Geneva Deal Must Be Implemented Soon

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Iran Review Exclusive interview with Olli Heinonen
By: Kourosh Ziabari

After Iran reached an interim agreement with the six world powers on November 24, 2013 over its nuclear activities and accepted to put certain limitations on portions of its nuclear program in return for relief from some of the economic sanctions it has been undergoing for almost a decade, the whole world began to embrace the deal with euphoria and enthusiasm.

Even the most pessimistic opponents of a possible Iran-U.S. rapprochement and those who believed that Iran cannot sign a deal with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany commented on the interim accord positively and affirmatively.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the interim accord the “beginnings of a historic agreement” and several world leaders hailed it as a breakthrough deal that has brought to an end more than one decade of standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency was one of those experts who welcomed the agreement, despite his previous skepticism on Iran’s nuclear activities. The Finnish nuclear scientist studied radiochemistry at the University of Helsinki and obtained his Ph.D. in 1981.

Heinonen was a Deputy Director-General for Safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency under Mohamed El-Baradei. Currently, he is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Heinonen believes that the Geneva deal should be implemented as soon as possible, and the fact that it has not been put into effect so far is disturbing.

Iran Review conducted an exclusive interview with Dr. Heinonen and asked him some questions about the nuclear deal and the future prospects for Iran-West talks. What follows is the text of the interview.

Q: What’s your assessment of the Geneva interim accord on Iran’s nuclear program? Of course you admit that Iran has made very serious concessions and showed its goodwill. Now, it deserves to get important and remarkable sanctions relief. Even the pessimistic observers have hailed the deal as a step forward. What’s your viewpoint on that?

A: I see it as a step forward, but we should get it implemented soon. It is detrimental to this promising process seeing it now dragging to second month without starting the actual implementation. We need to remember, that the main hurdles are still ahead of us, and the real issues such as the addressing the military dimension of the program and agreement of the size of the future enrichment activities and the heavy water program are waiting for the discussion.

Q: The issue of uranium enrichment has turned into a national demand for Iranians and a matter of proud even for the ordinary citizens. The administration cannot ignore this national demand and end the uranium enrichment program altogether. However, the new administration has announced that it’s committed to finding a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff. What can be done, in your view, so that both sides of the dispute, Iran and the world powers, get a satisfactory and face-saving exit from the dead-end and reach a comprehensive agreement?

A: In my view, the best way to proceed is to create a forum where the technical and scientific aspects of the nuclear program can be discussed in a more open way. Such a forum, perhaps mainly technical and scientific persons attending, can identify the energy needs and areas of nuclear cooperation in a pragmatic way by addressing the medium and long term needs of Iran, and by taking into consideration true needs on all areas of nuclear energy, economics, and energy security. Such a technical forum will pave way with its proposals for a durable political solution, which can then be sealed in a higher level such as in the Iran and the Sextet process.

Q: There are some neo-conservative pundits and think-tanks, like the UANI (United Against Nuclear Iran) that have used the nuclear dispute as a pretext for furthering an agenda of regime change in Iran. They have persistently called for military action against Iran and toppling the Iranian government. Won’t they hinder and disrupt the path of diplomacy and negotiation with their illogical pressures?

A: In my view, we should now concentrate on solving the nuclear dispute, and let forums to handle those claims.

Q: Let’s touch upon the non-signatories to the NPT. Israel is not a signatory to the treaty, and thus it pursues a nuclear weapons program. However, we have the UN Security Council resolution 487 that called on Israel in 1981 to bring its nuclear facilities under the IAEA safeguards. Israel hasn’t abided by the resolution. Isn’t this incompliance with the UNSC resolution illegal? Why isn’t there any pressure on Israel to declare its nuclear activities and facilities?

A: Anyone who joins the UN accepts at the same time the rules of the organization including the resolutions of the UN Security Council. With regard to the NPT, I see some progress in the establishment of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East. This process will also create a nuclear weapons free Middle East, whose idea was originally proposed by Iran.

Q: What's your viewpoint regarding the statement in the Non-Proliferation Treaty which says that “the benefits of peaceful applications of nuclear technology, including any technological by-products which may be derived by nuclear-weapon States from the development of nuclear explosive devices, should be available for peaceful purposes to all Parties to the Treaty, whether nuclear-weapon or non-nuclear-weapon States” and the fact that being a signatory to the NPT gives the intrinsic right to the state parties to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes? What do you think about those experts who don’t agree with this segment of NPT? Who do you side with in this regard?

A: The NPT states have the right for peaceful uses of nuclear energy including taking the advantage of uranium enrichment. However, the rights come with obligations. One of them is putting all nuclear material and activities under the IAEA safeguards. A common sense says that one can enjoy its rights as long as one meets fully the obligations stipulated by the safeguards agreement, and when the activities of the state are within the spirit of the NPT.

In particular I would like to draw your attention to setting of a technical forum to identify the needs and areas of cooperation in nuclear field, which would cover not only energy production, but medical and technical radioisotope production, R&D, training etc. If you want, I can elaborate further on that noting that I mentioned it to Messrs. Zarif and Araghchi when we met in New York in September.

Key Words: Geneva Deal, Pessimistic Opponents, Iran-U.S. Rapprochement, Iran’s Nuclear Program, Comprehensive Agreement, NPT, Heinonen

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