A New Pretext

Monday, April 21, 2008

Parviz Esmaeili 

Olli Heinonen, the deputy director general and head of the Department of Safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency, is in Tehran for nuclear talks with Iran.

Heinonen has been working at the IAEA since 1983 and has traveled to most of the member countries. He has made several trips to Iran as head of the Department of Safeguards, sometimes staying in the country for about two weeks. So Heinonen’s trip to Iran is a routine, technical, and non-political visit. On the other hand, the “remaining ambiguities” mentioned in the February 2006 IAEA report have been cleared up through the Iran-IAEA action plan. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradaei’s reports and statements and the fact that no resolution was issued against Iran at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting in March attest to the fact that Iran’s nuclear dossier has been normalized.

It should be noted that, in line with the Iran-IAEA modality plan, the agency gave Iran all of the existing documents about the “alleged studies” and subsequently the country made official responses to the allegations. So Heinonen’s journey to Iran is a normal visit only undertaken in the framework of Iran-IAEA cooperation. Most probably the focus of his talks will be on the Natanz nuclear facility and the regulation of IAEA supervision of Iran’s new centrifuge activities.

But why are certain media outlets raising a commotion over this normal technical visit and trying to politicize it in order to confuse the issue?

After the weak Resolution 1803 was issued by the UN Security Council, the failure of the first round of talks of the 5+1 group in Shanghai was viewed as a failure for the hawk bloc of the 5+1 group, led by the U.S., Britain, and France, and a success for the doves of the group, i.e., Russia and China. In such an atmosphere, the hawks are using the issue of Iran’s new centrifuges to divert attention from their failure in Shanghai and to prepare the ground for another round of talks.

After Russia and China resisted the U.S. pressure at the Security Council over Iran’s nuclear program, the White House began to indirectly pressure Moscow and Beijing.

The acceleration of the pace of plans for the establishment of a U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe and the geostrategic interventions in Central Asia and the Caucasus and neighboring regions --including the attempts to facilitate NATO accession for countries like Ukraine -- are some of the ways the United States is pressuring Moscow. To pressure Beijing, the United States focuses on issues like Taiwan and Tibet, human rights, and the false news stories claiming China provided the IAEA secret information about Iran’s nuclear program -- an allegation that Beijing vehemently denied.

In addition, after the Western countries failed to prove their military, political, and technical allegations about Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities, they started raising doubts about the safety of Iran’s nuclear program. Although the IAEA has repeatedly declared that the level of safety requirements observed at Iran’s nuclear facilities is above IAEA standards, certain media outlets and the European Union have started to disseminate false information about the safety of Iran’s nuclear activities. Yet, Russia has also verified the safety of Iran’s nuclear activities.

The White House’s strategy to weaken the will of Iranians to pursue their nuclear rights has passed through four stages:

(1) They claimed that because Iran enjoys vast reserves of fossil fuels, it does not need to utilize nuclear energy. However, the United States’ proposal, given to Iran in the mid 1970s, which emphasized the need for Iran to produce some “20,000 megawatts of nuclear energy” through several nuclear power plants, and the global need to diversify energy sources and observe environmental treaties give the lie to this claim.

(2) They claimed that pursuing nuclear rights is not the national will of the Iranian people but the intention of a certain political faction. The unanimity of Iranian citizens and political figures and parties was a fitting response to these false claims.

(3) They alleged that Iran’s technical capabilities are low and that uranium enriched by Iran is not pure enough. Yet, the IAEA reports have proven that Iran’s nuclear technology is of a high quality.

(4) They claimed the Islamic Republic of Iran’s insistence on national rights shows that Iran has a warmongering political system which is secretly conducting a military nuclear program. This has been disproved by the IAEA’s emphasis on the fact that all of Iran’s nuclear activities are being properly inspected, the agency’s statements that it has not found any evidence that Iran’s nuclear program has diverted toward military goals, and the innovative efforts to gain the confidence of the world, such as the Action Plan.

Now all these four approaches have failed. So it seems that the focus of the new allegations will be on questioning the safety of Iranian nuclear facilities. This is an implicit acknowledgment of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. In other words, now the alleged concerns are not about whether Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful or not, rather the safety of Iranian nuclear facilities has become the focus.

This indicates that the international strategies of the 5+1 group hawks have become weak and are turning into regional strategies.


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