Last November, France, Germany, and the United
Kingdom as agents for the European Union began negotiations with
Iran on "a mutually acceptable long-term arrangement" that would (a)
provide "objective guarantees" to the EU that Iran's nuclear program
was exclusively for "peaceful purposes," (b) guarantee future EU-Iranian
nuclear, technological, and economic "cooperation," as well as (c)
provide "firm commitments" by the EU to Iran "on security issues."
The Bush-Cheney administration has badly mischaracterized these negotiations
as an attempt by the EU to get the Iranians "to live up to their international
The EU is more likely attempting to head off the Iranians from concluding a
mutually acceptable long-term arrangement with Russia and/or China.
Now, the key to preventing nuke proliferation is the international control
of the acquisition and chemical/physical transformation of certain nuclear materials.
In return for a promise not to acquire or seek to acquire nuclear weapons, the
Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) recognizes the "inalienable
right" of all signatories to acquire and transform those materials, subject
to oversight by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards regime.
The EU-Iran negotiating agreement also specifically recognizes that right.
When the IAEA's inspectors detect possible or actual noncompliance with a Safeguards
Agreement or with the NPT itself the director general reports
that to the Board. The Board can then decide by a two-thirds majority
whether or not to refer the director-general's reports to the UN Security
Council for possible action.
How was Iran to "provide objective guarantees" to the EU? By signing
as Iran did more than a year ago and adhering to an Additional
Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement, vastly expanding IAEA capabilities to
provide such guarantees.
But it is obvious that meaningful EU-Iran economic cooperation will not be
possible unless the threat of economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. on EU companies
that do business with Iran is lifted.
And, of course, the EU cannot provide firm commitments that Iranian nuclear
facilities will not be attacked by the U.S. or Israel. However, the Russians
and/or Chinese could make such an attack extremely unlikely, especially if the
facilities in Iran are effectively co-owned and operated by the Russians and/or
At his news conference Wednesday, Bush was asked this softball
question by a media sycophant:
"The Iranians have dismissed the European incentive as insignificant.
Should more incentives be offered? How long do they [Iranians] have until you
take their case to the Security Council?"
While not answering the basic question, Bush made a lot of incorrect and/or
intentionally misleading statements to the effect that Iran had long kept hidden
from the IAEA a uranium-enrichment program, which he implied was a violation
of the NPT.
But Iran has not yet begun to enrich uranium. Hence, they were under no obligation
to report that program to the IAEA. Furthermore, in the event Iran was ever
discovered to actually be in violation of the NPT, it would be up to the IAEA
Board not Bush to refer the matter to the Security Council.
As best the IAEA can determine, Iran is living up to its international obligations,
including its voluntary suspension of uranium-enrichment activity, which is
serving as a "confidence-building" measure for the EU-Iran negotiations.
Since Bush didn't answer it, the reporter repeated the question "And
how do long do you wait? When do you go to the Security Council?"
To which Bush responded: "The understanding is, we go to the Security
Council if they [Iranians] reject the offer."
Apparently, it was Bush's offer to the Europeans to lift a decade-long blackball
of Iran's membership in the World Trade Organization and to waive sanctions
on European firms that provide Iran with spare parts for commercial aircraft,
in return for a promise if the negotiations fail to satisfy Bush
by the French and the British to support Bush's contention before the Security
Council that Iran's safeguarded nuclear programs constitute a "threat"
to Mideast peace.
The negotiations will almost certainly fail to satisfy Bush.
Iran has repeatedly proclaimed that any long-term EU-Iran agreement must recognize
at a minimum Iran's inalienable right to enrich uranium.
Thus, the Iranians dismissed Bush's "offer," which was explicitly
conditional on their permanently suspending all uranium-enrichment and fuel-reprocessing
Sirus Naseri, an Iranian negotiating with the EU, wondered
aloud, "Would the United States be prepared to give up its own nuclear
fuel production against a cargo of pistachios delivered in truckloads?"
Besides exporting zillions of barrels of oil, Iran also exports nuts.