Iran OKS talks on nu­clear pro­gram

Agrees to al­low U.N. in­spec­tors

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY ASHISH KUMAR SEN

Crip­pling eco­nomic sanc­tions and tough talk of mil­i­tary strikes on its nu­clear sites likely have prod­ded Iran to re­sume talks with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity over its se­cre­tive nu­clear pro­gram.

The five per­ma­nent mem­bers of the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil — the U.S., Bri­tain, Rus­sia, France and China — and Ger­many, which are col­lab­o­rat­ing in an ef­fort to per­suade Iran to freeze all uranium en­rich­ment, ac­cepted Tehran’s of­fer Tues­day to restart talks.

Mean­while, Iran agreed to grant U.N. in­spec­tors ac­cess to its Parchin mil­i­tary fa­cil­ity south­east of Tehran, Iran’s semiof­fi­cial ISNA news agency re­ported.

The ac­tiv­ity on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram comes amid U.S. and EU sanc­tions against the Is­lamic regime’s cen­tral bank and oil in­dus­try, and Is­rael’s

re­ported mulling of mil­i­tary strikes on Iran’s atomic sites.

The U.N. nu­clear watch­dog, the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA), sus­pects Iran has been car­ry­ing out nu­clear work at the Parchin mil­i­tary fa­cil­ity, de­spite Iran’s as­ser­tions that its nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties are only for peace­ful, civil­ian uses.

Iran pre­vented U.N. in­spec­tors from vis­it­ing Parchin ear­lier this year. On Tues­day, Tehran said it would re­quire an agree­ment with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to set the guide­lines for an in­spec­tion, the ISNA re­port said.

“Iran is clearly feel­ing the pres­sure from the sanc­tions and from the es­ca­lat­ing rhetoric com­ing from the re­gion,” said Daniel Brum­berg, an as­so­ci­ate gov­ern­ment pro­fes­sor at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity.

In­creas­ing pres­sure

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said his coun­try, which views a nu­clear-armed Iran as an ex­is­ten­tial threat, must have the right to de­fend it­self from Ira­nian ag­gres­sion.

“We have waited for di­plo­macy to work. We have waited for sanc­tions to work. We can­not af­ford to wait much longer,” Mr. Ne­tanyahu told the an­nual gath­er­ing of the Amer­i­can Is­rael Public Af­fairs Com­mit­tee in Washington late Mon­day.

At a White House news con­fer­ence Tues­day, Pres­i­dent Obama said he thinks “we have a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity where this can still be re­solved diplo­mat­i­cally.” He promised to keep ap­ply­ing pres­sure and re­it­er­at­ing that the U.S. will not al­low Iran to de­velop nu­clear weapons.

How­ever, the top U.S. com­man­der in the Mid­dle East told a Se­nate hear­ing Tues­day that Amer­ica’s mil­i­tary alone can­not pre­vent Iran from pro­duc­ing atomic weapons.

“The best we can do is to de­lay them,” Ma­rine Corps Gen. James Mat­tis, com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, tes­ti­fied be­fore the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. “Only the Ira­nian peo­ple can stop this pro­gram.”

U.S. and Euro­pean sanc­tions, a se­vere EU oil em­bargo and last week’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, which showed weak­en­ing sup­port for Iran’s pres­i­dent, have con­trib­uted to Tehran’s decision to re­sume nu­clear talks, said Ken­neth Katz­man, a spe­cial­ist in Mid­dle East­ern af­fairs at the Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice.

“The Ira­ni­ans are see­ing the same speeches we are, and I think they are be­com­ing con­vinced that Pres­i­dent Obama might, in­deed, go for­ward with some type of mil­i­tary ac­tion if they don’t start com­pro­mis­ing,” Mr. Katz­man said.

“I am not con­vinced that we are in an in­ex­orable drive to­ward a con­flict,” Mr. Katz­man added. “It could be headed off by di­plo­macy.”

Iran, which has called for Is­rael’s destruc­tion, has lost a part­ner in the re­gion: Se­nior Ha­mas leader Salah Bar­dawil said Tues­day in an in­ter­view with the Guardian, a Bri­tish news­pa­per, that his Is­lamist mil­i­tant group would not take part in an Is­raeli-ira­nian con­flict.

The news­pa­per also quoted an­other Ha­mas of­fi­cial as say­ing that the group, which con­trols the Gaza Strip, “would not get in­volved” in a war be­tween Is­rael and Iran, which has cut off fund­ing to Ha­mas over the group’s op­po­si­tion to Tehran’s sup­port for the crack­down in Syria.

Is­rael has been plan­ning to face rocket at­tacks from Gaza and from Hezbol­lah in Le­banon in a war with Iran.

Ac­cess and cau­tion

Iran’s en­rich­ment of uranium re­port­edly has ex­ceeded the lim­its for civil­ian uses, prompt­ing sus­pi­cions that Tehran’s nu­clear pro­gram is geared to­ward pro­duc­ing weapons-grade ma­te­rial.

Con­se­quently, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity had de­manded ac­cess to Iran’s Parchin mil­i­tary fa­cil­ity, which is ded­i­cated to re­search and de­vel­op­ment of am­mu­ni­tion, rock­ets and ex­plo­sives.

“If the Ira­ni­ans are knowl­edge­able and care­ful, the IAEA will find noth­ing [at Parchin],” said Robert Kel­ley, a for­mer di­rec­tor of the IAEA. “So IAEA will have to ex­plain why they made this visit a mat­ter of high­est pri­or­ity.”

Bruce Mac­don­ald, a se­nior ad­viser for non­pro­lif­er­a­tion is­sues at the U.S. In­sti­tute of Peace, said, “The ques­tion is how much ac­cess.”

He noted that Parchin’s ex­plo­sives “would be a very im­por­tant com­po­nent in de­vel­op­ing a nu­clear de­vice us­ing plu­to­nium, as op­posed to highly en­riched uranium.”

In an­nounc­ing the decision to re­sume talks with Iran, EU for­eign pol­icy chief Cather­ine Ash­ton said she hopes Iran will en­ter into a “sus­tained process of con­struc­tive di­a­logue which will de­liver real progress in re­solv­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s long-stand­ing con­cerns on its nu­clear pro­gram.”

She made the com­ments in re­sponse to a Feb. 14 let­ter from Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nu­clear ne­go­tia­tor, in which he of­fered to re­sume nu­clear talks that broke off in Jan­uary 2011.

The time and venue for the re­sumed talks have yet to be de­cided.

Ms. Ash­ton said con­fi­dence-build­ing steps would be the main fo­cus of the ini­tial stage of the process.

“Our over­all goal re­mains a com­pre­hen­sive ne­go­ti­ated, long-term so­lu­tion which re­stores in­ter­na­tional con­fi­dence in the ex­clu­sively peace­ful na­ture of Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram, while re­spect­ing Iran’s right to the peace­ful use of nu­clear en­ergy con­sis­tent with the [nu­clear Non-pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty],” she wrote to Mr. Jalili.

Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Wil­liam Hague said the “onus will be on Iran to con­vince the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that its nu­clear pro­gram is ex­clu­sively peace­ful, by tak­ing con­crete ac­tions.”

How­ever, Ali Al­foneh, a res­i­dent fel­low at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, said Iran’s of­fer to re­sume talks is a de­lay­ing tac­tic, not a gen­uine at­tempt at re­solv­ing the nu­clear cri­sis.

“Tehran be­lieves that, as long as the ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tinue, the United States would not launch mil­i­tary strikes against nu­clear in­stal­la­tions in Iran,” Mr. Al­foneh said.

“Iran also be­lieves the ne­go­ti­a­tion line would make the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion try more en­er­get­i­cally to dis­suade Is­rael from launch­ing at­tacks against Iran.”

Talks be­tween Iran and the Euro­pean Union have been con­ducted for sev­eral years with­out pro­duc­ing re­sults.

Mr. Brum­berg said the ab­sence of a clear road map is to blame.

“The lead­ers of [the U.S. and Iran] have been un­clear what they want from the other,” he said.

“The para­dox of a ne­go­ti­at­ing process is that it suc­ceeds when, in fact at the start, you have a pretty good sense of where you want to go,” he added.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.