The 2011 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, Washington DC - March 29, 2011
Eight years of negotiations between Iran and the P5+ Germany on the nuclear issue have failed and will likely continue to do so, as long as the existing negotiating strategy and the hostilities between Iran and the US persist.
The nuclear problem with Iran is a subsidiary issue of Iran-West relations, specifically Iran-US relations.
In pre-revolution era, the United States had such close ties with Iran that the US laid the foundation for Iran’s nuclear program and supported a complete domestic nuclear fuel cycle. This sparked a race for Western countries to compete for lucrative projects worth billions of dollars to nuclearize Iran.
I am convinced that, if the Shah were alive today, Iran would have a nuclear arsenal on a par with those of Pakistan, India and Israel and the US and the West would have continued its close ties with Tehran.
After the revolution, despite Western support for Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran and his use of chemical weapons against Iranian civilians, Iran remained committed to NPT, decided to shrink the ambitious nuclear projects of Shah, and joined the Chemical Weapons Convention, Biological Weapons Conventions and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to demonstrate its opposition to weapons of mass destruction.
Nevertheless, the West withdrew from all nuclear agreements and contracts with Iran and sanctioned and isolated Iran. This was mainly due to hostilities between Washington and Tehran, triggered by the American diplomats being taken hostage in Tehran in 1979.
The IAEA referred Iran’s file to the UNSC in 2006 and the P5+1 countries have imposed the most comprehensive sanctions against Iran while Iran has remained a member of the NPT. After around 3000 man-day inspections over eight years, the IAEA continues to confirm that they have found no evidence of any diversion by Iran of declared nuclear materials to military purposes.
Meanwhile, countries such as India, Pakistan and Israel are rewarded with strategic relations with the US and the West, even though they are not members of Non Proliferation Treaty and possess nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan have had sanctions removed and cooperation in the nuclear sector has even resumed with India.
Regrettably, the level of unilateral and multilateral sanctions imposed against Iran, are equivalent to those which would be called for were Iran, like North Korea, to have acquired and tested the nuclear bomb.
Nevertheless, sanctions, dual track policy, covert actions, sabotage and even a military strike will not compel Iran to change its nuclear policy or to comply with the demands of the IAEA and the UNSC.
A comprehensive package for simultaneous negotiations on both Iran-US bilateral relations and the nuclear issue is essential to end the present deadlock on the nuclear issue.
The Iran-US package should be negotiated directly between Tehran and the US while Iran’s nuclear issue could be negotiated in the framework of the P5+1 talks.
To make the Obama Administration’s engagement policy successful, the language of threats, angry rhetoric, hostile actions, sanctions, and other forms of pressure should be put on hold for the duration of the negotiations. It also would be conducive to the success of the talks if areas of common interest were prioritized.
A Comprehensive Package on Nuclear Deadlock
Negotiable agreements are needed to resolve the existing nuclear deadlock. Any viable solution needs to satisfy and exceed the bottom line of both sides.
For Iran, this means:
* Its right under the NPT to enjoy peaceful nuclear technology including enrichment.
I should reiterate that regardless of who rules Iran, this condition will remain the same. This has been the bottom line for Iran before and after revolution.
For the P5+1 countries the bottom line is:
* Non diversion to military purposes.
A-The P5+1 countries should assure Iran that, in the event of an agreement, it will:
1. Remove Iran’s nuclear file from the agendas of the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council,
2. Recognize Iran’s right to nuclear technology, including enrichment,
3. Lifting the sanctions and,
4. As required by the NPT, cooperate with Iran in the development of peaceful nuclear technology to the same extent as they do with other non-weapon states.
B-In response and to ensure the 5+1 countries on non diversion to military purposes, Iran could take following steps:
1. Operationalize the Religious Leader’s Fatwa banning the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The Iranian Parliament could pass legislation declaring Iran a “Non-nuclear-weapon State” and strengthening legal export control mechanisms for nuclear material and technology.
2. Iran can establish a consortium with other countries on fuel-cycle activities within Iran, based on the official proposal made by Ahmadinejad during his September 2005 speech at the United Nations General Assembly meeting. This would enhance the transparency of Iran’s nuclear program and thereby reduce regional and international concerns.
3. With the Parliament’s approval, Iran could resume provisional implementation of the Additional Protocol and the Subsidiary Arrangements to its Safeguards Agreement.
4. Iran could commit to cooperate with the IAEA on the removal of all remaining ambiguities about its past nuclear-related activities.
5. During a period of confidence-building, Iran could limit its enrichment activities to its actual fuel needs.
6. During a period of confidence building, Iran could commit not to enrich uranium above 5% as long as the international community provides fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor. In an interview with Aljazeera on February 2010, Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said: “If the P5+1 countries supply the fuel for TRR, we stop the 20% enrichment”.
7. Iran could promise to export all enriched uranium not used for domestic fuel production. Recently, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, the Director of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said that Iran is determined to lay the foundations for the export of nuclear products to other countries.
8. Iran could make its centrifuge production fully transparentat every site so that the IAEA would be able to verify the number of centrifuges Iran has produced in the past and will produce in the future and verify their locations.
9. During a period of confidence building, Iran could promise not to reprocess spent fuel from power or research reactors.
C-The UNSC, in cooperation with regional powers, should proactively pursue a Weapon of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East.
Iran was the first country in the Middle East that proposed a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East in a UN General Assembly resolution.
There has been zero progress on the establishments of a WMDFZ for four decades because Israel has repeatedly obstructed it, apparently wishing to maintain its monopoly nuclear weapons in the region.
Israel’s nuclear policy and its refusal to join the NPT have established national security threat for others in the region, leading some countries to pursue a nuclear capability, which would fuel an arms race in the region.
Recent developments in the Middle East suggest that the world powers will not be able to prevent some Muslim countries in the Middle East from acquiring nuclear capability in the next decade.
That is why there is an urgent need for serious initiative to establish a WMDFZ in the Middle East, which could potentially facilitate a regional security arrangement, increasing the prospects of finding a just peace to the Arab-Israeli conflict and prevent a race for nuclear capability in the Middle East.
About Iran Review: Iran Review (www.iranreview.org) is the leading independent, non-governmental and non-partisan website - organization representing scientific and professional approaches towards Iran's political, economic, social, religious, and cultural affairs, its foreign policy, and regional and international issues within the framework of analysis and articles.
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