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    Middle East
     Jan 25, 2007
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Debunking Iran's nuclear myth makers
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has requested that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities as a "confidence-building measure", in light of Iran's 18 years of non-transparency. Tehran now faces two paths: either heed this call or face tougher sanctions and, worse, the possibility of war.

Increasingly, the voices of dissent in Iran on the nation's nuclear policy are getting louder and louder, reflecting a growing disenchantment with the confrontational policies of President

Mahmud Ahmadinejad, which according to many Iranian pundits have put vital national-security interests at risk.

"It is starting to look like a real tragedy," a Tehran political-science professor told the author, adding, "An inexperienced mayor [of Tehran] with no previous international exposure was put at the helm, and he brought in his aides who were equally novices in the realm of international politics, at a critical time in Iran's foreign relations. The result has been near-disastrous. But, hopefully, other leaders will put a stop to this nonsense."

That hope is based on the fact that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, has made known his displeasure with Ahmadinejad's hardline politics through an editorial in the newspaper Jomhuri Eslami, which has called on the president to stay out of the nuclear issue.

This sentiment has been reflected by another newspaper, Kargozaran, associated with the technocratic elite, some of whom, such as Ali Larijani, the head of powerful Supreme National Security Council, proposed a temporary freeze early last year (see Sideshows on Iran's frogmarch to the UN, Asia Times Online, February 7, 2006).

What would a temporary suspension achieve? The answer is: it would satisfy, albeit temporarily, the United Nations Security Council's demand, reflected in Resolutions 1696 and 1737, for a halt to the enrichment activities, given the fact that these resolutions refer to the IAEA resolutions that requested these suspensions as a "non-legally binding" and "voluntary" measure.

In other words, no matter how insistent the United States and its European allies are on a permanent suspension, there is nothing in either the UN resolutions and/or the IAEA resolutions that would endorse their unreasonable demand, which lacks a legal basis. Also, a one-year suspension would deflect the US military threat and prevent "lame duck" US President George W Bush from initiating military action against Iran.

Since 2003, Iranian officials have admitted that their previous declarations to the IAEA were inaccurate and have promised to take "corrective steps" to redeem the past shortcomings, a promise they have executed in good faith through increased transparency, IAEA access to military sites, and a nearly two-year suspension of the enrichment program as per the terms of the so-called Paris Agreement (for more on the collapse of the agreement, see Myth of the EU olive branch, August 30, 2005).

Today, a re-suspension of the enrichment program would fit in the framework of those "corrective measures" and create the space for negotiations and long-term agreements, not to mention averting the crisis and putting a stop to the collateral damage caused by sanctions and the threat of war that have scared away foreign investors, caused capital flight, and put the nation's economic projects in jeopardy.

Otherwise, the present trend toward the international isolation of Iran will continue, in light of the statement of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels this week that vowed to apply the Iran sanctions and "if necessary" to "go further than a UN list in targeting those linked to Tehran's nuclear work".

Not only that: in the absence of an Iranian compromise that would at least partially satisfy the Security Council, the pressure on Russia to curtail its nuclear cooperation with Iran further and, at a minimum, to withhold the delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran will undoubtedly intensify. In fact, today in Iran there are few if any officials or experts who are optimistic that the Russian-built power plant in Bushehr will ever become operational as long as the nuclear standoff continues.

One of the few, apparently, is the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who optimistically, and one might add rather naively, stated that the Russian delivery of nuclear fuel "will materialize in December".

Ironically, in the same breath Aghazadeh admitted that "today in the world there is a global consensus against Iran that includes even China and Russia and their 'red line' is the suspension of our activities". In a clue to the growing inter-elite rift on the nuclear policy, Aghazadeh stated:
Unfortunately some officials in the country were saying, "Aghazadeh, we were living our lives, why did you ruin everything?" One of the officials would say: "We have already experienced war, so why should we face another war?" - and all this at a time when some of the members of the nuclear negotiation team did not have much belief in the nature of the nuclear activities and the nationalist pride.
Another official of the Iranian atomic-energy organization, Mohammad Saidi, who has routinely told the Iranian press that any suspension of enrichment activities would be a "national

Continued 1 2

Iran being hit in the pocket (Jan 23, '07)

Ahmadinejad be damned (Jan 19, '07)


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