Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Vienna summit evening:U.S. Joins Talks With Iran

Nuclear iran -- The U.S. will join European talks with Iran about its nuclear program if enrichment of uranium is ``verifiably'' halted, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will say later today, according to excerpts of her remarks released by the State Department.
President George W. Bush telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Andrea Merkel and all three agree with the decision, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said.
``There are going to be some changes'' in the U.S. approach that Snow said would make the allies' previous position ``more robust and muscular.''
``There are not going to be direct talks with Iran, one-on- one,'' he said.
The U.S. is working to win the backing of China and Russia for a United Nations Security Council resolution designed to compel Iran to curtail its nuclear efforts, according to a State Department official who briefed a group of reporters in Washington. The official asked not to be identified.
It is not clear yet whether a resolution would include a threat of sanctions, the official said.
China and Russia have opposed passage of a UN resolution under Chapter Seven of the United Nations' charter, which allows the world body to threaten the use of force against member countries. Officials from the two countries say they fear the U.S. would use such approval to act unilaterally as it did in Iraq.
The Bush administration, in an effort to win Russian support, has agreed to narrow the relevant language from the UN Charter, the New York Times reported today, citing U.S. and European officials.
Iran said yesterday it wanted to resume nuclear negotiations with the EU and could even talk to Washington if its arch-foe "changed behaviour".

Tehran also said it was willing to negotiate on the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges it uses for research, but stressed it would not stop running the devices entirely as the UN Security Council has called for.
ElBaradei: Iran not an immediate nuclear threat
Iran does not pose an immediate nuclear threat and the world must act cautiously to avoid repeating mistakes made with Iraq and North Korea, the head of the U.N, nuclear watchdog agency said on Tuesday.
Some observers see elBaradei statement as indirect alarm for today summit in Vienna about Eu package for halting Iranian enrichment in his soil.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the world shouldn't "jump the gun" with erroneous information as he said the U.S.-led coalition did in Iraq in 2003, nor should it push the country into retaliation as international sanctions did in North Korea.
"Our assessment is that there is no immediate threat," the winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize told a forum organized by the Monterey Institute of International Studies south of San Francisco. "We still have lots of time to investigate."
"You look around in the Middle East right now and it's a total mess," he said. "You can not add oil to that fire."
The recent violent history in Iraq bears an important lesson for diplomacy with neighboring Iran, the diplomat said. "We should not jump the gun. We should be very careful about assessing the information available to us," he said.

The Bush administration led a coalition into Iraq in 2003 saying President Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were found.
"I ask myself every day if that's the way we want to go in getting rid of every single dictator," ElBaradei said.
While it was unclear whether Iran ultimately intended to redirect its development of nuclear power into a weapons system, it was clear there was no danger of that right now, he said.
The five U.N. Security Council permanent powers and Germany, trying to curb Tehran's nuclear program, are planning to meet in Vienna on Thursday to try to finalize a package of incentives for Iran to halt uranium enrichment along with penalties if it keeps defying international pressure.
ElBaradei said he believed a majority in the Iranian leadership was still interested in a negotiated solution and normal relations with the world. The United States is pressing for tough U.N. sanctions if Iran does not comply.
"It would be terrible" to try to strengthen sanctions, which could force Iran to retaliate, he said.
"We have learned some lessons from North Korea," he said. "When you push a country into a corner, you are giving the driver's seat to the hard-liners there."
German-russia optimistic
The five Security Council permanent powers and Germany will meet in Vienna today in hopes of finalising a package of incentives for Iran to halt enrichment along with penalties if it keeps defying international pressure.
Although Iran has vowed that nothing will dissuade it from having full-fledged nuclear technology on its soil,but A German official was upbeat that a meeting of the UN Security Council's five permanent members and Germany in Vienna on Thursday would clinch joint offer aimed at defusing the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme.
"(This is) a decisive phase to show Iran an alternative," said Martin Jaeger, Berlin's chief foreign ministry spokesman.
Jaeger, however, declined to give any details on the substance of a possible offer to Iran.
The German newspaper Die Zeit, citing unnamed sources, said in addition to technical aid for Iran's civil nuclear programme, the package will include "suggestions which Tehran could understand as the perspective of a sort of security

In ankara,also Russia's foreign minister said Wednesday that A meeting on Thursday between the six nations leading efforts to solve crisis around Iran's nuclear programs could bring a solution.
Sergei Lavrov called on the participants in the negotiations to avoid making "sharp movements" and wasting a real chance to resolve the situation.
"We hope proposals can be drawn up at tomorrow's meeting in Vienna that will open up a chance for a peaceful resolution [of the problem]," Lavrov said.
at the same time recent reports from vienna and other european capitals appeared close to agreement Tuesday on steps for acepting Eu3 package.

The intensive discussions involve a package of incentives the EU will offer Iran, in exchange for Tehran's halting of uranium enrichment, providing more access to United Nations inspectors and answering outstanding questions from the inspectors.

Differences remain over the timing of sanctions if Iran refuses.

The Russians and Chinese are reluctant to support sanctions, particularly if they are tied to the EU offer.

The U.S. wants the EU to present its package of incentives at the same time the council approves a resolution authorizing sanctions if Iran fails to comply within 30 days.

Although positions have moved closer in recent discussions, differences apparently remain over crucial legal questions, including which chapter of the U.N. charter would be cited to authorize Iran's censure and which sanctions would be considered.

Iran has sent mixed signals about its willingness to negotiate. as same as Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who is traveling in Malaysia, said Iran wanted to resume talks with the EU but would not talk to the United States,The message from Tehran was less conciliatory. In a speech at Tehran University, Mohammed Saeedi, the deputy nuclear energy chief, cautioned Europeans to "consider irreversible realities" in their offer to Iran, a reference to his country's successful production of enriched uranium for power plants. Although the amount produced was small, and its enrichment level well below weapons grade, the achievement showed that Iranian engineers were on their way to mastering the technology.
(posted by ali ghanndi)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Russia and the Iranian Nuclear Crisis

By Alexei Arbatov
Web Commentary, May 23, 2006
At first glance, Russia's current position on the Iranian nuclear crisis is quite controversial.
Its basic features were formulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Israel in April 2005. He said that just enhancing IAEA safeguards over the Iranian peaceful nuclear program was not enough - Iran had to abandon plans for the development of the full nuclear fuel cycle and place the rest of its peaceful nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards. In support of this position, Russia reached an agreement in 2005 with Iran on the return of spent nuclear fuel from the Bushehr nuclear power plant to Russia for reprocessing. Russia also tried (up to now unsuccessfully) to get Tehran's consent for launching a joint venture on an international uranium enrichment center on Russian territory, which would provide a guaranteed supply of LEU for the Iranian nuclear energy industry.

Currently Russia, in line with policy of the US and EU "Troika," demands the full cessation of uranium enrichment at Natanz and the resumption of IAEA inspections and monitoring at this complex, as well as the ratification by Iran of 1997Additional Protocol and full cooperation with IAEA investigations of alleged past Iranian violations of safeguards.

Nevertheless, Moscow's current position is somewhat different from Putin's April 2005 statement, although this seldom catches public attention. In particular, the cessation of Iranian enrichment activities is envisioned as a temporary measure, introduced only for the duration of time required for the IAEA to sort out its problems with Iran's past compliance with the safeguards. Allegedly, afterward Iran would be entitled to develop the full nuclear fuel cycle under IAEA safeguards, in line with Article IV of the NPT.

Most importantly, Russia insists that all controversies must be settled “within the framework” of the IAEA, not through UN Security Council sanctions. Moscow demands that all issues be resolved exclusively through negotiations, not by use of force. Russia (together with China) promised to veto any UNSC Chapter VII resolution imposing sanctions – to say nothing of the use of military force.

The position of Russia and China effectively negates the prospects for the UN to provide legal grounds for sanctions or military enforcement measures against Iran. With the United States bogged down with the quagmire in Iraq, US allies (with the possible exception of Israel) are reluctant to take part in yet another military operation – this position of Russia and China makes the US policy of pressure on Iran quite weak.

Precisely for these reasons, Tehran perceives its political position to be strong enough to rhetorically challenge Washington with immunity, gaining growing support and popularity throughout the Islamic world and beyond.

Whether Iran is keen on eventually “going nuclear” or its goal is something short of acquiring of nuclear weapons (i.e. building a full nuclear fuel cycle and only needing a short time to manufacture nuclear weapons), the Russian position seems to provide Tehran with great freedom for diplomatic and rhetorical maneuvering. It is being used as a smoke-screen for Iran's consistent progress in crossing technical thresholds one after another in its path towards developing the nuclear fuel cycle and snubbing the world with a fait accompli.

All in all, it looks like Moscow's position on Iran is self-defeating by demanding that Iran give away something very dear to it, while simultaneously removing all tough levers to enforce such a concession by relying only on diplomatic arts and positive incentives. (This is all the more so, since having a full nuclear fuel cycle under IAEA safeguards fit well within the framework of the NPT.)

Nonetheless, after a closer look at Moscow's posture, its position appears to be quite easy to explain logically - the question of effectiveness notwithstanding. Its fundamental premises apparently are as follows.

There is no doubt that Russia does not want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, for security and political reasons. Moreover, Russia is not supportive of Iran's development of a full nuclear fuel cycle – both for security and commercial considerations. However, this is not an issue for practical policymaking. In the Kremlin's decision-making process, the real issue comes down to what measures (and sacrifices in other policy interests) are tolerable when pressuring Iran on the matter of the fuel cycle.

The fact is that in contrast to the United States, Russia has huge political and economic interests with Iran. Iran is one of the main recipients of Russian peaceful nuclear technology and arms sales. Also, Iran is seen as a geopolitical counterbalance to the expanding influence of Turkey, the United States, and Islamic Wahhabism in the South and North Caucasus and Central Asia. Finally, Iranian oil and gas resources (4th and 2nd largest in the world respectively) are a lucrative target for future Russian investment.

Hence, probably close to 100 percent of the Russian political elite and strategic community (including the executive and legislative branches of federal power) would reject the use of economic sanctions or military force to prevent Iran from developing an experimental uranium enrichment capacity (i.e. the 200 P-1 type centrifuges presently operating in Natanz) under full IAEA safeguards and squarely within the provisions of NPT. This limited capacity keeps Iran at least ten years from being able to produce nuclear weapons. Moreover, though the position of the Russian elite on this subject may differ from that of the Bush Administration and Israel, it is apparently quite close to the views of EU “Troika”, the IAEA, and the democratic opposition in the United States, to say nothing of China and India.

Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of the Russian elite would also object to the use of sanctions or military force to deny Iran an enhanced enrichment capability under IAEA safeguards and within the NPT framework (3,000 or 54,000 P-2 centrifuges in Natanz), despite the estimate that such a capacity will get Iran to within a few years or even months of having the ability to produce nuclear weapons.

In support of their position, many Russians would refer to the number of NPT non-nuclear weapons states that have such a capacity today with no international opposition: Japan, Germany, Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, etc. True, all those states are US allies or loyal partners, but this does not mean that Russia cannot treat its own partners in the same way, even if some of them are disliked by the current US leadership. And it is not lost on Russian experts and politicians that the present Iranian nuclear program is close in scale to the one started in the 1960's and 1970's under the Shah with active US assistance. In short, today's American policy on Iran is commonly perceived in Russia as designed not against nuclear proliferation, but against the Iranian regime. On this issue, Moscow believes it is entitled to its own policy tastes. Perhaps the Russian view of an acceptable enhanced enrichment capacity is tacitly shared by the IAEA, China and India, while the EU would probably be deeply split on this issue.

Finally, there is the question of a hypothetical Iranian decision to opt for actual nuclear weapons acquisition. On this, the Russian elite would be unevenly divided. Still the majority would prefer a nuclear Iran to war. Proponents of this view would point at Israel and still more at Pakistan, supported by the United States, despite A.Q. Khan's “black market” scandal. The recent US opening to India, after many years of opposing its peaceful nuclear cooperation with Russia under the slogan of “not rewarding non-NPT states”, is seen as a victory of US geopolitical and economic policy considerations over strengthening the NPT. Similarly, many in Moscow would consider Russia entitled to its own foreign policy priorities, which in some cases may be higher than enhancing the NPT.

The “DPRK model”, which is the major concern of all opponents of an Iranian nuclear energy program, at the same time, serves as an example of a multilateral search for a peaceful diplomatic solution. In fact the example of North Korea is even more difficult since it involves open withdrawal from the NPT and official claims of possession of nuclear weapons, in contrast to Iranian insistence on the exclusively peaceful nature of its program.

Interestingly enough, the minority of the Russian political and expert community which would go along with the US use of military force to prevent Iran from following the DPRK, does not consist only of liberals. The liberals would take this view out of concern about Russia's cooperation with the West and out of fear of Islamic radicalism's access to nuclear weapons. However, they might find it difficult to advocate a military option with respect to Iran – an option which has not been used towards the DPRK, which by all standards is a much less democratic and more aggressive regime.

But some hardliners would support a US military operation for quite different reasons. They would welcome it as a promise of a complete demise of American power through getting bogged down in a vast conflict zone from Palestine to Hindu-Khush. Also, they would be counting on a further rise of energy prices as a consequence of war and the long term removal of the Persian Gulf states, including Iran, as Russian competitors in the world supply of oil and natural gas.

As for US considerations of changing the present Iranian regime by force, even all Russian liberals (with the possible exception of a few marginal “pro-American fundamentalists” of the Geidar-Kozyrev type), to say nothing of other political groups, would be vehemently opposed. The principle question would be: on what political and legal basis would candidates for forceful regime change be selected? And who should be entitled to make a decision on the use of force?

If Iran were not on the verge of committing aggression and therefore warranting an act of self-defense, decisions to use force against Iran should be under the authority of the United Nations Security Council. But on which provisions of international law would the Security Council make such a resolution, if the case was not a crime against humanity (genocide, use of weapons of mass destruction, etc.)?

Alternatively, if the world were to rely on the United States to make such a judgment, why couldn't China, Russia or India follow suit and change by force (or even more subtle interference) a few regimes they do not like? As it happens, the great powers capable of such operations very often differ as to their friends and enemies. Moreover, their friends and enemies change places from time to time without any serious change in their domestic politics (i.e. the United States and India in the past and now; Iraq in the 1980s and afterwards; Afghan “freedom fighters” in the 1980s and the Taliban after 9/11; Libya before and after 2003 – just to remember some fresh examples). Many in Moscow, extrapolating from Vice President Richard Cheney's recent speech in Vilnius, would be concerned about Russia at some point also becoming a candidate for such a regime change if its defenses are further weakened.

Last but certainly not least, the experience of regime change in Iraq after the US 2003 military campaign would serve as a major discouragement for this doctrine. Achieving military victory may not be so difficult, but reorganizing the economic and social life of a nation in line with concepts alien to it and introduced from the outside is something different altogether. Most Russians would argue that the economic and political development of a nation is a long, complicated process not suited for military “quick fixes”. Whether you like a given regime or not, it should be dealt with on the basis of its actions and in line with international law, which is exactly the way to treat the Iranian nuclear program.

Moscow's current posture in the Iranian crisis is the sum of the above considerations and interests, which are promoted by various state agencies and political and economic groups in Russia.

By demanding the immediate cessation of Iranian enrichment activities, Russia is following its own economic and security interests and is demonstrating cooperation with the United States (and the West in general) on nonproliferation. By opposing UN sanctions and US military force, Moscow is accommodating its interests in cooperation with Iran and in avoidance of the inevitable economic, political and security damage of war. In this way Russia is also indirectly forging a united front with China, India and many other countries in opposing US unilateralism and arbitrary policy of force, permeated with double standards and a disregard for other nations' differing interests and views.

By treating the cessation of Iranian enrichment activities as a temporary measure to be enforced only as long as it takes the IAEA to sort out its questions with Iran's past compliance, Russians may be privately telling Iran that it can pursue a full-scale fuel cycle after the IAEA is satisfied. At the same time, Moscow could tacitly argue to Washington (and actually believe it) that such a freeze may last indefinitely depending on IAEA investigative zeal, and anyway would gain time to find other ways of putting the brakes on Iranian nuclear cycle programs.

As any policy embodying a complicated compromise of various interests and competing goals, the Russian course has been only partially successful. It has made war less likely, or at least postponed it for some time, and it may have somewhat slowed down, but certainly not stopped, Iran's gradual movement towards a full nuclear fuel cycle.

US arguments that “Iran is bad” will not have much of an effect on Russia's policy line. Russia sees this argument as very weak given American treatment of other countries with dual purpose or clear-cut military nuclear capability inside and outside the NPT, as well as the history of recent US military operations against Iraq and past assistance to the nuclear program of Shah's Iran.

If Iran really is the top priority of US foreign and security policy, then Washington's overall approach to the region, its broad policy towards Russia and China, as well as the treatment of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, must be profoundly changed. However, this subject lies beyond the scope of this paper.
source:Carnegie Endowment
(posted by ali ghannadi)


Alexei Arbatov is a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, where he serves as director of the Center for International Security, Institute for World Economy and International Relations. He is also a scholar in residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center. From 1993 to 2003, he served as deputy chair of the defense committee of the Russian parliament, the State Duma. In 1990 he was a member of the Soviet delegation to the START I talks. Revising Nuclear Deterrence: Transforming the U.S.-Russian Equation, co-authored with Vladimir Dvorkin, is forthcoming from the Carnegie Endowment in July 2006.

Experts Speak: No Good Military Options in Iran

irannuk-ThinkProgress has created a graphic database featuring quotes from prominent analysts and officials who believe there are no good military options in Iran. The document will be updated as more experts weigh in — if we’re missing someone, let us know HERE or in the comments section.


“I do not expect any kind of military solution on the Iran issue,” Hagel told a news conference. … “I think to further comment on it would be complete speculation, but I would say that a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option,” he added. … “Iran is a complicated issue. I think that a responsible approach to these challenges is to work closely with our friends and allies, in this case Pakistan, with the United Nations, with the IAEA,” he said. “I believe a political settlement will be the answer. Not a military settlement. All these issues will require a political settlement,” Hagel said. [4/13/06]


“‘There are no good military options. … When you’re trying to stabilise Iraq and you’ve got this long border between Iran and Iraq, and you’re trying to keep the Iranians from interfering in Iraq so you can get the Iraq government up and running, you shouldn’t be picking a war with the Iranians,’ said Carafano. ‘It just doesn’t make any sense from a geopolitical standpoint,’ he said. Iran is believed to protect its most sensitive facilities by dispersing, burying and hardening them, learning from the 1981 Israeli air strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor. So the payoff from surgical strikes on suspected nuclear facilities would be uncertain and temporary, Carafano said.” [1/24/05]


“Now, we are not going to go to war with — with Iran. So, that military option is probably off the table. Diplomacy, you have seen what has been taking place. We have been at this diplomatic maneuver for many, many months and many, many years, all to no avail. They have even built up their nuclear infrastructure. So, that leads us to the third tool in our toolbox, which is sanctions.” [Fox News, 3/15/06]

Gardiner, a simulations expert at the U.S. Army’s National War College, after leading a “war game” on Iran: “After all this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers. You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work.” [12/04]


“[A] military strike would be disastrous for the United States. It would rally the Iranian public around an otherwise unpopular regime, inflame anti-American anger around the Muslim world, and jeopardize the already fragile U.S. position in Iraq. And it would accelerate, not delay, the Iranian nuclear program. Hard-liners in Tehran would be proven right in their claim that the only thing that can deter the United States is a nuclear bomb. Iranian leaders could respond with a crash nuclear program that could produce a bomb in a few years.” [3/27/06]


“To properly address the complexities of the Iranian challenge, Washington should appreciate that its policy of relentlessly threatening Iran with economic coercion and even military reprisals only empowers reactionaries and validates their pro-nuclear argument.” [4/4/06]


“David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who is now president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, agreed that Iran ‘could cause all kinds of disruption clandestinely in Iraq.’ For that reason, and several others, he said there are no good military options on the table for confronting Iran. He also said loud external threats, especially from the United States, tend to backfire by sending Iranian moderates and reformers running under the banners of the clerical regime that Washington opposes.” [1/13/06]


“I don’t believe there is a military solution to the issue. I think that a military solution would be completely counterproductive.” [12/9/05]


“Not only would a foreign invasion of Iran vitiate popular support for human rights activism, but by destroying civilian lives, institutions and infrastructure, war would also usher in chaos and instability. Respect for human rights is likely to be among the first casualties. Instead, the most effective way to promote human rights in Iran is to provide moral support and international recognition to independent human rights defenders and to insist that Iran adhere to the international human rights laws and conventions that it has signed. Getting the Iranian government to abide by these international standards is the human rights movement’s highest goal; foreign military intervention in Iran is the surest way to harm us and keep that goal out of reach.” [2/8/05]


“There’s no way [President Bush is] going to take military action in Iran. Iran is, is three times as big geographically, there’s 58 million people vs. 26 million people in, in Iraq, and, and there’s no way. A fanatical government — I mean, the, the president of the United States does not have a military option. He can say he has a military option; he does not have a military option.” [3/19/06]


“[W]e’ve thought about military options against Iran off and on for the last 20 years, and they’re just not good, because you don’t know what the end game is. You know what the first move of the game is, but you don’t know what the last move of the game is. … I don’t think there’s any doubt that the intelligence community and the defense department believe Iran would respond with terrorism. … So they would respond if we hit them militarily, if that was the first move. The second move would them striking back with terrorism, including in the United States. And then what’s the third move? What’s the end of that process?” [ABC’s Good Morning America, 4/3/06]

“So far, the Bush administration has shown it would like to resolve its problems with North Korea and Iran the same way it did with Iraq: through regime change. It is easy to see why. But the strategy is unlikely to work, at least not quickly enough.” [8/05]


“‘The U.S. capability to make a mess of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is formidable,’ says veteran Mideast analyst Geoffrey Kemp. ‘The question is, what then?’ NEWSWEEK has learned that the CIA and DIA have war-gamed the likely consequences of a U.S. pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. No one liked the outcome. As an Air Force source tells it, ‘The war games were unsuccessful at preventing the conflict from escalating.‘” [9/27/04]
(posted by ali ghannadi)

It's time to engage Iran

nuclear iran-"Only connect." That was the trademark line of E.M. Forster's great novel "Howards End." And it's a useful injunction in thinking about U.S. strategy toward Iran and the wider conflicts between the West and the Muslim world.
We are in the early stages of what Gen. John Abizaid calls "the first war of globalization, between openness and closed societies." One key to winning that war, Abizaid told a small group of reporters at the Pentagon, is to expand openness and connection. He called al-Qaida "the military arm of the closed order." The same could be said of the extremist mullahs in Tehran who are pushing for nuclear weapons.
America's best strategy is to play to its strengths - which are open exchange of ideas, backed up by unmatched military power. The need for connection is especially clear in the case of Iran, which in isolation has remained frozen in revolutionary zealotry like an exotic fruit gelled in aspic. Yet some in the Bush administration cling to the idea that isolation is a good thing and that connectivity will somehow weaken the West's position. That ignores the obvious lesson of the past 40 years, which is that isolation has usually failed (as in the case of Cuba and North Korea), while connectivity has usually succeeded (as in the case of the Soviet Union and China).
A telling example was the decision to engage the Soviet Union in 1973 through the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe. At the time, some conservatives argued it was a dangerous concession that the Soviets might interpret as a symbol of weakness. But the CSCE provided a crucial forum for dissidents in Russia and Eastern Europe, and with astonishing speed, the mighty edifice of Soviet power began to crumble.
I cite this Cold War history because the moment has come for America to attempt to engage revolutionary Iran. The invitation for a dialogue came this month in a letter to President Bush from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - a man whose rabble-rousing, Israel-baiting career gave him the credentials, if that's the right word, to break a 27-year Iranian taboo on contacts with the Great Satan.
"Iran wants to start discussions the same way the Chinese wanted discussions" with President Nixon, an Iranian businessman named Ali Ettefagh told me in an e-mail last week. "Great Satan doesn't sell anymore. More than half the population was not born 27 years ago, and the broken record does not play well." The Iranian offer of dialogue, he says, "ought to be taken as an opportunity, if only to air out grievances and amplify differences."
I suspect Iran wants dialogue now partly because it perceives America's position in Iraq as weak and its own as strong. That may be true, but so what? Washington should still take "yes" for an answer. The United States and its European allies are crafting a package that hopefully will include everything the Iranian people could want - except nuclear weapons. The bundle of goodies should stress connectivity - more air travel to Iran, more scholarships for students, more exchanges, Iranian membership in the World Trade Organization.
Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian analyst with the International Crisis Group, noted in recent Senate testimony that opinion polls show 75 percent of Iranians favor relations with the United States. "Embarking on a comprehensive dialogue with Iran would provide the U.S. with the opportunity to match its rhetorical commitment to Iranian democracy and human rights with action," Sadjadpour said. He's right.
There's no guarantee that a policy of engagement will work. The Iranian regime's desire to acquire nuclear weapons may be so unyielding that Tehran and Washington will remain on a collision course. But America and its allies will be in a stronger position for responding to Iranian calls for dialogue. Openness isn't a concession by America, it's a strategic weapon.

Washington Post Writers Group
(posted by ali ghanandi)

Iran signals flexibility

tehran wants fresh nuclear dialogue
nuclear iran-Tue 30 May 2006
reuters-Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki speaks during a news conference at the end of the Ministerial Meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement in Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur May 30, 2006. The world's non-aligned states are likely to throw their weight behind Iran in its nuclear stand-off with the West, according to a draft statement prepared on Tuesday for a meeting in Malaysia. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (Reuters) - Iran said on Tuesday it wanted to resume nuclear negotiations with the EU and could even talk to Washington if its arch foe "changed behaviour".

Tehran also said it was willing to negotiate on the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges it uses for research, but stressed it would not stop running the devices entirely as the U.N. Security Council has called for.
The mixture of conciliatory and defiant statements was unlikely to appease the United States and its allies who fear Iran could use even limited enrichment facilities to master the technology required to make atomic weapons.
Tehran says it seeks nuclear energy only for electricity.
U.N. Security Council powers and Germany will meet in Vienna on Thursday to finalise a package of incentives for Iran to halt enrichment along with penalties if it keeps defying international pressure, officials said.
Iran has vowed that nothing will dissuade it from having full-fledged nuclear technology on its soil, spurring one senior EU diplomat to say on Tuesday that the painstakingly crafted incentives could end up an "academic and theoretical exercise".
Speaking in Malaysia on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran could resume dialogue with the United States, after an official freeze of 26 years, provided Washington changed its behaviour.
He did not say what behaviour. Iran has said previously Washington must stop seeking to topple its Islamic government.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the European Union would welcome direct talks between the United States and Iran, but it was for Washington and Tehran to decide.
"As far as direct contacts between the U.S. and Iran, as you know they've spent 20 years not talking to each other," he said.
"A logical analysis would say that that should come to an end because Iran is going to be a very important player in the world. But this is a decision that ... they have to take."
Mottaki said Iran had told Britain, France and Germany it wanted fresh negotiations to resolve the nuclear stalemate. The "EU3" has said Iran must reinstate a suspension of uranium enrichment under which previous negotiations proceeded.
The United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany aim to wrap up a "carrots-and-sticks" package for Iran at Thursday's meeting of foreign ministers in Vienna.
"We hope the meeting will achieve positive results," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in Beijing.
Diplomats said last week the incentives prepared by the EU3 for Iran would include a light-water nuclear reactor and an assured foreign supply of atomic fuel so Iran would not have to enrich uranium at home.
But Washington has been wary about transferring reactor technology that might be diverted into clandestine bomb-making.
Sanctions could entail visa bans and a freeze on assets of senior Iranian officials before resorting to trade measures.
But Russia and China, two of the five veto-holding Security Council powers, have balked at a Western thrust to brand Tehran a "threat to international peace and security".
They argue this could lead to U.S.-led military action against a state not proven to be seeking atomic bombs in secret.
U.S. President George W. Bush spoke to Russia's President Vladimir Putin by telephone about Iran on Tuesday.
"Both leaders spoke in favour of the future development of international efforts in the interests of resolving the Iranian nuclear problem," the Kremlin press service said in a statement.(posted by ali ghannadi)
An EU diplomat cautioned against likening a deal on the package to a turning point in the Iran crisis.
"This proposal is not the be all and end all. It could all be meaningless. It just depends on Iran," he said.
Tehran has so far dismissed the initiative -- "candies for gold" in the words of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iran's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said Tehran could negotiate on the size of what it calls nuclear research.
Vienna diplomats say Iran has signalled it may renounce "industrial scale" enrichment and reinstate short-notice UN inspections if it can keep "research and development" work.

Monday, May 29, 2006

EU Could Seek To Remove Iran Dossier From UN

TEHRAN, May 26 (MNA) -- The German news magazine Der Spiegel recently announced that Germany is prepared to accept the current level of nuclear research by Iran.

Quoting government sources, the magazine said that Germany would acknowledge Tehran’s achievements in uranium enrichment if Iran allows international organizations to monitor its nuclear activities.

Political analyst Mahdi Motahharnia and MPs Hamid-Reza Hajbabaii and Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh voiced their views on the proposal in separate interviews with the Mehr News Agency earlier this week.

Germany’s proposal could be a sign of the European side’s willingness to take Iran’s nuclear dossier off the agenda of the UN Security Council, Motahharnia said.

He noted that Tehran and Washington are the main players in the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, adding that Washington is using Europe as a tool to deal with Tehran at this point in time.

Recognition of Iran’s right to uranium enrichment should be a precondition for nuclear talks with Tehran, Falahatpisheh said.

Iran’s recent nuclear achievements have given it a stronger position in nuclear talks, the MP noted, adding that the ball is now in Europe’s court.

“Iran is continuing with enrichment, which means time is on our side. Now they must propose concessions that would be acceptable to Iran.”

He ruled out the possibility of a consensus to impose sanctions on Iran at the Security Council, saying that any consensus against Iran would harm Western interests.

Commenting on the European Union’s offer to give security guarantees to Iran, Falahatpisheh said, “Iran is in no need of security or economic guarantees but only wants its nuclear rights to be recognized.”

Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee rapporteur Hamid-Reza Hajbabaii stressed that Iran would not suspend its research on uranium enrichment under any circumstances.

Iran does not need incentives from Europe, rather it is Iran that can give incentives to them, he added.

Iran regards any proposal that fails to guarantee its right to enrichment as invalid, even if it offers the greatest incentives, the MP observed.

Major power foreign ministers are expected to meet next week in Europe to complete work on a package of incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to halt uranium enrichment.

Six world powers plan to sign off on Iran package, diplomats say


30 May 2006
Khaleej Times Online
VIENNA, Austria - Top US, Russian, Chinese and European officials plan to sign off this week on a package of incentives and penalties meant to reward Iran if it gives up uranium enrichment - and punish it if it doesn’t, diplomats said on Monday.
Agreement by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany could open the way for sanctions if Teheran remains defiant and refuses to abandon technology that can be used to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
The meeting of foreign ministers including US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was set for Thursday in Vienna, said the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share confidential information.
Teheran appeared unimpressed: One official repeated that Iran is permitted to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Another announced that his country had experimented in technology that can be used to make the hydrogen bomb.
Teheran’s main goal was recognition of “the essential right of Iran to have nuclear technology,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said during a visit to Malaysia.
State television quoted nuclear official Sadat Hosseini as saying his country “is competing with the advanced world in the field of producing nuclear energy through fusion.”
Fusion is the main principle behind the hydrogen bomb, which can be hundreds of times more powerful than atomic weapons that use fission. In a hydrogen bomb, radiation from a nuclear fission explosion sets off a fusion reaction responsible for a powerful blast and radioactivity.
Peaceful uses of fusion are still at the experimental stage.
The European Union, the United States, Japan, China, Russia and others hope to set up a demonstration power plant in the southern French town of Cadarache around 2040. Officials project that 10 percent to 20 percent of the world’s energy could come from fusion by the end of the century.
International concern about Iran’s nuclear aims has been focused on fears it could be trying to make a fission-type nuclear weapon by enriching uranium to weapons-grade level. Hosseini’s comments were likely add to concern about Teheran’s interest in fusion.
But former UN nuclear inspector David Albright said the announcement was probably “not very worrisome.”
“They like to pretend they are competing but their program is (probably) pretty rudimentary,” said Albright, who runs the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.
“One part of their (nuclear) strategy is to say, ’We have it all, so you can’t stop us,”’ he said.
Any package foreign ministers approve on Thursday would then be presented to Teheran by France, Britain and Germany - the trio of nations that broke off talks with Iran in August after it resumed activities linked to uranium enrichment.
The Security Council gave Iran until the end of April to suspend all such activities. Instead of complying, Iran announced last month that it had for the first time successfully enriched uranium and was doing research on advanced centrifuges to produce more of the material in less time.
Indirectly linked to any possible deal for Iran would be agreement on a resolution tough enough for Washington but acceptable to Teheran ally Moscow, a dispute that has hobbled action by the Security Council’s permanent members for months.
If Iran remains defiant, the proposal - as outlined to AP by diplomats familiar with the text - calls for a resolution imposing sanctions under Chapter VII, Article 41 of the UN Charter. But it avoids any reference to Article 42, which is the trigger for possible military action to enforce any such resolution.
The proposal also calls for new consultations among the five permanent Security Council members on any further steps against Iran - a move meant to dispel complaints by the Russians and Chinese that once the screws on Iran are tightened, the council would automatically move toward military involvement.
Among the possible sanctions are a visa ban on government officials, the freezing of assets, blocking financial transactions by government figures and those involved in the country’s nuclear program, an arms embargo and a blockade on the shipping of refined oil products to Iran.
If Teheran agrees to suspend enrichment, enter new negotiations on its nuclear program and lift a ban on intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, rewards would include agreement to “suspend discussion of Iran’s file at the Security Council,” as well as help in building a peaceful domestic nuclear program that uses an outside supply of enriched uranium.

A Letter's Many Meanings

Jon B. Alterman
May 15, 2006
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s letter to President George W. Bush last week was carefully crafted to antagonize Bush but humanize Ahmedinejad. The letter didn’t get him anywhere with the United States, but for Ahmedinejad’s target audience – in Iran, in the wider Muslim world, and even in Europe – it was a masterstroke.

Observers initially viewed the letter at face value, as an unprecedented gesture from an Iranian leader to an American president. Given recent months of escalating diplomatic wrangling, and given the troubled history between the two countries that dates back a half-century, Ahmedinejad’s approach seemed an effort to extend an olive branch.

In fact, it was an effort to position Iran as peace-seeking in the face of an aggressive United States. The letter took on a tone that was alternately condescending and pedantic, but consistently well calculated to score public relations points against an unpopular U.S. president around the world.
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The Nuclear Challenge from Iran

Foresight Magazine, May 2006

Philip H. Gordon, Director, Center on the United States and Europe

Iran's decision last month to resume nuclear enrichment activities-a key step in the process of making nuclear weapons-is a direct challenge to the United States, Europe, and the world. For more than two years, Europe-with Washington's support-had been offering Tehran a reasonable deal: End the nuclear enrichment work it had been doing in secret for nearly two decades, and Europe would provide Iran with technical support for a civilian nuclear energy program as well as expanded economic and diplomatic ties.

Last month, however, the new Iranian government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made clear that the negotiation was over. In early February, Iran removed International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seals and cameras in its nuclear facilities and began feeding nuclear feedstock into centrifuges, the process required to enrich fuel for use in reactors-or bombs. On February 27, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, reported that while there was no evidence of Iran diverting nuclear material for building weapons, there were numerous causes for concern, including evidence that Iran had received information about casting uranium metal into hemispheres (for which there is no other purpose than making nuclear weapons). Iran has also announced that in addition to its small-scale "pilot" enrichment plant of around 1,000 centrifuges, it plans to build an industrial-scale plant that would contain 50,000. If nothing is done, many analysts estimate that Iran could build its first nuclear weapons within around 5 years.

But what can be done? Some observers accept Tehran's argument that it has a right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and believe that action by the international community would only backfire. While they would oppose an Iranian bomb, they argue that there is little we can do to prevent a determined Iran from building one eventually and that a nuclear-armed Iran can, in any case, be contained.

This view is too complacent, however. Allowing Iran to develop enrichment and reprocessing capabilities-even under an international inspection regime-would remove the most important technical barrier to its acquiring nuclear weapons and leave the decision of going nuclear entirely in the hands of Ahmadinejad's radical Islamist government. If that government did build nuclear weapons, as is likely, then others in the region-perhaps including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey-might follow suit, knowing that a world that allowed Iran to build a bomb would surely allow them to do so as well. This would be a fatal blow to the already shaky nuclear nonproliferation regime, which for nearly 40 years has helped convince countries as diverse as Sweden, South Korea, Brazil and Ukraine that the costs of acquiring nuclear weapons outweigh the benefits. A nuclear-armed Iran, moreover, might pursue a more aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East, knowing that it could deter the United States and others from responding if it did so. And allowing Iran to go nuclear would increase the risk of nuclear materials or even a weapon falling into the hands of a terrorist group.

As an alternative to simply accepting Iran's nuclear program, some recommend the use of military force. But this approach, too, is hugely problematic. Targeted U.S. air strikes probably could destroy Iran's critical nuclear facilities and set back the program a number of years. But as we learned in Iraq, U.S. intelligence is far from perfect, so we could never be sure of hitting the entirety of Iran's program, some of which might in any case be buried underground. A military attack against Iran would also undoubtedly generate strong public support among Iranians for an otherwise unpopular regime.

Even more problematic would be Iran's certain retaliation. Through its Shiite partners in Iraq and Afghanistan, it could wreak havoc on U.S. forces and undermine efforts to stabilize both countries. It could threaten oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz and urge its terrorist friends to launch retaliatory strikes against America and its allies. The option of relying on Israel to strike Iranian targets would be even worse. The Israelis would conduct the operation less effectively because of their more limited military means, and the United States would bear the responsibility anyway, not least if it allowed the Israelis to fly over U.S.-controlled airspace in Iraq.

Given these bad options, what should the United States, Europe and Japan do instead? The best approach would be to rally international support to make Iran pay a high price if refuses to resume the suspension its uranium enrichment activities. Europe's offer to support an Iranian civilian nuclear energy program and to increase trade and investment with Iran should remain on the table, and the United States should offer new incentives of its own, such as regional security talks and the possible restoration of diplomatic relations. But if Iran continues to reject these offers and remains unwilling to reassure the international community that it is not developing nuclear weapons, the only hope is to impose significant economic and diplomatic penalties on Iran.

The most effective way of convincing Iran to cooperate would be through a tough and unified response at the UN Security Council. In the past, Iran has backed down whenever it has been faced with the prospect of united international action, and there is good reason to believe it would do so again in the face of a tough UNSC resolution. Ideally, such a resolution would be passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and require Iran to resume suspension of uranium enrichment. Such a step would make Iran's enrichment activities illegal (currently they are not) and would provide the basis for subsequent economic and diplomatic sanctions if Iran refused to comply. The Security Council would not initially need to spell out all the enforcement measures it was considering-which could include anything from freezing the assets or Iranian leaders to a ban on foreign investment in Iran or even an oil embargo-but it would make clear that Iran would face serious penalties if it refused to comply.

Tough Security Council action, of course, would require the agreement of Russia and China, which should not be ruled out as neither country wants to see an "Islamic bomb" near its borders. Moscow, moreover, is getting increasingly frustrated with Iran's lack of cooperation and transparency and knows that failing to provide at least minimal cooperation would have major consequences for its relationship with the West. China, meanwhile, sees Iran as an issue of only secondary importance and is unlikely to stand alone against the rest of the Security Council by blocking tough action against Iran.

But Russian and Chinese support for such measures will not be easy. Both have significant economic interests in Iran-Russia through arms sales and civilian nuclear energy contracts, and China through energy imports-and neither wants to give the United States a major diplomatic victory without getting something in return. Moscow and Beijing have thus already made clear that they will oppose significant enforcement actions, at least initially, and may not agree to anything stronger at the Security Council than a "presidential statement" calling on Iran to restore suspension. If that is the case, the United States and the European members of the Security Council will have to decide whether they prefer weak but widely supported action on Iran or whether to give up on Russia and China and take action on their own outside the Council. All signs are that initially at least they will go along with even relatively timid UN Security Council measures to preserve international unity, while hoping to get consensus for tougher action further down the road.

Even without Russia and China, action by the United States, Europe, and Japan could still have an impact and should not be ruled out. One of the most striking developments over the past year or so is the hardening of the positions of Britain, Germany and France. Having, in the name of the EU, taken the lead in the negotiations with Iran and been rebuffed, they feel their credibility is at stake, and they are standing firmly alongside the United States in insisting that Iran abandon its nuclear enrichment program.

There is no guarantee that making the threat of sanctions more credible or actually imposing them will have an immediate and positive effect, but given the alternatives it makes sense to find out. And even if sanctions don't work in the short term, they would still be useful to give future Iranian leaders an incentive to cooperate and to send a message to other potential proliferators. At the very least, serious sanctions would slow the nuclear program by squeezing the Iranian economy and cutting off key technologies, would further strain the already disgruntled middle classes who might one day push the current regime aside.

In the end, Iran must be presented with a clear choice: It can become an impoverished, isolated pariah state with nuclear weapons-like North Korea-or it can begin to reintegrate with the international community, meet the needs of its people and preserve its security in exchange for forgoing this capability. The choice will be for the Iranians to make. But a united international community can force them to make it.

© Copyright 2006, The Brookings Institution

Seeing Iran Through an American Prism

The Baltimore Sun, May 14, 2006

Shibley Telhami, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent an 18-page letter to President Bush - the first such communication between leaders of the two countries since the 1979 Iranian revolution - the United States was only one of the intended audiences.

It has been clear for some time that Iran sees a significant international audience, especially in the Muslim world, where it seeks to exploit prevalent resentment of U.S. foreign policy. The positive popular reception that Mr. Ahmadinejad received in his visit to Indonesia is just one indication. The most remarkable outcome has been in the Arab world.

Historically, many Arabs have had a competitive, often hostile relationship with Iran. When Iraq started a war against Iran in 1980, even many of Saddam Hussein's opponents in the Persian Gulf rallied behind him for fear of the impact of the Islamic revolution that brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power. Small states such as the United Arab Emirates have had serious issues with Iran, including Iranian control of three islands in the gulf that the UAE claims as its own.

Mr. Hussein, who had been an ally of the Soviet Union, was willing to reach out to the United States for help to overcome his Iranian enemy. And one of the Arab fears expressed before the 2003 Iraq war was that the weakening of Iraq would establish Iran as the dominant power in the gulf.

Finally, the emergence of sectarianism in Iraq, with a Shiite-dominated government, many of whose leaders have had good relations with Iran, has generated additional concerns.

All this could lead one to believe that Arabs generally, and governments particularly, are itching for the international community to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear program and might even favor a U.S. campaign to weaken Iran's potential. Yet the opposite seems to have happened.

An online, unscientific survey by Al-Jazeera television among 36,000 Arabic speakers indicated that 73 percent did not believe that Iran's nuclear program constituted a threat to the neighboring countries.

In my own public opinion survey with Zogby International in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and the UAE in October, a plurality of Arabs said they believed that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. Yet a majority did not support international pressure to make Iran halt its program.

These attitudes are reflected on other issues involving Iran. Asked about the greatest fears regarding the consequences of the Iraq war, only 4 percent of Arabs in my poll indicated concern over Iran's rising power. The public expressed more worries about the potential for Iraq's division and for the continued U.S. presence in Iraq.

To be sure, Arab governments, especially those in the Persian Gulf region, remain concerned about the rising Iranian influence and worried about the intensifying Shiite-Sunni divide. But even those governments are more concerned about the prospect of another war with Iran that would create ongoing instability, which would add to Iraq's troubles.

Some, such as the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain, are chiefly made up of cities on the gulf within easy range of Iran's weapons. They would lose much from a war between the United States and Iran.

As an English-language Saudi newspaper, Arab News, put it in arguing that Washington should not reject Mr. Ahmadinejad's letter so hastily: "Washington may well maneuver itself into a corner where, to save face and prevent Iran from gaining a great political victory, it will have to take military action. It happened in Iraq and could happen again. The world cannot bear another such tragedy."

In the end, the Iranian president's letter succeeded in framing Iran's predicament as one primarily related to the United States. In this regard, the continued deep resentment of the United States in much of the world, especially in Arab and Muslim countries - which has intensified with recent economic pressures on the Palestinians - plays directly into Mr. Ahmadinejad's hands.

When asked in the October survey to identify the two countries that are most threatening to them, most Arabs named the United States and Israel; only 6 percent named Iran. This, more than anything else, highlights Washington's challenge in garnering support for its policy toward Iran.

© Copyright 2006, The Brookings Institution

Gulf nations will not survive war in Iran

20:49 | 24/ 05/ 2006

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya) -- What do the Gulf nations think about the situation around Iran?

“Our region will not survive a new war, another aggravation of tensions,” said Qatar Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jassim Al-Thani during a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Their conversation took place during the 5th foreign ministers’ meeting of the intergovernmental forum devoted to dialog on cooperation in Asia. The forum took place in Doha, and was the last event for the Russian Foreign Minister’s first tour of the Arab Gulf nations – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.

In principle, political discussions are not in the forum’s traditions. Its main task is to discuss opportunities for Asian countries’ cooperation in specific fields, such as energy, finances, education, transportation, environmental protection, prevention and dealing with emergencies (the latter direction was suggested by Russia). However, considering the tense situation around Tehran, and the fact that success of many projects depends on regional stability, the participants in the forum could not ignore the Iranian problem, at least in the lobby and during press conferences, all the more so since many conferees are taking an active part in the Iranian negotiating process, including Russia, China, Gulf countries, and Iran itself.

Tehran is not yet a co-sponsor or leader of any of the forum’s 20 directions, but it is playing a key role in regional affairs. Implementation of specific projects, and participation in dialog on practical issues is a very effective instrument of diplomacy. The forum-initiated numerous business projects are the best alternative to a military scenario. By increasingly covering a military option, the media are creating the impression that the negotiating process is doomed.

On the eve of the recent meeting of negotiators on Iran in London, the Los Angeles Times wrote that the U.S. had embarked on the strategy of deterring Iran with the help of the Gulf nations. However, such articles only further provoke Tehran and exacerbate its already difficult relations with the Arab neighbors. Commenting on the Los Angeles Times publication at the request of the media, the Qatar Foreign Minister said: “We would welcome very much if the United States coordinated its actions with the Gulf Cooperation Council.”

One gets the impression that the Arab countries do not know whether they should be getting ready for war, or watch the negotiating process as idle onlookers. This is why they were eager to hear Russia’s opinion from its Foreign Minister – what should they expect? Nobody can answer this question precisely but during his tour of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, Sergey Lavrov made it clear that Moscow would do everything for the talks to continue.

The Arab countries of the Persian Gulf are enthusiastically backing the position of Russia, which believes that negotiations are the only way of settling the Iranian problem. In the event of a military scenario, these countries may suffer as much, or even more than Iran.

Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow was not considering any hypothetical scenarios, hoping that eventually the talks would produce results. Their success depends on two factors. The first one is an ability of the six negotiators – the EU3, Russia, China, and the U.S. – to preserve a common platform. The second factor is Tehran’s constructive position, which is indispensable. Neither factor is guaranteed in the least. But there is no other way out for the time being. A military scenario is too dangerous, which the situation in neighboring Iraq shows. Aware of this, Western and Eastern diplomats are emphasizing the need to continue the negotiations. Sometimes, it is hard to understand what stands behind some official statements. But decision-makers should remember what the Qatar Foreign minister said – the Gulf region will not survive another war

The Game Plan on Iran is becoming clearer

US wants Security Council resolution allowing for use of force
by Siddharth Varadarajan
March 25, 2006
The Hindu
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The Anglo-Americans want a Security Council resolution allowing for the eventual use of force. Iran must play its cards very carefully from now onwards.
THIS WEEK, the fog of Anglo-American diplomacy on the Iranian nuclear question parted momentarily to give the world a rare glimpse of the drive to war that lies behind. On Wednesday, the Times of London reproduced a letter written last week by John Sawers, the British Foreign Office pointman on Iran, to his counterparts in the United States, France, and Germany outlining the line of action the four allies should follow in the United Nations Security Council.Stripped of the verbiage and the too-clever strategising on how to choreograph Russian and Chinese consent for sanctions and war, the main point in Mr. Sawers' letter is that the Iranians need to know that "more serious measures" are likely from the Security Council than just a Presidential Statement. Mr Sawers elaborates on what the E3+US has in mind:
"This means putting the Iran dossier onto a Chapter VII basis. We may also need to remove one of the Iranian arguments that the suspension called for is 'voluntary'. We could do both by making the voluntary suspension a mandatory requirement to the Security Council, in a Resolution we would aim to adopt in, say, early May".
Chapter VII is that part of the UN Charter dealing with threats to international peace and security. Putting the Iranian dossier on to a Chapter VII basis would allow the Anglo-Americans to do two things. First, circumvent Iran's legal right to uranium enrichment, as enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), its safeguards agreement, its Additional Protocol, and in every single resolution passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors on the Iranian issue. Secondly, generate a minimally plausible but absolutely essential legal fig leaf for military action against Iran in the likely event that the Iranians do not comply with such a Chapter VII resolution. So far, the Russians and Chinese have made it clear that they are not prepared to appease the "Christmas in Teheran" folks in Washington and London. But in allowing the Iranian file to reach the Security Council, Moscow and Beijing have allowed the U.S. to ratchet up the rhetoric and pressure. This drive to penalise Iran in some way will become a test case for how seriously Russia, China, and the world have learned the lessons of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.The reason the U.S. is keen to bring in Chapter VII is because it would like to provoke Iran into walking out of the NPT. If Iran were ever to commit this folly, the U.S. regime change plan will move swiftly into high gear. As and when force is used, it would likely be a Yugoslav-style prolonged air war aimed at targeting civilian and industrial infrastructure rather than an Iraq-style invasion. So fluid is the situation that the Iranians need to carefully consider all their legal and political options and build a strategy aimed at widening the circle of countries opposed to confrontation and in favour of dialogue and diplomacy. In legal terms, both Article XVII of the IAEA Statute and Article 22 of Iran's Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA provide for a dispute resolution mechanism through arbitration or the involvement of the International Court of Justice. Article 22 of the ICJ Statute is clear on this point: "Any question or dispute concerning the interpretation or application of this Statute which is not settled by negotiation shall be referred to the International Court of Justice in conformity with the Statute of the Court, unless the parties concerned agree on another mode of settlement."[Emphasis added]
The Sawers letter suggests the E3+US are trying to create a situation where the IAEA Statute would not be applicable to Iran any longer, particularly the rights that devolve upon an NPT non-nuclear weapons state whose facilities are safeguarded. Alongside this is the growing number of threats of use of force by the United States and Israel, an issue that has already been formally raised by the Iranian ambassador to the UN, M. Javad Zarif, in a note verbale to the Secretary General on March 21:
"These statements and documents, in view of past illegal behavior of the United States, constitute matters of utmost gravity that require urgent, concerted and resolute response on the part of the United Nations and particularly the Security Council. "It is indeed regrettable that past failures have emboldened senior US officials and even others to consider the threat or use of force, both of which are specifically rejected under Article 2(4) of the Charter as violations of one of the most fundamental principles of the Organization, as options available on the table. "The United Nations has a fundamental responsibility to reject those assertions and to arrest this trend."It will be highly appreciated if this letter and its annex were circulated as a document of the General Assembly under Agenda Items 9, 82, 87, 94, 95, 97, 110 and of the Security Council.
The General Assembly Agenda Items referred to by Ambassador Zarif include, inter alia, prohibition of the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons, establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East, conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, and general and complete disarmament. What the E3+US are doing is subverting the NPT system by attacking the core bargain underlying it: that countries which renounce the right to make nuclear weapons shall not be prevented from developing civilian nuclear technology. There are valid legal grounds for considering the IAEA Board of Governors' referral of Iran to the UN Security Council as ultra vires the IAEA Statute and the U.N. Charter.As Michael Spies of the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy, New York, has argued:
The authority of the Board to refer matters to the Security Council is granted by the IAEA Statute, the Safeguards Agreements, and the Additional Protocol when applicable. Under the Statute (Art. 12(C) and the Safeguards Agreement the Board may only refer Iran to the Security Council if it finds that, based on the report from the Director General, it cannot be assured that Iran has not diverted nuclear material for non-peaceful purpose. In the past findings of "non-assurance" have only come in the face of a history of active and ongoing non-cooperation with IAEA safeguards. The pursuit of nuclear activities in themselves, which are specifically recognized as a sovereign right, and which remain safeguarded, could not legally or logically equate to uncertainty regarding diversion.
None of the reports of the Director General have ever said that inspectors has not been able to verify that there has been "no diversion of nuclear material required to be safeguarded under this Agreement, to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices," the condition under which the Safeguards Agreement with Iran allows the IAEA to "make the reports provided for in paragraph C of Article XII." What the Director General has consistently said is that there has been no diversion of safeguarded nuclear material but that he is not yet in a position to say there are no undeclared nuclear activities. But since more than 100 countries have yet to ratify the Additional Protocol, this is a "finding" the Director General will have to make for not just Iran alone. Interestingly, China, which voted in February to refer Iran to the Security Council, explicitly stated in its explanation of vote that this referral was not a referral as construed by Article XIIC of the IAEA Statute. In the light of the foregoing analysis, this much is clear. First, the E3+U.S. want to render inoperative the IAEA Statute and the NPT as far as Iran is concerned. Secondly, the E3+U.S. want to rewrite, through a Chapter VII resolution, the provisions of a Treaty, the NPT, that 188 countries are currently signatories to. Thirdly, the U.S. and Britain have used force in contravention of the U.N. Charter and international law to attack a neighbour of Iran's barely three years ago. Fourthly, Iran has real and justifiable fears that it too will be subjected to an armed attack. On the basis of these bald facts, Iran should try and get the U.N. General Assembly to seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice under Article 96 of the U.N. Charter on the following question: Non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT have the right to develop civilian fuel cycle technology. The E3+U.S. insistence on unilaterally imposing new rules on NPT signatories is not in the interest of international peace and security. Right from the outset, Iran has had the law on its side. Even as it displays an open mind on the question of participating in multinational fuel cycle arrangements with Russia, China, and other potential partners, Iran cannot be compelled to give up legal rights, which devolve upon it as an NPT signatory. Nor is it in the interest of other NPT members or non-members that the Security Council arrogate to itself the right to dictate changes to treaty law. In the run-up to its vote against Iran at the IAEA, India said it did not want to see any other state in its neighbourhood acquire nuclear weapons. It is only fitting that India should also state openly that it does not want to see any other state in its neighbourhood subjected to armed aggression in the name of weapons of mass destruction. Siddharth Varadarajan is Deputy Editor of The Hindu and a frequent contributor to Global Research.

iran:last exit for diplomacy

Joschka Fischer
Daily Times ,Sunday, May 28, 2006
The Bush administration must lead the Western initiative in harmonised, direct negotiations with Iran, and, if these negotiations succeed, the US must also be willing to agree to appropriate guarantees. In this confrontation, international credibility and legitimacy will be the deciding factors, and ensuring them will require far-sighted and cool, calculated American leadershipThe Iran crisis is moving fast in an alarming direction. There can no longer be any reasonable doubt that Iran’s ambition is to obtain nuclear weapons capability. However, at the heart of the issue lies the Iranian regime’s aspiration to become a hegemonic Islamic and regional power and thereby position itself at eye level with the world’s most powerful nations. It is precisely this ambition that sets Iran apart from North Korea: whereas North Korea seeks nuclear weapons capability in order to entrench its isolation, Iran is aiming for regional dominance and more.Iran is betting on revolutionary changes within the power structure of the Middle East to help it achieve its strategic goal. To this end, it makes use of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also of Lebanon, Syria, its influence in the Gulf region, and, above all, Iraq. This combination of hegemonic aspirations, questioning of the regional status quo, and a nuclear programme is extremely dangerous.Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear bomb — or even its ability to produce one — would be interpreted by Israel as a fundamental threat to its existence, thereby compelling the West, and Europe in particular, to take sides. Europe has not only historical moral obligations to Israel, but also security interests that link it to the strategically vital Eastern Mediterranean. Moreover, a nuclear Iran would also be perceived as a threat by its other neighbours. This would likely provoke a regional arms race and further fuel regional volatility. In short, a nuclear Iran would call Europe’s fundamental security into question. To believe that Europe could keep out of this conflict is a dangerous illusion. In this crisis, the stakes are high, which is why Germany, the UK, and France began negotiations with Iran two years ago with the goal of persuading Iran to abandon its efforts to close the nuclear fuel cycle. This initiative failed for two reasons. First, the European offer to open up technology and trade, including the peaceful use of nuclear technology, was disproportionate to Iran’s fundamental fear of regime change on the one hand, and its regional hegemonic aspirations and quest for global prestige on the other. Second, the disastrous US-led war in Iraq has led Iran’s leaders to conclude that the leading Western power has been weakened to the point that it is dependent on Iran’s goodwill, and that high oil prices have made the West all the more wary of a serious confrontation.The Iranian regime’s analysis might prove a dangerous miscalculation, because it is likely to lead sooner rather than later to a ÒhotÓ confrontation that Iran simply cannot win. After all, the issue at the heart of this conflict is this: who dominates the Middle East — Iran or the United States? Iran’s leaders underestimate the explosive nature of this issue, and how it is answered, for the US as a global power and thus for its own future.Nor, however, is the debate about the military option — the destruction of Iran’s nuclear programme through US air strikes — conducive to resolving the issue. Rather, it rings of a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is no guarantee that attempts to destroy Iran’s nuclear potential and thus of its capability for a nuclear breakout will succeed. Moreover, as a victim of foreign aggression, Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions would be fully legitimised. Finally, a military attack on Iran would also mark the beginning of a regional, and possibly global, military and terrorist escalation — a nightmare for all concerned. So what should be done? There remains a serious chance for a diplomatic solution if the US, in cooperation with the Europeans and thus certainly with the support of the Security Council and the non-aligned states of the Group of 77, offers Iran a ÒGrand BargainÓ. In exchange for long-term suspension of uranium enrichment, Iran and other states would gain access to research and technology within an internationally defined framework and under comprehensive supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Full normalisation of political and economic relations would follow, including binding security guarantees upon agreement of a regional security design.The high price for refusing such a proposal has to be made absolutely clear to the Iranian leadership: should no agreement be reached, the West will do everything within its power to isolate Iran economically, financially, technologically, and diplomatically, with the full support of the international community. Iran’s alternatives should be no less than recognition and security, or total isolation.Presenting Iran with these alternatives presupposes that the West does not fear rising oil and gas prices. Indeed, the two other options — Iran’s emergence as a nuclear power or the use of military force to prevent this — would, in addition to all of its horrible consequences, also increase oil and gas prices. Everything speaks in favour of playing the economic-financial and technology card vis-ˆ-vis Iran.Knowledge of the potentially horrible consequences of a military confrontation and of the equally horrific consequences of an Iran in possession of the atomic bomb must force the US to abandon its policy of no direct negotiations and its hope for regime change. It is not enough for the Europeans to act while the Americans continue to look on as the diplomatic initiatives unfold, partaking in discussion only behind the scenes and ultimately letting the Europeans do what they will. The Bush administration must lead the Western initiative in harmonised, direct negotiations with Iran, and, if these negotiations succeed, the US must also be willing to agree to appropriate guarantees. In this confrontation, international credibility and legitimacy will be the deciding factors, and ensuring them will require far-sighted and cool, calculated American leadership. An offer of a ÒGrand BargainÓ would unite the international community and present Iran with a convincing alternative. Were Iran to agree to this offer, its suspension of nuclear research in Natanz while negotiations are ongoing would be the litmus test of its sincerity. Were Iran to refuse the offer or fail to honour its obligations, it would totally isolate itself internationally and provide emphatic legitimisation to further measures. Neither Russia nor China could avoid showing solidarity within the Security Council.But such an initiative can succeed only if the American administration assumes leadership among the Western nations and sits down at the negotiating table with Iran. Even then, the international community would not have long to act. As all sides must be aware, time is running out for a diplomatic solution. —DT-PSJoschka Fischer was Germany’s foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2005. A leader in the Green Party for nearly 20 years, he helped change the Greens from a party of protest to a party of government

new sign for accepting iranian small-scale enrichment

iran slows down enrichment

Russia, the United States and China were ready to guarantee Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy if Tehran answered the questions raised by the UN nuclear watchdog, Russia's top diplomat said here on Monday.
analysts see this as new step for accepting iranian small-scale enrichment
"Russia supports the efforts to resume talks between Iran and the world community. The United States and China also support them," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

Lavrov's remarks came just one day before a teleconference between diplomats of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

The meeting, grouping Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany, was aimed at finding common ground over "a package of stimuli" for Tehran if it suspends uranium enrichment activities, as well as penalties if it does not, Itar-Tass quoted a Russian foreign ministry source as saying.

The UN Security Council demanded that Iran suspend uranium enrichment by the end of April, but Tehran defied the deadline and announced last month that it had succeeded in enriching uranium and was doing research on advanced enrichment.

Enriched uranium can be used to produce fuel for both power generators and nuclear bombs.

Iran "must be involved in international economic cooperation and the efforts to enhance security in the region," Lavrov said, adding "in parallel, we are ready to guarantee Iran's right to develop peaceful nuclear power engineering."

But all these had to be pinned on Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he added. "Another condition for the guarantees to nuclear energy engineering for Iran must be Iran's adherence to the treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and to the additional protocol of the treaty," Lavrov said.

However, Iran has reiterated its reserved stance on Moscow’s earlier proposal to set up a joint venture for Iran's uranium enrichment on Russia's territory.

Stressing the peaceful nature of its nuclear program and its right to peaceful nuclear technology, Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told a news conference in Tehran on Monday that Iran's principled position was uranium enrichment on its own territory under IAEA's control.

Negotiations between the European trio -- Britain, France and Germany -- and Iran grounded to a halt in August 2005, when Tehran resumed uranium enrichment.

The United States has accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons secretly, a charge repeatedly denied by Tehran, which insists that its nuclear program is to generate electricity to meet the country's surging demand. Enditem
iran slows down enrichment
at the same time Tehran appears to have slowed its drive to produce nuclear fuel after boasting that it had joined the "nuclear club" by successfully enriching uranium on an industrial scale and portraying its action as irreversible, The New York Times reported in its Monday edition.
Citing unnamed European diplomats who have reviewed reports from inspectors inside the country, the newspaper said the diplomats say the slowdown may be part of a deliberate Iranian strategy to lower the temperature of its standoff with the West and perhaps to create an opening for Washington to join the negotiations directly.
In discussions with White House and State Department officials in recent days, Europeans have described the inspectors' findings, clearly hoping to influence a debate within the Bush administration over whether to change strategy and engage directly with Iran, the report said.
But hardliners in the administration say they are unconvinced and think any slowdown may be merely a tactical ploy by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, The Times said.
"It could simply mean we're not looking in the right places," the paper quotes one senior official as saying.
Diplomats say Iranian engineers stopped pouring a raw form of uranium, called UF6, into arrays of centrifuges after just 12 days, even as the nation erupted in celebrations of the enrichment feat, The Times said.
The reports, which have now been widely circulated, say the Iranians kept the empty centrifuges spinning, as is standard practice because slowing the delicate machines can cause them to wobble and crash, the report said.
Nuclear experts caution, however, that the slowdown may mean that Iran has run into technical obstacles on its nuclear road, the paper noted.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Iran's Iraq Strategy

washington post
Tehran Could Retaliate Against Washington by Striking Next Door
By Steven Simon and Ray Takeyh
Sunday, May 21, 2006; B02
From the moment the first U.S. warheads detonate over an Iranian nuclear installation, the United States will be at war with the Islamic Republic. A vast tableau of American facilities around the world -- as well as the streets of U.S. cities -- could be targets for retaliation by Iran's agents and surrogates. "The Americans should know that if they assault Iran, their interests will be harmed anywhere in the world that is possible," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, warned last month.
The most likely theater of operations in the initial stages of a U.S.-Iranian conflict, however, would be next door -- in Iraq. Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iran has methodically built and strengthened its military, political and religious influence in Iraq. Iran's Revolutionary Guard has extensively infiltrated Iraq's Ministry of the Interior and police force, both mainstays of Shiite power. The hundreds of Iranian mullahs and businessmen who have slipped across the border have a commanding presence in southern Iraq's commercial and religious sectors.
Iran's sway over Shiite militias and its considerable paramilitary presence in Iraq give Tehran leverage in the ongoing nuclear stalemate with Washington, and would emerge as a key factor should armed conflict break out. U.S. forces and prestige are vulnerable in Iraq, making them particularly attractive targets. However, should Iran decide to strike in Iraq, it would have to weigh competing priorities: a desire for revenge against the Americans, and the strategic need to both avoid chaos in its western neighbor and bolster the political role of Iraq's Shiite majority.
How Iran resolves this dilemma would go a long way toward determining the outcome of a U.S.-Iranian conflict -- as well as the future of the U.S. war in Iraq.
Iran's paramilitary and intelligence buildup in Iraq would put some members of the "coalition of the willing" to shame. Over the past three years, Tehran has deployed to Iraq a large number of the Revolutionary Guard's Qods Force -- a highly professional force specializing in assassinations and bombings -- as well as officers from the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security and representatives of Lebanese Hezbollah.
The Qods Force has a longstanding relationship with Hezbollah, which it trains and supplies in coordination with Syria through an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps unit in central Lebanon. In the words of Iranian Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, the IRGC commander, "The range of [the IRGC's] duty is not limited to our land and we have extra-border missions."
Iranian personnel have established safe houses throughout southern Iraq. They monitor the movement of coalition forces, tend weapons caches, facilitate cross-border travel of clerics, smuggle munitions into Iraq and recruit individuals as intelligence sources. Presumably, Tehran has recruited networks within U.S. military bases and civilian compounds that could be activated on short notice. Iran is also believed by regional intelligence agencies to have armed and trained as many as 40,000 Iraqis to prevent an unlikely rollback of Shiite control.
Coalition forces have suffered the consequences of Iran's military presence. U.S. and British officials contend that the IRGC has introduced into Iraq "shaped charge designs" -- powerful bombs that channel the force of an explosion into a narrow path. (Lebanese Hezbollah also has used such bombs effectively against Israeli tanks.) According to the British, at least 10 of their soldiers in southern Iraq have been killed since May 2005 by the combination of such explosives and remote triggering devices. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted in a March briefing with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that these makeshift bombs are "traceable back to Iran."
U.S. troops have improved their force protection skills over the past three years and are more adroit at detecting such bombs. But it is just not possible to fully safeguard 135,000 troops, let alone the 30,000 contractors and civilians working in Iraq. If the IRGC activated its agents within U.S. forward operating bases, or used indirect fire weapons -- Katyusha rockets or heavy mortars -- Iran could kill sizable concentrations of soldiers in mess halls, sleeping quarters, headquarters tents and other key facilities. The overall level of violence in Iraq -- 75 insurgent attacks per month in 2006, including 144 bombings that killed more than three people each -- would give Tehran some plausible deniability.
Iran's clerical regime could complicate matters for Washington even more by pressing its Shiite allies in Iraq to demand a U.S. withdrawal. The leading Shiite cleric in Iraq, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has counseled patience and refrained from challenging the U.S. military presence; he is also wary of Tehran's influence over Iraqi politics. However, Abul al-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has closer ties to Tehran and has publicly chastised Washington for not tackling the Sunni insurgency. (The council's armed wing, the Badr Organization, musters thousands of armed members.) And the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr also receives subsidies from Iran.
Although the Islamic Republic may not be able to obtain a fatwa against the United States from Iraq's most esteemed clerics, it can still count on the backing of important segments of the Shiite community, particularly those jockeying for power within it. This support could quickly produce mobs of young men in the street protesting the occupation.
Tehran is capable of wreaking havoc in Iraq, and it may consider such a move in response to a U.S. attack. However, as Iraq continues its descent into chaos, Tehran must balance its desire to hurt the United States with the equally compelling objective of fostering an orderly transition to Shiite rule in Iraq.
This need for balance is rooted in Iran's wartime experience during its long conflict with Hussein's Iraq. As Iran and Iraq are both Shiite-majority nations, the historic animosity between them has had less to do with religion than politics.
Indeed, an uneasy consensus has evolved among the Iranian leadership that the impetus for the war with Iraq, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians from 1980 to 1988, lay in the Sunni domination of Iraqi politics. The Sunni minority sought to justify its rule under the Baathist regime by embracing a pan-Arabist program; ultimately, this quest for glory abroad led to an assertion of hegemony in the Persian Gulf region and a devastating war with Iran. Empowerment of the more congenial Shiites in Iraq emerged as a key postwar objective of the Islamic Republic, and that empowerment depends on a modicum of political and social stability.
Ironically, the Iranian clerical hard-liners, so adamant about suppressing the reform movement at home, have emerged as advocates of democratic pluralism in Iraq. The Bush administration's satisfaction with January's parliamentary elections was echoed by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the reactionary head of the powerful Guardian Council, when he said: "Iraq is now going through its election cycle. The election results are very good." Iran's theocrats appreciate that the surest way to advance their interests is to support an electoral process that will yield a state with strong provinces and a weak federal structure. That would keep the Shiites up, the Kurds in and the Sunnis down.
How, then, will Tehran reconcile its war aims with its determination to preserve stability in Iraq? Look back to the early 1980s, when a U.S.-Iranian confrontation played itself out in hapless Lebanon.
In that conflict, Iran did not subvert Lebanon's already brittle society by assassinating politicians and damaging the national infrastructure. Iran certainly could have done so, given its extensive network of clerical sympathizers, guerrillas and terrorists. Instead, Tehran opted for an incremental and deadly campaign of violence against the U.S. presence. It was at the behest of Iran that Hezbollah wrecked the U.S. Embassy in 1983, wiping out the CIA's cadre of Near East experts, and struck American barracks in Beirut in 1984, killing 241 Marines.
In contemplating war with Iran today, the Bush administration should remember the lessons of Lebanon. The U.S. presence in Iraq -- with its ubiquitous convoys, vast embassy compound, vulnerable forward operating bases and legions of civilian workers -- provides equally tempting targets. The U.S. commitment to Iraq is of course far greater than it was to Lebanon a quarter-century ago. And Washington is unlikely to redefine its interests with the alacrity of the Reagan administration and withdraw as swiftly. Nonetheless, the burden under which the United States now labors in Iraq would become exponentially heavier, with the pressure to exit threatening to overwhelm the strategic need to stay.
Steven Simon and Ray Takeyh are senior fellows in Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Russia can help resolve Iran crisis

Authors: Charles D. Ferguson, Fellow for Science and Technology
Victor Mizin
• May 22, 2006
The Baltimore Sun
• Despite the historic nature of the first direct letter from an Iranian president to a American president since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Tehran’s position has not fundamentally softened—yet. Iran still wants to expand its nuclear program.
• But this letter could provide an opening to pursue a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem.
• We propose that the U.N. Security Council pass a resolution under Chapter 6 of the U.N. Charter, which calls on parties to settle their disputes through peaceful means. Currently, the United States is pressing for a resolution under Chapter 7, which can authorize the use of economic sanctions or military force. China and Russia have opposed a Chapter 7 resolution.
• The Chapter 6 resolution would authorize the International Atomic Energy Agency to form a special inspection team that would have wide-ranging access to investigate Iran’s nuclear activities. This team would draw from international nuclear experts, mostly from the IAEA.
• It’s important to note that the team would supplement—not replace—the role of the IAEA and would root its mission in the IAEA Statute’s Article 12, which provides for special inspections to resolve compliance problems. If the inspection team found proscribed nuclear activities, the Security Council would then have stronger grounds than it now has to consider forceful action.
• The current process in the Security Council is keeping the Iranian nuclear problem at a boil. A Chapter 6 resolution could relieve the pressure before it erupts into an unnecessary and costly war while holding Iran accountable for adhering to its nuclear safeguard commitments.
• Why would Iran have an incentive to work cooperatively with these special inspections?
• First, although Iran may want to maintain ambiguity to make its nuclear program look more formidable than it may be, Tehran will gain more if it opens up to more intrusive inspections. Javad Zarif, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, recently stated that Iran is willing to permit “intrusive inspections” at its nuclear facilities and to “limit the enrichment of nuclear materials so that they are suitable for energy production but not for weaponry.”
• Second, the special inspections could provide Iran with an opportunity to obtain a clean bill of nuclear health. If Iran objects to these inspections, it would appear to be an obstructionist.
• Iran strives for legitimacy and wants to emerge as a major power in the Persian Gulf region and the broader Middle East. The United States and its allies want to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Russia and China as well as the European Union also want to continue doing business with Iran.
• Is there a way to satisfy these different interests?
• While the first steps should involve reducing ambiguities about Iran’s nuclear program and compelling Iran to come into compliance with its safeguard requirements under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it is also important to address Iran’s security and economic concerns.
• Here’s where Russia can play a special role. Acting as a proxy for the United States, Moscow should convey to Tehran that the currently ambiguous situation is pointing toward war. Russia should press on Iran the urgency of immediately slowing down its enrichment efforts and allowing a special inspection team adequate access to make an informed assessment about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
• As an additional necessary incentive, Russia should also offer to convene a multilateral dialogue involving, at a minimum, Iran, Russia and the EU. Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states also would have an incentive to join the dialogue. The United States may opt out initially but should be prepared to jump in once it appears that Iran is serious about cutting a deal.
• The dialogue would consider a broad agenda involving security assurances and economic development. Concerning timing, Russia, which now holds the presidency of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations, should plan to convene the dialogue before the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg this summer.
• Russia and the United States have demonstrated over 15 years that working together can provide greater security for all parties.

• Charles D. Ferguson is a fellow for science and technology at the Council on Foreign Relations. Victor Mizin, a Russian arms control and nonproliferation expert, is a visiting research fellow at the Henry L. Stimson Center. Their e-mails are and
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