Interview: U.S. Ambassador To IAEA Discusses Iran's Nuclear Program
RFE/RL's Radio Farda spoke with U.S.
Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Gregory Schulte on
Radio Farda: You and
many other officials in the Bush administration say that you support Iran's
right to peaceful nuclear energy, but then you say you don't want Iran to have
technology for enriching uranium. To many Iranians, these are the same thing.
How would you explain the differences?
Gregory Schulte: Well, the
United States does support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy, but the
right comes with an obligation, and that's an obligation to cooperate with the
IAEA. And when Iran signed the [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] NPT, it
promised that cooperation, but unfortunately the leadership has broken that
promise. As you know, they've hidden the nuclear program for 18 years, they
repeatedly lied about the extent of the program, and they refuse to provide full
cooperation with the IAEA.
So Iran needs to abide by its obligations,
but we don't object to the peaceful use of nuclear technology. In fact we don't
object to the efforts that have been undertaken by the EU and Russia -- we've
supported these efforts to give Iran access to nuclear technology. What concerns
the world -- not just the United States, but many other countries -- is Iran's
pursuit of enrichment and reprocessing technologies; technologies that it
doesn't need to the civil use of nuclear power today, but technologies that have
given the world such concern because we're concerned the intention is a military
Radio Farda: Right, but Iran says it needs these technologies
to produce its own nuclear fuel. There is a concern that if Iran gives up its
ability to produce its nuclear fuel inside the country, then Iran would be
dependent on foreign sources. There is a concern that great powers, such as the
United States, could use this politically, perhaps to undermine Iran's
independence. What is your response?
Schulte: Well, Iran's
development of enrichment and reprocessing technologies does not make any sense
economically. First, Iran, as you know, doesn't have a nuclear power reactor.
For the one that's under construction at Bushehr, the government of Iran has a
contract with the Russian Federation to provide it fuel for the next 10
Secondly, having the capability to enrich uranium doesn't make
Iran independent from foreign energy sources. In fact, Iran has only enough
uranium -- by its own admission -- in Iran to fuel a small program of nuclear
power for a few years.
And then finally, economically it makes no sense.
Iran could save tens of millions of dollars a year by buying nuclear fuel
instead of making it. A good example here is South Korea. South Korea has 20
nuclear power plants, and it doesn't enrich its own fuel. It saves money, and it
has reliable source of supply in the international market, which is very
diversified. South Korea, a very advanced country technologically, has made the
right choice. The right choice for the Iranian people is not to sink all this
money into enrichment and reprocessing technologies, but to pursue nuclear power
without there technologies.
Radio Farda: The Bush administration
has repeatedly mentioned the problem of human rights and democracy in Iran. If
Iran's leaders embraced freedom, human rights, and democracy, do you think the
nuclear issue would be less of a problem?
Schulte: I think that if
Iran had leaders who embraced democracy, who embraced human rights, who thought
of the interests of the Iranian people, I think that leadership wouldn't be
interested in nuclear weapons. I think that leadership would be interested in
cooperation with the rest of the world, opening to the rest of the world, and
abiding by international commitments. I think that would be a very different
type of leadership.
Unfortunately, the leadership that we have in Tehran
today -- or a least elements of that leadership -- are very focused not on just
procuring nuclear weapons despite international concern, but also on staying in
power, suppressing the rights of the Iranian people. I think the leadership
needs to make a choice here; the international community has offered them a
And the choices they need to make are choices that are in the
interest of the Iranian people, which means pursuing nuclear power without the
capabilities that so concern the international community. It means pursuing
nuclear power, but in complete cooperation with the IAEA, answering all of its
questions, and it means treating the Iranian people with the dignity that they
Radio Farda: Speaking of cooperation with the IAEA,
doesn't the U.S. nuclear initiative with India represent a double standard?
Given the fact that India is not an NPT member and Iran is, why is it OK for
India to have nuclear weapons, while Iran should not even have enrichment
Schulte: You can't compare India and Iran. India
is a democracy. India is a country where the leadership respects the rights of
its people. India is a country with a responsible foreign policy that doesn't
threaten to wipe other countries off the face of the earth. India is a country
whose leadership has abided by its international commitments and, under this
agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, has agreed to accept additional
And in stark contrast, the leadership in
Tehran is the world's largest supporter of terrorism. It has failed to abide by
its international commitments. You can't compare the two. There's not a double
standard, there's a single standard, and the single standard that the
international community has is compliance with international obligations.
The government of India has complied with its international obligations,
and it has accepted more; the government in Tehran, unfortunately, has violated
its international commitments and is perhaps the greatest threat to the
nonproliferation regime today.
Radio Farda: Ambassador Schulte,
some experts tell us that if the U.S. really wanted to end Iran's nuclear
program, they could by giving Iran a security guarantee. Why is the U.S. willing
to give a security guarantee to North Korea, but not to
Schulte: Well, I don't think we can compare Iran and North
Korea. They're very different situations, and we've adopted very different
strategies -- the international community has -- towards each.
frankly, I don't think the people of Iran want to become like the people of
North Korea, who have been completely cut off from the outside world by their
leadership. The people of Iran have a great history. The people of Iran have
great educations. They have a great future if only the leadership would unleash
them and give them the freedom to pursue that future.
Now, in terms of
security guarantees, the European Union, in its offers to the leadership in
Tehran, offered not only cooperation on peaceful nuclear technology, offered not
only new economic ties and access to the World Trade Organization, but they also
offered discussions on security issues, precisely those issues that the Iranian
leadership may wish to address.
And instead of accepting that offer of
security discussions, an offer that was backed by the United States and the rest
of the international community, the leadership in Tehran turned it down. If the
leadership in Tehran were really worried about the security of the Iranian
people, about their prosperity and future, rather than confronting the world,
they would work to cooperate and negotiate with the world.
Farda: There is some concern about the possibility of a U.S. military attack
on Iran. Human rights activists inside Iran tell us that military action against
Iran could rally Iranians behind the highly unpopular Ahmadinejad government. Is
the U.S. considering military action against Iran?
President [George W. Bush] has not ruled out any option. Having said that, we
strongly support a diplomatic solution, and that is precisely what we're working
with the rest of the world to achieve.
For diplomacy to succeed, the
Iranian leadership needs to make this decision that I talked about before. They
have to decide what is the best path for the Iranian people. Are they going to
walk down a path of confrontation and noncooperation that will leave the Iranian
people increasingly isolated and subject to sanctions, or are they going to
choose a different path, the path that has been opened by the European Union,
Russia, and others, a path that will allow constructive engagement with the rest
of the international community.
So we want a diplomatic solution, but
the choice lies with the leadership in Tehran. They need to think about what's
best for the Iranian people. They need to make the right choices, and we hope
they make those right choices. It's not just the U.S. that hopes for that, it's
many other countries in the world, from Russia and China to Egypt and Sri Lanka,
that have all called Iran to cooperate with the IAEA and to give up these
capabilities that give the world such concern.
Copyright (c) 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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