Will Enrichment Continue in Iran’s Nuclear Policy?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dr. Ebrahim Mottaqi
University of Tehran Faculty

Active ImageNegotiations between 5+1 and secretary of the Supreme National Security Council were held in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 5-6, 2010. They were, in fact, continuation of previous negotiations which started in 2009 between 5+1 and the Iranian negotiating team. A one-year interregnum in security negotiations may entail security risks for both parties. Despite the delay, however, new round of talks provided a good ground for exchange of views on the most important security issues about Iran. Although Iran’s uranium enrichment activities are more of technical and industrial nature, the costs suffered by Iran in return for those activities are not simply proportionate to ordinary differences between countries’ international policies.

1. Different approaches to Geneva talks

Many analysts wonder what the final result of negotiations between the Iranian team and 5+1 will be. Two different approaches exist in parallel. The first approach is a pessimistic one according to which some analysts maintain that Geneva talks have led to no decisive conclusion on security matters. They believe that the Iranian team has focused on marginal issues and has not been willing to talk about the main points of difference. Another group, however, is of the opinion that any kind of diplomatic negotiation can provide necessary grounds for achievement of more balanced results in the long run.

2. Difficulties of nuclear diplomacy under conditions of political rivalry

Under such conditions, negotiations on Iran’s nuclear diplomacy cannot be expected to reach conclusive results over a short period of time. There are diverse political and social groups in Iran each with their own analytical and perceptive mind frame about negotiations as well as the subject, process, venue and results of negotiations. There are groups expecting maximum and minimum results both opening fire on the negotiating team from different angles. In general, when every social and political group considers themselves a reference in security issues, it is natural for them to consider negotiations as “political risk.”

Indices of Iran’s political and security ambience have greatly changed compared to October 2009 when the Iranian negotiating team accepted 5+1 package of incentives. On the whole, Iran’s political atmosphere has become more radical in the last year and presidential polls in June 2009 have increased pessimism toward the west in the political structure of Iran.

On the other hand, the approach taken by the Iranian fundamentalist groups in October 2009 is much different from their approach in December 2010. Some Iranian groups have embarked on criticizing security and economic policies of the government which do not belong to a single political front. Fundamentalist groups opposing the government are presenting different approaches to Iran’s nuclear diplomacy. Therefore, we must not expect nuclear negotiators to take the viewpoints of all fundamentalist groups onboard. There are, naturally, other approaches in the Iranian society. Many specialized magazines and newspapers have analyzed the results of the latest round of negotiations and this has imposed psychological limits on the negotiating team.

3. Different approaches among 5+1 members

The same is true about 5+1. France is among main critics of Washington’s nuclear policies. The French officials took the United States’ nuclear policy to task before Geneva talks. They believed that negotiations should not end in allowing Iran to continue enrichment even under supervision of International Atomic Energy Agency and other international supervisory bodies.

The French diplomats were outspoken in their criticism of the approach taken by Robert J. Einhorn, the US State Department's Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control. They argued that Einhorn, special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control, has tried to find a solution to the nuclear crisis based on accepting Iran’s right to uranium enrichment. The French diplomats also criticized the US nuclear policy as they believed that Iran was now in possession of three tons of 5-percent enriched uranium which could be a prelude to production of a nuclear weapon. The approach taken by the Americans is different because they maintain that confidence-building should precede export of Iran’s enriched uranium.

Therefore, the result of negotiations is determined by a process in which countries like France are determined to reduce Iran’s technical and instrumental capabilities in nuclear technology while the United States aims to take the enriched uranium out of Iran. Both options are detrimental to Iran’s security interests. Losing 5-percent enriched uranium would mean acceptance of enrichment costs as per the Security Council resolutions 1696, 1737, 1747, 1809, 1835, and 1929, with no apparent strategic benefit to Iran.

4. Possible advantages and risks of nuclear talks

Recognizing Iran’s right to enrich uranium will be desirable when political, economic and strategic costs for Iran as a result of continued enrichment are proportionate to the results. The model used by France and the United States to treat Iran and also nuclear policy adopted by 5+1 toward Iran is reminiscent of the “big game” between Russia and UK over Iran in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although Moscow and London differed on some points, strategic interests made them impose political and security restrictions on Iran. Now, the political environment has changed, but big powers are following the same model of diplomatic and strategic treatment of Iran. Therefore, it is quite natural for Iran’s nuclear negotiations with 5+1 to take more time before reaching a conclusive result.

Active Image5. Strategies for Iran’s nuclear diplomacy in Istanbul talks (January 2011)

There is ample evidence to show that the approach taken by the Iranian nuclear team is based on a win-win game. This model was first followed by the former chief Iranian negotiator, Ali Larijani, in his negotiations with Javier Solana. Although both Solana and Larijani were seasoned diplomats, lack of adequate executive leverage prevented them from reaching a solution to Iran’s differences with Europe, the US, Russia and China over the nuclear issue. Since that time, political and security pressures on Iran have increased. Iran’s influence at regional and international levels has been decreasing and this has intensified Iran’s pessimism toward the western countries.

At present, Iran and 5+1 should look forward to January 2011 negotiations in Istanbul. Turkish officials taking part in Tehran meeting could convince the Iranian nuclear authorities to accept nuclear fuel swap deal. Although the United States offered draft resolution 1929 to the Security Council just two days after declaration of “Tehran Agreement,” they are still trying to pursue their nuclear goals on the basis of a strategy of combined pressure and diplomacy. Under such circumstances, Iran’s nuclear activities are closely linked to the Security Council resolutions.

Negotiations in January 2011 should determine the fate of such resolutions. Any agreement on the nuclear fuel without lifting limitations imposed on Iran by six Security Council resolutions would not serve the national interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Under present circumstances, lifting restrictions imposed by those resolutions is of utmost strategic importance to Iran. Solving the nuclear issue will be only possible when, firstly, the Security Council resolutions are no more enforced and, secondly, Iran case is excluded from the Security Council agenda under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which entails security threats.

Otherwise, any agreement with transregional powers will only lead to more unjust limitations on Iran’s strategic capacities. A nuclear agreement could be only constructive and positive if the west changes its current approach, which is based on force and limitation, for balanced interaction. Otherwise, idealistic addresses will not lead to desirable strategic outcomes for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s national security. Waiving the aforesaid resolutions should be the main item on Iran’s agenda for January 2011 negotiations. Nuclear fuel swap will be impossible when strategic limitations are still in force against Iran.

Source: International Peace Studies Centre (IPSC)
Translated By: Iran Review

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