Basic Condition for the Success of Moscow Talks?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mehdi Mohammadi
Expert on Nuclear Issues

What will happen in Moscow? Can Moscow be a turning point in the history of negotiations on Iran's nuclear case? It can be a turning point, provided that an important question is answered first.

It is a default assumption in analytical literature on Iran's nuclear program that the Islamic Republic’s nuclear issue has turned into a major international concern only because the West is worried about the true nature of Tehran’s nuclear program, especially fearing that Iran may be secretly building nuclear weapons.

One thing is obvious: the West is concerned that Iran is building nuclear weapons. Therefore, it aims to prevent this through negotiations or, if not possible, through any other possible means.

If one wanted to explore the main cause of differences on Iran's nuclear program and the main reason behind futility of about 10 years of negotiations on this issue, this could be a good starting point. The most important point is that Tehran rejects the above concern to begin with!

From the viewpoint of decision-makers in Tehran, all the hype about possible production of nuclear weapons by Iran is only meant for propaganda purposes, which is pursued by the West quite intentionally to achieve a totally different goal; a goal that is pursued diligently, but is never talked about in the open.

A set of evidence and arguments exist to prove that the West basically does not prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. In better words, it is not at all concerned about production of nuclear weapons by Iran to try in any way to prevent it. This set of evidence, arguments, and information also prove with complete precision that the main and final goal of the West is, in fact, regime change in Iran and the nuclear case is only a pretext for pursuing that goal. Even if, for any reason, this pretext ceases to exist some day or loses efficiency, a new pretext will certainly take its place.

Let’s see what set of evidence, information and arguments have caused Tehran to reach this conclusion.

Firstly, a vast body of details has been collected by European, American and even Israeli intelligence agencies which show that Iran has not taken any step to build nuclear weapons, and has not even made any decision in this regard too. For this reason, the most important question that those intelligence agencies raise – and of course are unable to answer – is when and under what conditions Iran will make the decision to change the course of its peaceful nuclear energy program toward a weapons program?

The most important of those assessments is the report known as the US National Intelligence Estimate 2011 which has clearly introduced and recognized a concept known as “threshold situation” as the goal of Iran's nuclear program. The “threshold situation” means a point at which Iran's nuclear energy program would have surmounted all technical, structural, and scientific barriers and to pursue a weapons program needs nothing more than the final decision of the country’s high-ranking officials. The US National Intelligence Estimate, which was presented to the US Congress by head of the National Intelligence James Clapper last January, emphasized that the US Intelligence Community believed that the final goal of Iran's nuclear program is to reach the threshold situation and the country has no potential plan to build nuclear weapons.

More importantly, as David Sanger and William Broad wrote in a New York Times article a few days before Istanbul 2 negotiations, American officials believe that there is a great difference between two concepts of getting to the threshold and crossing it (which means starting to assemble a nuclear explosive device) and there is no indication to prove that Iran has decided to cross the threshold. An unnamed American authority who had been interviewed by Sanger and Broad, clearly stated that crossing the threshold and assembling a nuclear weapon needs clear steps to be taken none of which has been taken by Iran.

Basically, talking about the threshold situation – which is a totally legal state whose existence does not contravene any international regulation or obligation – shows that the United States is sure that it cannot prove the existence of a potential nuclear weapons program in Iran – because it knows that such a program does not exist in the first place. Therefore, Washington is trying to focus international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program on a more objective concept, which is the threshold situation, without allowing any rational discussion on whether a threshold situation – which is most importantly characterized by production and stockpile of nuclear materials – is actually legal or illegal under the NPT.

Interestingly enough, even Israelis are no more alleging that Iran is currently building nuclear weapons. The corrected literature that Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak introduced first, which has turned into standard literature of Tel Aviv on Iran’s nuclear program, is that they should prevent Iran’s nuclear program from entering “zone of immunity.” Even Barak is not claiming anymore that Iran is building nuclear weapons right now. What he means by the “zone of immunity” is that if Iran’s enrichment facilities are transferred to Fordow nuclear site, then the country’s nuclear energy program will be in a position that if at any time in the future, Iran reached the threshold or even crossed it, there would be no way to stop that program. Therefore, it is very important to note that even Israelis are now only talking about a future possibility, not about a program which is underway right now.

So, let’s make a conclusion: All intelligence assessments carried out by the Western countries on Iran’s nuclear energy program, the details of which have been published so far, are unanimous that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. Therefore, the most radical conclusion that they reach is that Iran has left the option of nuclear weapons open without providing any clear assessment on this option like when and under what conditions it may be used in the future. Now let’s have a look at international sanctions. International sanctions which have been imposed on Iran since 2007 under the pretext of stopping the country’s nuclear energy program have not had the least effect on that program. Although the Security Council resolutions, 1737, 1747, and 1803, which have been enforced between 2007 and 2008, apparently focus on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, in fact, they have done nothing more than officially putting a set of limitations on the way of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, which were already in place.

The most powerful sanctions against Iran have been apparently imposed since 2010 within framework of the Security Council Resolution 1929, though actual sanctions were actually enforced outside the framework of that resolution. Although all those sanctions were imposed under the pretext of Iran’s nuclear energy program, a brief review of their contents will easily prove that the sanctions have not targeted Iran’s nuclear energy program, but everyday life of ordinary people of Iran.

The new sanctions which the United States and the European Union are going to enforce against Iran in June and July can be summarized as follows:

- Firstly, they aim to cause a drastic fall in Iran’s revenues and make the Iranian government unable to meet ordinary needs of its people;

- Secondly, the sanctions have been designed in such a way as to have the greatest effect on Iran’s microeconomic indices and make the Iranian people feel the impact of sanctions in their everyday lives;

- Thirdly, the schedule of sanctions had been drawn up in such a way as to form a single package in combination with political events which took place inside Iran. For example, Resolution 1929 was exactly adopted following Iran’s political unrest in 2009 because the Americans had apparently reached the conclusion that imposing sanctions at that juncture will be effective in pitching people against the government and rekindling the unrest which had been partially muffled; and

- Fourthly, the West has focused all its efforts on convincing the Iranian people that the only way to get rid of the current pressures is to reach a compromise with the West and overthrow the government from the inside.

Therefore, it is quite clear that Iran’s nuclear program is not the main goal of sanctions. Iran’s nuclear energy program is just a minor focus of those sanctions as their effect on the nuclear program has been meager. In return, they have targeted everyday life of ordinary Iranians in order to bring them to direct confrontation with the government.

There have been many discussions about the extent to which sanctions that have been enforced so far or will be enforced in the future, have been able to achieve their major goals. However, regardless of their efficiency, their contents, schedule and future plans leave no doubt that their main goal is not to stop Iran’s nuclear energy program or prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons, but to foment unrest in the country.

It is also interesting that the Americans say nothing about future outlook of possible removal of sanctions. As if, sanctions per se are the goal, not a means of achieving a different goal. Israelis have been quite outspoken in this regard. Israel’s behavior is such that its concern about possible removal of sanctions is much more than its concern about production of nuclear weapons by Iran. The West’s behavior in Iran’s sanctions project has proven to Tehran that regardless of what Iran does to come clean, the answer will be nothing but further pressures from the West.

There is another sign which proves that regime change in Iran is the ultimate goal of the United States. So far, Americans have effectively rejected and balked at very serious initiatives which could have greatly paved the way for international supervision over Iran’s nuclear program to dispel their alleged fears. Instead, they have chosen the path of mounting pressure on the Islamic Republic.

The most prominent example in this regard is Tehran Declaration in which Iran accepted to transfer to outside the country a large part of its low enriched nuclear material in return for needed fuel for Tehran Research Reactor which has no non-peaceful applications.

Although the idea had been originally proposed by the United States and its details had been hammered out in private sessions by presidents of the United States and Brazil, Obama Administration behaved very strangely just after Iran indicated its readiness to accept the proposal. After announcing Tehran Declaration unacceptable, the United States pushed the Security Council to adopt Resolution 1929.

That development was so unexpected that even Turkey and Brazil, which actually represented the United States in Tehran meeting, were angered and as a result, both countries voted negative for Resolution 1929.

Brazilians rapidly published the text of Barack Obama’s letter to the then Brazilian President Lula da Silva which proved that what Obama had asked of those two countries was not much different from the contents of Tehran Declaration.

The main question at that time was why US behaved in this way? Why it destroyed a certain chance for triumph of diplomacy? Is that true that the Americans were not honest in their offer from the beginning or had they offered the proposal in the hope that Iran would reject it and pave the way for further pressure? Regardless of the answer, US behavior showed that Washington is not ready to accept a win-win solution and will be greatly upset as soon as the outlook for a possible solution becomes more probable.

The US treatment of Tehran Declaration and the nuclear swap has left Tehran with not a speck of doubt that Washington does not intend to solve the problem, but looks at Iran’s nuclear program as a means of mounting pressures on Tehran.

More importantly, the experience of Tehran Statement showed that Americans are not only unwilling for this case to be resolved, but are also very concerned about a possible solution being found. If needed, therefore, they will lose no opportunity to obliterate any outlook for a possible solution.

These three instances, which were discussed here – that is, intelligence estimates which say Iran is not building nuclear weapons; sanctions which have targeted everyday lives of Iranian people; and elimination of any solution which may lead to a win-win game – are just a small part of a long list of US misdeeds which have shaped Tehran’s final assessment of West’s approach toward its nuclear energy program. According to that assessment, the main goal behind the United States efforts to create a whole decade of crisis around Iran's nuclear program is not Washington’s concern about Iran building nuclear weapons. On the opposite, Americans are trying to use Iran's nuclear energy program as a pretext to go on with their large-scale plan for regime change in Iran.

To make a long story short, review of a whole decade of Iran's nuclear case and the way that case has been treated by the United States and the West will convey no message other than the Western countries are, in fact, pursuing five major goals instead of making sure about the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear energy program. Those goals include: 1. Taking concessions from Iran; 2. Depriving Iran of all power and immunizing tools; 3. Discrediting the Iranian government in the eyes of the Iranian nation and the international community; 4. Finding an excuse to mount pressure on the Iranian nation; and 5. Proceeding with regime change project inside the country.

Making sure by Tehran that the main goal of the West is regime change with the nuclear case being just an excuse will have a number of important consequences.

Firstly, under these conditions, Iran will look at the West’s intensions with the highest degree of suspicion, which will make finding a bilaterally satisfactory solution very difficult.

Secondly, any new demand or initiative will be considered by Tehran as a new conspiracy which cannot help the case in any way because no solution is actually supposed to end the nuclear row.

Thirdly, this situation will prevent a minimum level of confidence from being built between the two sides and they will not be able to take even a single step ahead because the main presumption for confidence building is for both parties to realize that the other party’s concerns are real, not just a cover-up for a bigger conspiracy.

If the P5+1 is really willing to build confidence with Iran and pave the way for movement toward a final negotiated solution, they should take serious and assuring steps in Moscow whose main goal will be to verify the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, not providing grounds for a regime change from within. As long as such assurance has not been given, it would be in vain to expect Iran to take any more serious measures.

To do this and gain Iran's trust, the P5+1, especially the United States, will have a long way to go. Evidence is so detailed, arguments are so powerful, and information about their real intentions is so documented that there is almost no way to avoid of the conclusion that Iran's nuclear case is nothing but an excuse with the main goal being something else.

Moscow talks can be a turning point in history of negotiations about Iran's nuclear program if and only if the United States takes practical and tangible measures to prove that its real goal is to make sure about exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear energy program and does not pursue regime change under the cover of such claims.

Official recognition of Iran's right to uranium enrichment and taking measures for lifting illegal sanctions can be a starting point in this direction which will be necessarily the beginning of a long and complicated path.

Key Words: Moscow Talks, Basic Condition, Iran's Right to U-Enrichment, Illegal Sanctions, Regime Change, P5+, Mohammadi

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