented his final report on Iran and the details of the extent to which he had, with Iranian cooperation, been able to clarify the unresolved issues on the nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. So far the IAEA has not said that there is any evidence to establish that Iran’s nuclear programme has a military dimension.

The Americans and the EU have used the issue of restarting the plant in Isfahan for the gasification of uranium and the more recent removal of seals from “research facilities” at the uranium enrichment complex at Natanz to justify their push for laying the ground for Security Council action against Iran. The truth of the matter, however, is that according to the IAEA’s own findings the Iranians have not mastered the technique of converting yellow cake uranium into gas.

The view of IAEA experts is that the product from Isfahan is not of a quality that can be fed into centrifuges for enrichment. On enrichment the IAEA seems fairly clear that the Iranians have yet to acquire anything beyond the basic know-how and are many years away from the capacity to enrich uranium to the 90 per cent required for nuclear weapons.

These findings are in part responsible for the assessment by western intelligence agencies that Iran is a decade away from acquiring nuclear weapon capability. In effect, therefore, the removal of seals from the Natanz facility represent very little in practical terms even while in political terms it could be interpreted as a sign of defiance to the international community by Iran’s new leader whose unfortunate confrontational stance lends grist to the propaganda mills of the West.

The point is that there was no reason why, if a solution were being sought, a more patient approach could not have been adopted. There was certainly no reason to push for an immediate IAEA resolution when the scheduled meeting of the IAEA was only a month away.

President Ahmadinejad’s views on the creation of Israel at the cost of the Palestinian people means nothing in practical terms. Iran by itself (or even with other possible forces) does not pose a threat to Israel. His call for the destruction of Israel would be dismissed by all rational analysts, as no more than bluster and should have been dismissed as such rather than being used as a launching pad for the current campaign.

I would go further and suggest that were there to be a more rational analysis the far more frightening statements are those of US Vice-President Dick Cheney suggesting that Israel with its awesome airpower and advanced weapon platforms could take out Iran’s nuclear facilities and leave the world to clean up the debris. In the same vein, and more recently, was acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s assertion that Iran would pay “a very heavy price” for resuming full-scale uranium enrichment. Israel has the capability to wreak enormous damage on identified Iranian nuclear sites and while it could not, as its raid on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq proved, bring to an end Iran’s nuclear programme it could certainly bring fresh turmoil to a troubled part of the world.

The Iranians have reacted as the world knew they would. The Iranian foreign minister had pointed out earlier that the Iranian Majlis had passed a bill requiring the Iranian government to stop implementing the Additional Protocol that Iran had concluded (but that was not ratified) with the IAEA if the Iran dossier was sent to the UN Security Council. It was, therefore, expected that Iran would throw out the IAEA inspectors who were in Iran doing investigations not covered by the access Iran was bound to provide under the NPT.

This means that ElBaradei will not be able to complete the inquiries he wished to make before submitting his final report on Iran to the board. He will then have to say that he cannot certify that Iran’s nuclear programme is entirely peaceful. The fact that he will not be able to say that there is conclusive evidence of the Iranian programme having a military dimension will not matter.

This, of course, is exactly what the Americans or at least the unreformed neo-conservatives in Washington want. But is this what the EU, and on another plane, the Russians and the Chinese want? Is this what the world wants? Everyone, including those who are justifiably irate about “western double standards”, is in agreement that adding to the number of nuclear weapon capable states is not in the interest of global peace. The question is whether this is the best way of moving towards the goal of ensuring that Iran does not acquire either the know-how or the equipment that could give it this capability. Certainly it is not.

The Iranian people, for whom the American president frequently expresses concern, will rally around the very leaders who are said to be persecuting them and denying them the right to elect their own rulers. The leaders will then have the legitimacy that is now denied to them by some sections of world opinion. They will rally around because they genuinely believe that the Iranian nation, and not President Ahmadinejad or the Ayatollah Khamenei, is being denied its rightful place in the comity of nations.

Outside Iran many in the Third World and thoughtful observers in the more developed nations will ask questions about whether the EU offer of incentives was what it should have been if the West was serious about offering carrots rather than sticks to dissuade Iran from pursuing its alleged nuclear ambitions. They will ask what the Americans — the principal source of Iran’s security concerns — put on the table, and the answer will be “crumbs”.

What is truly remarkable is that the so-called free press in the West has gone along with the notion that it is Iran which broke off the negotiations with the EU, with only a few analysts suggesting that the incentives were meagre and that in any case what Iran quite rightly needed was security assurances from the United States and a release of the Iranian funds that have been frozen by the United States since 1979.

It is, of course, possible to say that the Iranians should have been more patient and should have sought these assurances on the negotiating table while maintaining a freeze on their nuclear activities. But the West knew very well that the new Iranian leader, inexperienced in international affairs and full of revolutionary zeal, could not possibly take that path. If a peaceful outcome was sought this reality should have been taken into account. It was after all a reality created by a democratic election even if the quality of the democracy was questionable.

Let us also not forget that despite the tough rhetoric the Iranians were looking for a way out. If the reports in the Iranian press are to be relied upon it seems, according to the hard-line Kayhan newspaper, that the Iranians submitted a six-point offer which promised to give guarantees for a peaceful nuclear programme; sending the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement, which grants the UN further monitoring capabilities, to parliament for ratification; agreeing to uphold the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; ending enrichment activities as such; continuing talks with western European powers about Iran’s nuclear programme for two more years; and accepting the Russian plan for uranium enrichment in Russia rather than Iran.

I have not seen anything from the IAEA confirming that such an offer has been received but if the toughest supporter of conservatives in Iran suggests some such offer surely those seeking a peaceful solution should pause and consider whether Iran can be pushed towards formally making such an offer or if it has been made to consider it seriously.

Where do we go now? The Russian proposal under which the Iranians would ship their gasified uranium to Russia for enrichment in plants that the Iranians would pay for is apparently dead. The Iranian foreign office has said that Iranian officials will attend a meeting with the Russians scheduled for February 16 but it was also made clear that the negotiations there must take account of the steps Iran has already taken.

Mr ElBaradei’s report to the IAEA board on March 6 will clearly not be one that offers Iran a clean bill on its nuclear activities. The matter will proceed to the UN Security Council and mild sanctions will be imposed such as a ban on the travel of Iranian representatives or further restrictions on exports to Iran. The Russians and the Chinese may go along with something mild and will push for the resumption of talks with Iran. But will they succeed? This depends on what the American intent is. Currently it appears that the Americans are not prepared to be more accommodating or to take account of the new and unwelcome reality.

The oil markets have reacted already with prices climbing upwards in fearful anticipation of a disruption of supplies from the fourth largest oil exporter. The uncertainties in the Middle East caused by the Hamas victory in Palestine, the turmoil in the Muslim world created by the sacrilegious cartoons first published in September in Denmark and now reproduced in other parts of Europe at this particularly sensitive time makes it almost certain that even if the US feels it has scored a coup by getting the support of Muslim Egypt and non-aligned India there will be support for Iran as a Muslim country under siege, not perhaps at the government level but at the level of the common man in Muslim countries.

It is interesting in this context that the only concession in the resolution to the strongly held sentiment in the Muslim world that the Iran imbroglio was a classic example of western double standards was the inclusion in the resolution, after much debate and wrangling, of a paragraph in the preamble “Recognizing that a solution to the Iranian issue would contribute to global non-proliferation efforts and to realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including their means of delivery”. Its value was immediately made questionable by a briefing by the US undersecretary of state who maintained “this kind of language has been around for years and the US has agreed to variations of this in many other documents before”. In other words that this would not mean that Israel’s nuclear programme would come under additional scrutiny as a means of persuading Iran or as a sequel to an agreement with Iran.

One can only hope that better sense prevails in both Tehran and Washington. The Muslim world is aflame as the recent and continuing crisis on the cartoon issue shows. It does not need another issue where badly buffeted Muslim governments in a bid to stay on the right side of Washington find themselves totally at odds with the sentiment on the streets. Extremism and its corollary, mindless violence, will find new adherents.

By Najmuddin A. Shaikh
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