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Negotiations for Some Seasons

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hassan Beheshtipour

Herman M.G. Nackaerts, the deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), arrived in Tehran on Wednesday January 16, 2013, for intense negotiations with the Iranian officials in order to reach a plan for the resolution of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear issue. This was the seventh round of talks between the two sides which was held to find an overarching solution to the existing differences between Iran and the IAEA. Before leaving the Vienna Airport for Iran, Nackaerts told reporters that the Agency would aim during Wednesday negotiations to finalize a structural agreement with Iran in order to resume its investigations of Iran's nuclear activities.(1)

During the sixth round of talks between Iran and the IAEA, which were held in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on December 13, 2012, the two sides expressed satisfaction over the result of talks, noting that they had reached an agreement on general concerns and were supposed to go over minor details in the next round of negotiations.

Last December, a foreign diplomat based in the Austrian capital, Vienna, talked to reporters about major differences between Iran and the IAEA enumerating them as follows:

1. The IAEA demands access to certain Iranian sites, especially the military site in Parchin;

2. The Agency wants to interview certain Iranian officials and go over some documents which are related to the background of Iran's alleged activities for producing a nuclear explosive devices; activities which some sources believe to be still underway.(2)

The Agency also published its Iran Safeguards report in November 2011, noting that available evidence shows that the following activities have been going on in Iran in 2003 and may be still ongoing:

1. Research on producing a device for setting off remotely controlled explosives;

2. Tests on nuclear materials in order to simulate nuclear explosions;

3. Building models and conducting engineering studies on manufacturing a warhead to be delivered by a ballistic missile;

4. “The green salt project” aimed at clandestine enrichment of uranium which has dual applications.

The Agency says it cannot provide Iran with documents which prove the above claims. However, a Vienna-based diplomat, who refused to be named, talked to reporters noting that the Agency has used the following sources to obtain information on the basis of which Iran has been accused of the aforesaid activities:

1. The allegations of a foreign expert (apparently a national of the former Soviet Union who claims to have been working for Iran for some time);

2. Satellite photos of some Iranian facilities;

3. Written material obtained from Iranian sources as well as information given by Iranian authorities;

4. Information obtained through the Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and the network he had set up for smuggling nuclear materials;

5. One thousand pages of documents, which are collectively known as “alleged studies” and which according to some reports have been acquired by CIA after studying the contents of the so-called “laptop of death” in 2004. The Agency says the information has been given to it by certain intelligence agencies, though some analysts have doubted its authenticity.

Iran has frequently questioned the authenticity of the alleged studies and has emphasized that those documents have been either faked by the enemies of Iran or have nothing to do with Iran nuclear issue, and thus, with the IAEA. Iran is also angry why the Agency will not show those documents to Iran. Iranian officials have regularly argued that to refute those documents and defend themselves against accusations, they should be provided with the original or, at least, the copy of those documents. The Agency, however, has claimed that countries which have provided it with those documents, do not allow their original or copy be given to Iran, and thus, cannot give a positive answer to Iran's logical demand.

Six rounds of talks have already failed to cut this Gordian knot and now, the two sides have made themselves ready to agree on a major agenda in Tehran in order to pave the way for bilateral confidence-building.

In my opinion, that agenda would be helpful and enjoy executive guarantee if it takes into account the following points:

1. The questions about the abovementioned five alleged activities by Iran should be answered through a step by step process in which every question would be answered before a new one is posed;

2. As soon as a concern is resolved, it should be announced a closed case in order to shut the door to possible future allegations over it. Otherwise, the West can incessantly continue to harass Iran on imaginary grounds;

3. Iran's negotiations with the IAEA are of legal and technical aspects and there should be no hurry about reaching an overarching agreement. It would just suffice for the two sides to try and reduce the negative impact of political and security issues on negotiations as this will speed up talks on the right track.

4. News and reports published by the Western media about Iran being able to make the nuclear bomb by 2014, act like smoke bombs which blur the general atmosphere of negotiations and add to mutual distrust. Therefore, both sides should avoid taking any position which would exacerbate that situation.

5. It is of essential importance to obtain necessary guarantees from the Agency to prevent foreign secret services from getting access to Parchin military site. As the case of Iraq has already proven, it is quite possible that some Agency insiders may relay Iran's military information, which has nothing to do with the nuclear case, to the enemies of the Islamic Republic.

Conclusion

To agree on an overarching solution with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran should be able to solve the existing problems it is facing in negotiations with the P5+1 group – including the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China, plus Germany – because the IAEA is under tremendous pressures from the United States and its allies. Therefore, Iran's negotiations with the IAEA only reach an overarching conclusion when Tehran reaches a final agreement with the member states of the P5+1.

The main problem which should not be forgotten here is that prolongation of negotiations under the existing circumstances will be against the national interests of Iran because the West is waiting to see that the pressure of international sanctions on Iran will finally bear fruit. To stop this from happening, Iran should come up with new initiatives. Such initiatives can be both related to nuclear diplomacy, and the media diplomacy whose impact is by no means less than the nuclear diplomacy.

*A researcher, documentary producer, and expert on nuclear issues, Hassan Beheshtipour was born on June 22, 1961 in Tehran. He received his BA in Trade Economics from Tehran University. His research topics span from US and Russian foreign policy to the Ukrainian Orange Revolution.

Notes:

(1) Reuters 15/1/2013
(2) France Press 12/12/2012

Key Words: IAEA, Nackaerts, Parchin, Nuclear Talks, Iran, Safeguards Report, Alleged Studies, P5+1, Beheshtipour

More By Hassan Beheshtipour:

*Breaking the Deadlock over Iran’s Nuclear Talks: A Practical Model: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Breaking-the-Deadlock-over-Iran-s-Nuclear-Talks-A-Practical-Model.htm

*NAM Summit and Iran’s Presidency: Achievements and Opportunities: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/NAM-Summit-and-Iran-s-Presidency-Achievements-and-Opportunities.htm

*Baqeri - Schmid Negotiations in Istanbul: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Baqeri-Schmid-Negotiations-in-Istanbul-2.htm

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