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December 17, 2005

Those Crazy Mullahs


by Gordon Prather

According to the highly influential "experts" at the Heritage Foundation – who have apparently never bothered to read the Iranian Note Verbale [.pdf] to the International Atomic Energy Agency of Aug. 1, 2005 – "Iran remains a dangerous revolutionary power determined to acquire nuclear weapons. No policy short of war is guaranteed to halt the Iranian nuclear program."

In order to avoid another Bush-Cheney preemptive war, Iran must agree to:

  • Terminate permanently its pursuit of a full nuclear fuel cycle.
  • Terminate permanently all programs to enrich uranium and produce uranium hexafluoride and its precursors.
  • Terminate permanently all programs to extract plutonium.
  • Terminate permanently its pursuit of a heavy-water nuclear reactor.
  • Allow an intrusive inspections regime (utilizing real-time monitoring equipment) at the Bushehr reactor and associated spent-fuel storage pond and at any other site that the U.S. and the EU-3 deem suspicious.

If the Heritage experts had read that Note Verbale, they would know that Iran had already offered (on March 23, 2005) a package of "objective guarantees" (developed by an international panel of experts) that met most of Heritage's demands.

In October 2003, Iran had entered into negotiations with the Europeans with the explicit expectation of obtaining "transparent cooperative access" to European nuclear technology.

As a "confidence-building measure," Iran voluntarily signed and voluntarily began to adhere to an additional protocol to its IAEA Safeguards Agreement, pending its ratification by the Iranian parliament.

Iran also extended its voluntary suspension of all uranium-enrichment-related activities taken a year previously to include uranium-conversion activities. Since all those activities were already subject to Iran's Safeguards Agreement [.pdf], Iran invited the IAEA to monitor the suspensions.

In the Note Verbale, Iran explained why it had been seeking "objective guarantees" from the Europeans.

"Since the early 1980s, Iran's peaceful nuclear program and its inalienable right to nuclear technology have been the subject of the most extensive and intensive campaign of denial, obstruction, intervention, and misinformation.

  • Valid and binding contracts to build nuclear power plants were unilaterally abrogated;
  • Nuclear material rightfully purchased and owned by Iran were illegally withheld;
  • Exercise of Iran's shareholder's right in several national and multinational nuclear power corporations were obstructed;
  • Unjustified and coercive interventions were routinely made in order to undermine, impede, and delay the implementation of Iran's nuclear agreements with third parties; and
  • Unfounded accusations against Iran's exclusively peaceful nuclear program were systematically publicized."

In their offer, Iran offered to voluntarily forego a complete fuel cycle – to which the Europeans had already agreed Iran had an "inalienable right" – if the Europeans would get the United States to reverse the campaign of denial, obstruction, intervention, and misinformation.

In particular, the Iranians offered to forego reprocessing of spent fuel and extraction of plutonium. To limit uranium-enrichment to the levels and quantities needed to meet "contingency" requirements of Iran's power reactors. To immediately convert all enriched-uranium into fuel rods to "preclude even the technical possibility of further enrichment."

This Iranian offer of March 23 – which met most of the Heritage Foundation's present demands – has yet to even be acknowledged by the Europeans. And since being made public on Aug. 1, its substance has not yet been reported by the likes of Reuters, the Associated Press, and United Press International.

But at the beginning of the Iran-EU negotiations and in every public pronouncement since, the Iranians have made it clear that they will develop a uranium-enrichment capability, all the while remaining subject to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and complying with their original IAEA Safeguards Agreement.

Faced with this defiance, the Heritage experts conclude that Iran "now apparently believes that it is in a much stronger negotiating position due to the continued need for U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, greater bargaining leverage with oil importers because of higher oil prices, and its diplomatic cultivation of China and Russia, which can dilute or veto resolutions brought before the Security Council."

Whether the mullahs believe that or not, it's true.

Just this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met with his Pakistani counterpart, Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, in Islamabad "to bolster defense, trade, and cultural ties," focusing on the Iran-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline, which the U.S. vigorously opposes. Russia's Gazprom, the world's largest producer of natural gas, has told the Indians that it is ready "to share the construction risks" of the pipeline.

Incidentally, Kasuri made it clear that nuke-armed Pakistan would oppose the use of force to destroy Iran's safeguarded uranium-enrichment program.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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