AN UPDATE ON THE NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TALKS WITH PERSIA
MOUSAVIAN: On the nuclear negotiations, the ultimate decisionmaker is the Supreme Leader. This is not only on nuclear issues. By the Iranian constitution, the main issues on foreign policy are all decided ultimately by the religious leader. It doesn’t matter who rules Iran—monarchy or clerics. If clerics, it is an Islamic Republic. If the president is moderate like Rafsanjani or reformist like Khatami or radical or conservative like Ahmadinejad, it doesn’t matter. This is the red line: no nuclear bomb but nuclear technology.... CARVER: It seems that in the last few weeks, the whole tone of the negotiations with the West have become more positive. Is that right, do you think? MOUSAVIAN: Definitely there is a much more positive atmosphere. It is not only in the West. It is also within Iranian public opinion and Iranian politicians are much more optimistic today. And the reason is because of the recent meeting in Istanbul. The P5+1 accepted to find a solution within the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Before, they were always asking for requirements from Iran beyond the NPT, like zero enrichment. They have admitted the principle of reciprocity. This was something that since 2003 we were telling them. That if you are going to find a face-saving solution, we need reciprocity. If we take one step, you should take one step and go forward. They were not ready. They were always telling us, “You should take steps.” And in the end, they agreed to a step-by-step plan. In my book, I have explained that all proposals we made since 2003 were step-by-step plans. But the P5+1 and EU3 were looking at a piecemeal approach. Iran has always been looking for a broad package to be implemented step by step because Iranians always want to see the end state, the end game. CARVER: Do you think that military action against Iran is likely? MOUSAVIAN: I think this is not very likely because the United States has learned a lot about the military strikes they conducted against Afghanistan and Iraq. As far as I understand, neither the United States nor the Europeans are ready for a third war in the Middle East. And I cannot imagine Israel would go for a unilateral military strike against Iran without U.S. engagement or U.S. backing. CARVER: And if it were to happen, the effect on the regime would be what? MOUSAVIAN: If there is a military strike, from either Israelis unilaterally or with Americans, it would be a disaster. On the nuclear issue, I’m convinced Iran would withdraw from the NPT and no one can guarantee then that Iranians would not divert to a nuclear weapon because this would be an existential threat for Iran. And the consequences would engulf the whole region and beyond. This would be catastrophic". Seyed Hussein Mousavian interviewed by Tom Carver, "An Insiders Account of Iran [Persia] Nuclear Negotiations." Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 29 May 2012, in www.carnegieendowment.org.
"Iran has said it will continue to stockpile highly enriched uranium and has ruled out the inspection of a suspect military site in a sign of Tehran’s frustration that concessions on its nuclear programme may not result in relief from international sanctions. Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, said over the weekend that there was “no reason” to end enrichment of uranium at 20 per cent concentration, which is easy to transform to the 90 per cent level needed for a bomb. He had previously indicated that Iran, which insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, could halt production of 20 per cent uranium after enough material was produced for domestic civilian consumption.... Iran’s disappointment comes after its two-day meeting with the European Union and six main powers – the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany – in Baghdad revealed fundamental disagreements between the two sides and ended without progress. Mr Abbasi also said that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, had not yet convinced Tehran why it needed to inspect the Parchin military complex – south-east of Tehran, which the IAEA suspects may have been a site of research related to nuclear weapons development. “We have no nuclear site in Parchin,” Mr Abbasi stressed. Iran was believed to have been considering offering access to inspectors prior to the Baghdad talks. Mr Abassi’s comments will deepen the frustration of some western diplomats who believe that it will be difficult to make progress with Iran over its nuclear programme after last week’s two-day meeting in Baghdad. One senior diplomat told the FT he simply did not know whether any progress could be made at the next session of talks in Moscow on June 18 – or whether the process would completely collapse. One factor that allows Iran to maintain its tough stance is that it knows the Obama administration does not want negotiations to collapse before November’s US presidential election. The collapse of the talks would bolster Israeli leaders who believe an attack should take place this summer or autumn. Iranian analysts believe Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last say in all state affairs, has given Iran’s negotiating team greater authority than ever to break the current impasse through a step-by-step approach, while insisting on the country’s right to continue enriching uranium, although at a lower grade. However, Tehran realised in Baghdad that it was being offered spare parts for civilian aircraft in return for conceding an important early bargaining chip: freezing production of more highly enriched uranium. Western diplomats also refused to discuss Iran’s right to enrich lower grade uranium.... Meanwhile, reform-minded politicians fear that if the nuclear talks fail it would empower those inside the regime who insist the US is only interested in regime change in Tehran. One political analyst said that the failed talks would push Iran towards more aggressive policies in the Middle East because “the mentality is language of force needs to be responded by a language of force”. Kayhan daily newspaper, which is the mouthpiece for Iran’s hardliners, said nuclear negotiations with the six powers was like “playing in the enemy’s court” and that it was 'better not to attend the next meeting in Moscow or anywhere else'".James Blitz & Najmeh Bozorgmehr, "Iran [Persia] defiant on Nuclear Programme." The Financial Times. 27 May 2012, in www.ft.com. "There are some other factors in Middle Eastern nationalism which Mr. Fellowes does not mention, but which must be taken into account. The Middle Eastern peoples are excessively subjective, find it difficult to face facts and are unduly swayed by emotion. This is vitally important, particularly when connected with their resentment of Western superority described by Mr. Fellowes and needlessly embitters their relations with the West. Secondly, from short-sightedness, and because politics in the Middle East has always been a lucrative profession, politically-conscious people tend to see political issues in the light of the internal struggle for power. This means that the Middle Eastern statesman often does not consider issues of foreign policy on their own merits but on their bearing on his own political career." Christopher Gandy, "Observations on Mr. Fellowes' paper 'Nationalisation (sic) and policy in the Middle East'." March 1952, in FO[Foreign Office]371/98244/E1026/1. PRO, Kew. Copy of original in author's personal archive. The negotiations in Baghdad last week, between the Western Powers, Russia, China and Persia had unfortunately no positive results. Notwithstanding the positive noises coming out of Tehran, of which Mr. Mousavian comments were part and parcel. As can be seen from the article in Tuesday's Financial Times, it would appear that the Mullahs in power in Persia have come away from the talks, believing that in the absence of a substantive Western climb-down on the implementation of oil sanctions (due to come into effect by the end of June), that any pour parlers with the 'six' are worthless and (to quote from the FT story above), Tehran's "mentality is the language of force", pur et simple. How true is this? Outside observers can hardly surmise in any real sense. One can only ascertain what the regime's policies are based upon its behavior and its rhetoric. Which, post-facto to the Baghdad negotiations are unfortunately highly aggressive and not in the least optimistic about the future talks to be held next in Moskva. The Foreign Office's Mr. Gandy from its Eastern Department would not of course have been in the least surprised by this latest development, and nor perhaps should we...With that being said, at this stage there are no substantive alternatives to talking and negotiating with the Persians. However maddening, if not worse they can be at times. To resort prematurely to a policy of force, would be to my mind be a serious erratum. Force may perhaps at a later stage, say in 2013 or later be necessary as a last step, but to employ force prematurely, when hard sanctions have just been imposed seems to be merely a recapitulation of Furst von Bismark's dictum that the logic of preventative war, is the same logic which requires one to jump out of one's window, for fear of catching the plague. Nothing in the one-hundred plus years since that greatest of all statesman made this statement, has lessened its logic one bit to my mind. The example of the Iraqi debacle being of course the best illustration, if one was needed of the perils of preventative war.