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The New P5+1 Package of Incentives to Iran: Neither New nor Improved

By Muhammad Sahimi and Nader Bagherzadeh


The latest proposal by the P5+1 group that calls on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program in return for a package of incentives is not nearly enough to entice Iran to suspend the program. The proposal is long on vague promises, and needless "reaffirmation" of the rights that Iran already enjoys, but falls far short in providing the specifics of the incentives that are supposedly being offered. In the absence of such specifics, it is difficult to see how the negotiations can lead to any positive results. Precisely the same ambiguity was also present in the August 2006 proposal to Iran by the European Union, which was rejected promptly by Iran.


If Iran were to suspend the enrichment program before the beginning of the negotiations, then paramount to the proposal must be a clear indication as to when the suspension will end. But, there is no such indication in the proposal.


Recall that Iran did suspend its enrichment program between October 2003 and February 2006, but the negotiations did not make any significant progress, mainly because the EU seemed not to be interested in concluding the negotiations, rather only in dragging the suspension out indefinitely.


Let us consider the P5+1 proposal in detail and discuss its shortcomings and strengths.



Possible Areas of Cooperation with Iran


The P5+1 group makes two main declarations. China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union High Representative state their readiness:


To recognize Iran's right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in conformity with its NPT [Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty];


To treat Iran's nuclear programme in the same manner as that of any Non-nuclear Weapon State Party to the NPT once international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme is restored.


Regarding the first statement, Iran has neither asked for such a reaffirmation, nor does it need one. As a signatory of the NPT Iran is already entitled to such rights. Indeed, it would be a gross violation of the NPT by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the P5+1 group to deny Iran such rights.


Moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency has never declared Iran in violation of the NPT, and has certified time and again that there is no evidence for a secret weaponization program. In fact, after undergoing the most intrusive inspection of any NPT member in the entire history of the Agency, in its February 2008 report the IAEA declared that Iran's six breaches of its Safeguards Agreement have been resolved to the Agency's satisfaction.


The second statement, although positive, is vague because it does not specify the conditions under which the international confidence in Iran's programme will be restored.



Nuclear Energy


The P5+1 group declares


Support for construction of LWR [light water reactor] based on state-of-the-art technology


Once again, although positive, the statement is vague. There are no specifics or mechanisms as to how the support will be materialized. Moreover, given that the U.S. tried for a long time to persuade Russia not to live up to its legal obligations regarding the completion of the LWR in Bushehr, which neither has anything to do with nuclear fuel technology, nor its use for a military purpose, how should Iran believe such a generic statement?


The P5+1 group then declares


Support for R & D in nuclear energy as international confidence is gradually restored.


The promise is conditional, because it is subjected to restoration of international confidence in peaceful nature of Iran's program. However, no mention is made of the conditions under which the confidence can be declared as restored. To the contrary, past experience indicates that the demands of the P5+1 group on Iran never end and, thus, the confidence may never be restored.


Next, the P5+1 group promises development of


Provision of legally binding nuclear fuel supply guarantees


What is the legal mechanism? Is it through the United Nations Security Council, or the IAEA? On what basis should Iran have any confidence in this promise? Recall that several members of the P5+1 group have a long track record of renegading on their promises to Iran.


In the mid 1970s Iran paid for 10% stake in the Eurodiff consortium for uranium enrichment. To date, Iran has neither received any nuclear fuel, nor its investment. Germany has refused to return to Iran all the equipments that Iran had paid for the two Bushehr reactors that it was supposed to build. The U.S. has frozen Iran's assets for nearly 30 years, and has violated its 1981 Algiers agreement with Iran and its promise that it will not interfere in Iran's internal affairs. Russia has repeatedly violated its bilateral agreements with Iran, particularly regarding the use of the Caspian Sea's resources, and the on time completion of the Bushehr reactor.





The three most important statements of these sections are as follows. The P5+1 group reaffirms


that a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue would contribute to the non-proliferation efforts and to realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including their means of delivery.


The first part regarding non-proliferation is obvious. As for the second part, Iran has long supported declaring the Middle East a nuclear-free region. Therefore, the best the P5+1 group can and must do is persuading Israel to sign the NPT and its Safeguards Agreement, and open its nuclear facilities to the international inspections.


However, the statement also makes a reference to "their means of delivery," presumably Iran's ballistic missiles program. There is not a single word in the NPT, or Iran's Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, regarding such missiles. Thus, the legal basis for including the issue is nonexistent.


The P5+1 group also reaffirms


the obligation under the UN Charter to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against territorial integrity or political independence of any state or in any other manner inconsistent  with the Charter of the United Nations.


The stated obligation, already enshrined in the UN Charter, is not sufficient. What is missing is explicit security guarantees against illegal military attacks by the U.S. against Iran, so long as Iran does not pose any threats to the security of the P5+1 group, or their allies.


Finally, the P5+1 group promises


Cooperation on Afghanistan, including on intensified cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking, support for programme on the return of Afghan refugees to Afghanistan; cooperation on reconstruction of Afghanistan; cooperation on guarding the Iran-Afghan border.


The P5+1 group has never acknowledged the sacrifices that Iran has made in hosting millions of Afghan refugees; fighting the drug trafficking (including the loss of over 3000 police and soldiers); helping the Coalition forces to overthrow the Taliban; helping the National Unity Government of Hamid Karzai to come to power, and the heavy aid and investment that it has made in rebuilding Afghanistan's shattered infrastructure. All Iran is getting in return is some promises for the future.



Energy Partnership


The P5+1 group promises


Steps towards the normalization of cooperation with Iran in the area of energy; establishment of a long-term and wide-ranging strategic energy partnership between Iran and the European Union and other willing  partners, with concrete and practical applications /measures.


Here are some "concrete and practical applications/measures" that the P5+1 group could have mentioned, but did not: it could have promised to help Iran to develop its huge but untapped natural gas reserves; to export its natural gas to Central and Western Europe through the construction of a natural gas pipeline, and to become the main conduit for shipping Central Asia's oil and gas to the international markets. The U.S. could have promised to stop its opposition to a natural gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan and India.



Civil Aviations


The P5+1 group promises cooperation for


enabling Iran to renew its civil aviation fleet;


assisting Iran to ensure that Iranian aircrafts meet international safety standards.


These are, of course, positive, but vague and conditional. There are hints at the "possible removal of restrictions" on manufacturers exporting aircraft to Iran, but the conditions for the removal are not spelled out. On the other hand, the U.S. has violated its international aviation safety obligations towards Iran by refusing to sell the spare parts for the fleet of the civilian aircrafts that it has already sold to Iran.



Economics, Social and Human Development/Humanitarian Issues


Here is the most absurd statement by the P5+1 group. It makes promises for


Supporting Iranians to take courses, placements or degrees in areas such as civil engineering, agriculture and environmental studies.


Judging by the quality of its university graduates; the degree of success that its students have had in the international Olympiads, and the great achievements that its scientists have had in the international arena, it is truly amazing that all that the P5+1 group can offer Iran is helping its citizens to take courses in civil engineering, agriculture, and environment. How about promising to train some Iranian youth by the NBA?! At the same time, there is no mention of help in electronics, computer science, and nuclear physics and engineering. Iran already has a long and distinguished track record of excellence in engineering education, and does not need courses!





The new package of incentives by the P5+1 group to Iran is neither new nor improved. It is simply a rehashing of the old August 2006 proposal made by the EU that Iran rejected.


So long as the P5+1 group demands Iran to give up its physical facts on the ground - its uranium enrichment facility and mastery of the technology - in return for some vague promises, no negotiations, no matter how long, will produce any useful results.


About the authors:

  • Muhammad Sahimi is the NIOC Chair in petroleum engineering and professor of chemical engineering and materials science at the University of Southern California.

  • Nader Bagherzadeh is professor of electrical engineering and computer science at University of California in Irvine.

... Payvand News - 06/25/08 ... --

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