|Iran looks to fight back
By Safa Haeri
PARIS - Officially, Iran has
reacted guardedly to a resolution passed by the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of
directors calling on it to sign up to the additional
protocols to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and
also to immediately stop all its uranium enriching
programs - in effect, prove by October 31 that it is not
building an atomic weapon.
If Iran does not
cooperate and it is officially declared in
non-compliance of the NPT, "Iran will forfeit it's right
to share nuclear technology for peaceful purposes" and
Russia will not be able to provide critical nuclear fuel
for Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant, an IAEA official said.
Although Russia is the main foreign contributor to
Bushehr, China, Pakistan and some Western countries also
provide dual-use technology and equipment and "that
would no longer be legal under international law if Iran
was not a country in good standing" under the NPT, he
On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Affairs
Ministry senior spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told
reporters, "The Islamic Republic is examining how to
continue cooperation with the International Atomic
Energy Agency," even though Iran's delegation had
stormed out of a closed-door meeting with the IAEA in
Vienna on Friday, accusing Washington of having new
invasion plans after Iraq.
Following intense US
pressure for action against Iran, the 35-nation board,
effectively the United Nations' watchdog of nuclear
activities, passed the resolution setting the deadline,
which gives Iran a last chance to prove that it has been
complying with the NPT.
"The Islamic Republic
from the beginning had declared that the IAEA must act
professionally and had warned the agency not to enter a
political game," Asefi said, "regretting that the agency
has been misused by certain Western states, particularly
the US, and the process of debates and the
behind-the-scene lobbies showed that Iran's warnings
were right and that the IAEA has overlooked its
professional work and has entered political bickering."
In the absence of any firm answer from Iran's
leaders to the resolution, it has been the press, both
reformist and conservative, that has taken up the
matter. In angry editorials that reflect the views of
officials from the two sides of the Iranian clerical
leadership, editorialists and columnists expressed
outrage and urged the authorities to expel the
ambassadors of the three nations that initiated the
resolution - Canada, Australia and Japan; to get out of
the NPT and review Iran's relations with all the nations
that approved the decision.
political analysts consider the resolution adopted on
Friday without a vote - a procedure that IAEA
spokeswoman Melissa Fleming described as "very unusual"
- as a "humiliating defeat" for the Islamic Republic.
Iran's delegation at the board, led by Ali Akbar
Salehi, its ambassador at the IAEA, walked out of the
meeting, stating that "such an offensive text risks to
kill an otherwise constructive process". "My country can
possibly not accept a decision taken under political
considerations," he told journalists in Vienna, accusing
Western powers of the board of presenting Iran "biased,
illegal and illegitimate" demands that could not be met
in the time limit of October 31.
walkout was a protest against the resolution and against
the procedure," an IAEA spokesman explained.
Salehi on Sunday also accused the US, Britain,
France and Germany for their "extreme position" that, he
said, was "nothing new".
What angered Salehi
most was that not only had Russia, the country that is
building Iran's first controversial nuclear-powered
electrical plant, backed the resolution, but also some
members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), despite
assurances offered a day before the Friday meeting by
Malaysia's ambassador, Hoseyn Hanif, that the NAM would
press for a compromise solution.
ElBradeh'i, the Egyptian director of the IAEA, expressed
satisfaction, saying that the resolution sends a clear
and strong message to Iran, and calling on it to
cooperate with the IAEA "fully and immediately". "I
reiterate that in the weeks ahead we have a lot to do in
regard with Iran's nuclear projects, as I have to submit
to the board [of directors] a precise report concerning
the state of Iran's cooperation with the resolution," he
stressed at the end of the meeting.
In a report
submitted to the 35 directors, IAEA experts indicated
that in one or two years from now, Iranian scientists
would master the whole cycle of uranium enriching, a
technology needed for developing an atomic bomb. In an
August 26 report, the IAEA said that it had found traces
of weapons-grade highly-enriched uranium at an
enrichment facility at Natanz.
fast and it is in every one's interest to fix them a
time limit. We must have a very precise idea of what's
going on in Iran and what they are up to," an expert
told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity.
The US and Israel, joined by the EU, allege that
Iran's civilian nuclear programs are a front for
building atomic bombs aimed at destroying the Jewish
state. But both Tehran and Moscow reject the accusation,
insisting that all atomic projects are for civilian and
peaceful purposes, mainly producing electricity.
Noting that urging Iran to sign "immediately and
unconditionally" the additional protocols to the NPT is
the "most humiliating clause" of a resolution that
denies the majlis (parliament) and other decision-making
organs of the nation the exercise of their sovereign
rights. The hardline evening daily Keyhan said on
Saturday that the least officials can do is to
immediately expel the ambassadors of the three countries
that formulated the resolution and not allow them to
return until their countries presented full apologies to
the Iranian people and government.
editorial signed by Hoseyn Sharia'atmadari, a specialist
in interrogating political and intellectual dissidents
appointed as editor of the paper by Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic, Keyhan
assured that if the authorities failed to expel the
three ambassadors, "the Muslim people of Iran would do
it by closing down their embassies in Tehran".
"Yesterday's [Friday's] resolution of the board
of directors of the IAEA leaves not doubt about the fact
that the recent cacophonies over the nuclear activities
of our nation are a well calculated plot aimed at
toppling the Islamic Republic of Iran, using the NPT as
a pressure tool," added the daily that reflects the
views of Khamenei.
"In other words, the IAEA
board of the directors negates the existence of the
Islamic Republic, dealing with our Muslim nation as a
surrogate state of the Middle Age type," Sharia'atmadari
The article prompted the pro-reform press
to express concern that the proposed threats against
Ottawa, Tokyo and Canberra might provoke "some people"
to in fact attack the three nation's embassies, "as
happened to the British embassy, which was gun fired [on
September 3] after a similar article in Keyhan," it was
For its part, Jomhuri Eslami (Islamic
Republic), a radical daily belonging to Khamenei, went
even further, saying that Iran should follow the example
of North Korea, which on December 31 expelled all IAEA
inspectors and later withdrew from the NPT. "It should
be accepted that the correct way was the one North Korea
chose," the paper said, advising the authorities to
continue the controversial atomic programs "unabated,
whether Washington likes it or not".
state-run, leader-controlled Tehran Radio run a
commentary along the same lines, Resalat, another
conservative-controlled newspaper that speaks for the
bazaar and clerical oligarchy, questioned the government
decision to allow the IAEA's experts to inspect Iran's
nuclear sites, "knowing well that some of them [experts]
Yas No, the official organ of the
Islamic Iran Participation Front, a coalition of groups
and parties that back embattled President Mohammad
Khatami and also control parliament, advised the
government to "revise" its relations with all the
countries that supported the resolution.
[IAEA] resolution was adopted under heavy pressures
applied by the United States on other countries,
including the European Union, and this is exactly what
makes it partial, discriminatory and unusual," said
Morad Veisi of Yas No. "Not only will the Iranian people
stand up to the discriminatory decisions of the IAEA,
but they will also consider revising relations with all
the nations that supported the resolution," he wrote.
However, Veisi indirectly blamed the ruling
conservatives for Iran's unprecedented isolation on the
international scene, adding, "One must also ask why the
position of Iran has degraded from its peak of the
golden period of after the second Khordad [May 26, 1997,
marking the surprising landslide victory of Mohammad
Khatami in presidential elections] to the present
situation where even nations such as Japan, Canada and
Australia side against the Islamic Republic?"
This is the view of most of Iran's reformists,
who accuse the conservatives of having plunged the
nation into a political abysses by making the wrong
decisions at the wrong time and in the wrong places. In
fact, the unprecedented gap between Tehran and the IAEA
is so deep that Iran has lost all of its traditional
friends and supporters, such as the European Union,
Russia, Japan, and even in the NAM.
In a recent
visit to Tehran, Xavier Solana, the Spanish minister on
the European Union's Security and Foreign Affairs
committee, warned Iran to accept the additional
protocols or face "bad news".
"The resolution of
the IAEA giving Iran six weeks to comply has placed the
regime in a very difficult situation. In the 25 years of
its life, the ruling Iranian ayatollahs have never been
in such an awkward position on the international scene,"
observed Sadeq Saba, a senior commentator of the BBC on
In his view, Tehran has no
other choice but to bow to the IAEA's demands and
convince the international community about its nuclear
programs, or adopt the North Korean model and cut all of
its ties with the IAEA and accept the consequences.
"In case Iran's answers fail to convince, then
the United Nations Security Council can impose economic
sanctions against it. But contrary to North Korea,
Iran's economy is tied to international exchanges,
making it vulnerable to international embargoes," Saba
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