West Must Avoid Giving Useless Concessions to Iran in Kazakhstan

Friday, February 22, 2013

Interview with Mohammad Farhad Koleini
Former Iranian Ambassador to Armenia & Senior Expert on Strategic Issues

The new round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers – including the US, Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany – will be held less than 10 days from now in the Kazakh city, Almaty. Before the negotiations begin, the Western news agencies have quoted officials of the Western countries as saying that the most important demand of the P5+1 from Iran is to close down its nuclear facility at Fordow in return for lifting of certain sanctions against Iran. It seems that such remarks will do nothing to end the current standoff between the two sides over Iran's nuclear energy program. In the meantime, reference should be made to the propaganda hype launched by the Western political circles and think tanks as well as the recent biased remarks of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about Iran's nuclear program. Taking part in a controversial interview, Ban noted that Iran uses the opportunity provided to it by negotiations with the West in order to develop nuclear weapons. This issue proves that a plan has been put in gear by the West in order to undermine the forthcoming meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in Almaty before it begins. In an interview with Tehran Emrouz newspaper, Mohammad Farhad Koleini, an expert on strategic issues, has noted that if the P5+1 take part in Almaty talks with repetitive proposals, the negotiations should be considered doomed as of now. The detailed text of the interview follows.

Q: What are the most important points of difference between Iran and the P5+1 in nuclear negotiation? The [West’s demand for the] shutdown of Fordow nuclear site is currently an issue. At this site, Iran is enriching uranium to 20 percent level and Tehran has frequently announced that it is ready to discuss possible reduction of enrichment level. So, what is the main differential point between the two parties?

A: If the demand for closing down of Fordow nuclear site is offered by the P5+1 again within framework of their new package of proposals to Iran, it would be non-legal and against the rights of the member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and would be, therefore, difficult to understand under the present circumstances. This measure would be a counterproductive proposal which would actually aim to prevent resolution of basic problems related to Iran's nuclear energy program. The West cannot put forth such a demand in an official manner because the two negotiating parties have already emphasized on the role of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the basis of any agreement, and have also clearly underlined the right of all member states of the IAEA to enrich uranium in accordance with the Agency’s regulations. However, their difference over the level and quality of uranium enrichment by Iran, which is now a potential exporter of enriched nuclear materials, is quite a different issue and the two parties can discuss it through a constructive approach.

Q: However, the West has repeatedly urged Iran to reduce the level of enrichment and is trying to make the world believe that this issue is the most important difference between Iran and the West.

A: The P5+1 have never officially announced this and it has not been their official stance too. This issue has been mostly fostered by the Western media and those officials who are currently outside the main political circle as well as think tanks that are busy making ideas using such concepts. Meanwhile, the apparent behavior of the Western negotiators that are members of the P5+1 group is telltale of the profound division among them. Unilateral or bilateral positions or decisions which have been taken by some Western members of the group to increase pressure on Iran, have been opposed by other members of the  P5+1 group and this has barred them from taking a unified approach to Iran. In negotiations with Iran, the West basically makes decisions and implements those decisions on the basis of presumptions and predefined views. As a result, when it comes to imposing sanctions against Iran, two distinct phases can be clearly discerned. Part of those sanctions have been imposed according to the United Nations Security Council resolutions while another part consists of sanctions which have been denounced and opposed by Iran, Russia, China and even some European countries that are against further escalation of the situation.

Q: What is your opinion about positions taken on this issue by [the UN Secretary-General] Ban Ki-moon and [the United States Secretary of State] John Kerry? Has the comparison made between the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea been intentional and does it mean that the West is not willing for the negotiations to reach a conclusive result?

A: Mr. Ban Ki-moon as the secretary-general of the United Nations should observe the principle of impartiality, which is among his main duties, and avoid taking any position and making any judgment which may indicate he is taking sides with any party. In fact, as a Korean personality, he should be more concerned about what is going on in East Asia, including increased security influence [of the United States] and provocative military drills as well as nuclear tests in that region, and exercise more caution when passing a judgment on the issue of Iran's nuclear energy program. Mr. John Kerry, on the other hand, should muse over the norms put forth in the positions taken by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei] and consult with [the US President Barack] Obama.

Q: Negotiations between Iran and the IAEA also play a role in the overall dialogue over Iran's nuclear energy program, but representatives of the IAEA have described their talks with Iran as a failure. Will the outcome of those negotiations have any effect on the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1? Does the lack of finalization of the modality have anything to do with the nuclear negotiations?

A: Iran and the IAEA are treading a path which should end in both parties having a better understanding of the principle of responsibility. The IAEA should know that it has to gain necessary power of guarantee and responsibility with regard to many issues which should be brought up in talks [with Iran]. Iran has signed certain international instruments and is advancing its nuclear activities according to them. Therefore, in order to continue their interactions and cooperation, both Iran and the IAEA should pay attention that if those interactions are merely looked upon form the viewpoint of political issues, even the technical aspects of interactions between the two parties would be politicized. The requisite for the usefulness and utility of negotiations between Iran and the IAEA is continuation of negotiations within a technical framework in order to be totally comprehensible for the P5+1 group. The representatives of the IAEA, therefore, should consider well-defined limits and show their full commitment throughout the negotiations with Iran and try to correctly analyze the proposals which are offered to them by the Iranian side.

Q: Do you think that the reelection of Obama as the US president for a second term will have any effect to change the strategy of the P5+1 group in negotiations with Iran?

A: Obama has not been able to harmonize its political and security teams at the White House. The fact that appointment of Chuck Hagel as the new Secretary of Defense has not been finalized yet is indicative of serious disputes within the power ranks of the White House. In technical terms, the United States is considering new options. As the US and British officials have already announced, the P5+1 will probably come to negotiations in Almaty with a new package of proposals which we must wait and see what framework will determine them. I think they should not come to negotiations with outdated proposals to give useless concessions to Iran and should, rather, try to move negotiations ahead.

[The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine] Ashton has noted in this regard that her main mission is to forge a deal [with Iran]. The United States should come up with new messages as well as assessments in the light of the latest positions taken by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and it seems that new conditions and considerations will play a determining part.

Q: Can the forthcoming presidential polls in Iran provide the West with a reason to prolong the process of negotiations and wait to see the final result of the election?

A: Various ideas have been offered on this issue in the United States. John Limbert, a seasoned Iran expert at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, has announced that there may be a relationship between [Iran's presidential] election and the Islamic Republic’s nuclear issues. This argument, however, is not correct because different issues may just pop up at any given period of time.

In addition, the United States has proven that it does not follow a single mechanism and a one-dimensional plan in dealing with Iran. They resort to various means in order to achieve their goals and try to adapt their proposals, in proportion to their covert and overt goals, with conditions in Iran. This is a Western tactic and style. Toward the end of the reformist government’s term in Iran (when Javier Solana was EU’s foreign policy chief), they also played a game of proposals in order to manage the time and elections. However, they balked at those proposals at the eleventh hour and changed the conditions. This clearly proves the profound link between their overt and covert games.

I think we must stay away from such games in favor of pursuing a constructive approach and logic. As long as the West has not achieved this applied understanding, unfortunately, such experiences will be repeated.

Key Words: Iran, Kazakhstan, P5+1 Group, Ban Ki-Moon, Enrichment Level, Fordow, IAEA, NPT, Koleini

Source: Tehran Emrooz Daily
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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