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P5+1 Stacks the Deck Against Iran

September 27, 2012 ·

Iran's nuclear concessions roll off the P5+1 like water from a duck's back.

Iran's nuclear concessions roll off the P5+1 like water from a duck's back.

At Sic Semper Tyrannis (Pat Lang's blog), Dr. Christopher Bolan of the U.S. Army War College wrote about "the relative ease with which the US and Iran could now easily drift toward war with dire consequences for both sides." He cited five reasons:

Fear and honor, "rational" or not, can motivate as much as interest [can].

Iranians and Americans remain largely ignorant of each other's history and culture.

Economic sanctioning can be tantamount to an act of war.

The presumption of moral or spiritual superiority can fatally discount the consequences of an enemy's material superiority.

"Inevitable" war easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

This last point correlates with my theory that sometimes the simple need to relieve the mounting tension of looming war leads to war. As with a temptation that gnaws at you, in the end you give in less to what's tempting you than to just rid yourself of the relentless feeling of being tempted.

Greasing the skids to war can also occur if one party appears to be conducting negotiations in good faith, when, in fact, it's sabotaging them. At IPS News, Gareth Porter explains in a piece titled Iranian Diplomat Says Iran Offered Deal to Halt 20-Percent Enrichment.

Iran has again offered to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, which the United States has identified as its highest priority in the nuclear talks, in return for easing sanctions against Iran, according to Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who has conducted Iran’s negotiations with the IAEA in Tehran and Vienna, revealed in an interview with IPS that Iran had made the offer at the meeting between EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul Sep. 19.

Soltanieh also revealed in the interview that IAEA officials had agreed last month to an Iranian demand that it be provided documents on the alleged Iranian activities related to nuclear weapons which Iran is being asked to explain, but that the concession had then been withdrawn.

“We are prepared to suspend enrichment to 20 percent, provided we find a reciprocal step compatible with it,” Soltanieh said, adding, “We said this in Istanbul.”

Soltanieh is the first Iranian official to go on record as saying Iran has proposed a deal that would end its 20-percent enrichment entirely, although it had been reported previously.

 “If we do that,” Soltanieh said, “there shouldn’t be sanctions.”

Makes sense, right? Not, apparently, to the P5+1 nations (U.S., Russia, China, France, U.K. plus Germany), nor even the IAEA.

Even if Iran agreed to those far-reaching concessions the P5+1 nations [U.S., Russia, China, France, U.K. plus Germany] offered no relief from sanctions.

The uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, near the city of Qom, is a sticking point (emphasis added).

“It’s impossible if they expect us to close Fordow,” Soltanieh said.

The U.S. justification for the demand for the closure of Fordow has been that it has been used for enriching uranium to the 20-percent level, which makes it much easier for Iran to continue enrichment to weapons grade levels.

But Soltanieh pointed to the conversion of half the stockpile to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which was documented in the Aug. 30 IAEA report.

That conversion to powder for fuel plates makes the uranium unavailable for reconversion to a form that could be enriched to weapons grade level.

Soltanieh suggested that the Iranian demonstration of the technical capability for such conversion, which apparently took the United States and other P5+1 governments by surprise, has rendered irrelevant the P5+1 demand to ship the entire stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium out of the country.

Also …

Soltanieh revealed that two senior IAEA officials had accepted a key Iranian demand in the most recent negotiating session last month on a “structured agreement” on Iranian cooperation on allegations of “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear programme – only to withdraw the concession at the end of the meeting.

Why?

The issue was Iran’s insistence on being given all the documents on which the IAEA bases the allegations of Iranian research related to nuclear weapons which Iran is expected to explain to the IAEA’s satisfaction.

The Feb. 20 negotiating text shows that the IAEA sought to evade any requirement for sharing any such documents by qualifying the commitment with the phrase “where appropriate”.

… Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recalls in his 2011 memoirs that he had “constantly pressed the source of the information” on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research – meaning the United States – “to allow us to share copies with Iran”. He writes that he asked how he could “accuse a person without revealing the accusations against him?”

In answer to ElBaradei's question: only if you wanted to stack the deck against that party. Another unresolved issue, according to Soltanieh is "whether the IAEA investigation will be open-ended or not."

The Feb. 20 negotiating text showed that Iran demanded a discrete list of topics to which the IAEA inquiry would be limited and a requirement that each topic would be considered “concluded” once Iran had answered the questions and delivered the information requested.

But the IAEA insisted on being able to “return” to topics that had been “discussed earlier”, according to the February negotiating text.

Furthermore …

“The objection we have is that the DG [IAEA Director General Yukio Amano] isn’t protecting confidential information,” said Soltanieh. “When they have information on how many centrifuges are working and how many are not working (in IAEA reports), this is a very serious concern.”

Iran has complained for years about information gathered by IAEA inspectors, including data on personnel in the Iranian nuclear programme, being made available to U.S., Israeli and European intelligence agencies.

In other words, it seems as if there's no way that Iran can win unless it entirely abrogates its self-respect and lets the P5+1 walk all over it.