Deciphering Rouhani-Zarif Remarks: Iran to Remain Firm on Nuclear Rights

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Amir Hossein Yazdanpanah
Expert on International Issues

In their recent remarks during various meetings and speeches, including in the course of the latest annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss city of Davos, the Iranian President [Hassan Rouhani] and Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad Zarif] have put emphasis on two important issues, which can serve to complement what has been said during the past few weeks about Iran's recent nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of world powers. Emphasis on Iran's decision to continue “research and development” activities related to its nuclear energy program and the fact that “Iran has no plan to dismantle its centrifuge cascades or any other part of its nuclear facilities” were two major issues on which both Rouhani and Zarif put special emphasis during their two-day trip to Davos. The following points are noteworthy in this regard.

1. The first issue to be discussed here is the reaction that Zarif has shown to a word used by the US President Barack Obama in reference to Iran's nuclear energy program about six days before the implementation of the nuclear agreement that was struck in the Swiss city of Geneva began. According to the USA Today on January 14, the US president claimed that Iran had agreed for the first time to dilute any uranium it has enriched to high levels and would also dismantle part of its nuclear facilities where such high-grade enrichment could be carried out. Of course, Abbas Araqchi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s deputy for legal and international affairs, had shown an appropriate reaction to Obama’s remarks on the same day. However, in an interview with the US-based CNN network during his trip to Switzerland last week, Zarif emphasized that “we did not agree to dismantle anything.” He also strongly criticized the White House for having used that term in reference to the nuclear agreement, telling the CNN host and the audience that if they could find even a single word in the entire text of Iran's nuclear agreement with the six world powers whose meaning would be close to “dismantling,” he would change his mind.

Of course, the Iranian foreign minister was not the only high-ranking Iranian official to react to this issue. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also took part in an interview with the same news network noting that “Iran will not dismantle even a single one of its operating centrifuges under any circumstances.” The issue of dismantling part of the industrial facilities related to the nuclear energy program of Iran has been a regular demand on the part of the Western countries, especially such radical groups as the neoconservative politicians in the United States as well as the pro-Israel lobbies. [The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has frequently reiterated that Iran should dismantle its entire nuclear program. Of course, Iran has clearly announced that it considers this issue as a red line and Iranian officials, at various levels, have emphasized time and time again that no such thing as dismantling the country’s nuclear facilities can be part of any negotiations. Despite the above facts, the Wall Street Journal published an analytical column right on January 20, the day that Iran and the P5+1 group started the implementation of the Geneva nuclear agreement. In that column, which was entitled “Iran Seen Needing Big Steps for Final Deal,” the Wall Street Journal had claimed that “Iran would have to remove 15,000 centrifuge machines and take other drastic measures to forge a comprehensive nuclear agreement with the West, according to a report by a US think tank that drew from conversations with senior US officials.”

The report was apparently echoing the viewpoints of David Albright, the president and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, who had earlier alleged that Iran should not have more than 5,000 active centrifuges. At the moment, Iran has about 19,000 centrifuges operating in its nuclear facilities. However, according to the Geneva agreement, none of them will be enriching uranium to 20-percent level anymore, though 5-percent enrichment will still go on. As a result of such analyses and the emphasis put on this issue by various American officials, it seems that dismantling centrifuges as well as certain parts of Iran's nuclear facilities will be one of the most important challenges that will be faced by the negotiating parties during the next steps of nuclear negotiations. This is, however, a point to which both the Iranian foreign minister and president have shown clear reactions. This issue has become so hot that the reaction shown by Zarif was raised in a press conference with a spokesperson of the White House and led to a conflict of words between the spokesperson and the Fox News reporter.

2. The second issue is related to Iran's nuclear “research and development” activities. Before the implementation of the Geneva nuclear agreement started, the transcript of a session between three American negotiators and a group of journalists, in which the implementation of the agreement was the main topic of discussion, was made public. In part of that long text, an American official had been quoted as saying that Iran had promised to keep up its current research and development activities on uranium enrichment at the existing level. Therefore, the American official claimed that the Iranians could not further expand their nuclear research and development activities beyond the current level to include centrifuge machines. The official added that the current level of Iran's nuclear research and development activities had been explained in the report presented to the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by the Agency’s Director General [Yukiya Amano] in November 2013. Another part of that text had further stressed that Iran's nuclear research and development activities should not exceed their current level.

It goes without saying that such a change in Iran's nuclear research and development activities is neither acceptable, nor even rational. Nuclear research and development has been one of the most important aspects of Iran's nuclear activities during the past five years, which has helped the country to reach such an advanced stage in its nuclear work that the US President Barack Obama had to admit that nobody could dismantle Iran's nuclear industry anymore. Of course, during his recent trip to Davos, President Rouhani reacted to this issue on several occasions by noting that “In pursuit of its nuclear energy program, Iran has not, and does not, seek anything but peaceful use of the nuclear energy and will accept no obstacle to be put on the way of its further scientific progress.”

The above facts show that just five months after the inauguration of the new Iranian administration, there are positive signs which show that the viewpoints related to the overall picture of Iran's nuclear energy program and foreign policy are getting more and more realistic. This issue should be taken as a good omen, especially taking into account that during the second phase of the nuclear negotiations, which is supposed to end in a final agreement, such debates and pressures will be abundant. The second phase, therefore, will be directly related to the future outlook of Iran's national security and the goals of the Islamic Revolution. Therefore, every step should be taken in that phase to resist in a firm and smart manner in the face of all onslaughts against the peaceful nuclear energy program of Iran.

Key Words: Iran, Rouhani-Zarif Remarks, Nuclear Rights, Dismantle Nuclear Facilities, Pro-Israel Lobbies, Final Deal, Research and Development,

Source: Khorasan Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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