There are two possibilities. Either Secretary Rice is remarkably misinformed about – among other things – the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in verifying that the nuclear programs of parties to the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons are strictly for peaceful purposes; or, she is well informed and is deliberately trying to mislead you on that and other issues.

For example, France’s new foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, was in Washington to "review" with Condi the state of the "Paris negotiations" between the European Union and Iran.

According to Condi, the "purpose" of those Paris negotiations "is to make certain that Iran does not have the technology or technological know-how that could be turned from civilian use to the making of a nuclear weapon."

Say What?

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

    1. provide “objective guarantees” to the EU that Iran’s nuclear program was exclusively for peaceful purposes,
    2. guarantee future EU-Iranian nuclear, technological and economic “cooperation” as well as
    3. provide “firm commitments” by the EU to Iran “on security issues.”

Now, the key to preventing nuke proliferation is the international control of the acquisition and chemical/physical transformation of certain “special fissionable materials." In particular, no matter what else an entity may do, if it hasn’t obtained a hundred pounds or so of almost-pure Uranium-233, Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239, then it absolutely can’t produce nuclear weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been charged with establishing and administering a Safeguards regime to ensure that special fissionable materials and associated equipment, facilities, and information are not used "in such a way as to further any military purpose."

As a result of Iran signing and voluntarily adhering to in advance of ratification an Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement, the IAEA has been conducting for several years highly intrusive, go-anywhere see-anything inspections. Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei recently reported to the IAEA Board of Governors that he can find no indication that Iran now has, ever had, or intends to have a nuclear weapons program.

So the requirement for "objective guarantees" has been satisfied.

How about guaranteeing future EU-Iranian nuclear, technological and economic “cooperation”?

That can only be accomplished if Congress repeals a number of laws, and Bush repeals several presidential directives, that have had as their principal objective the prevention of nuclear, technological and economic cooperation between Iran and the EU, Russia, China, et al.

Perhaps for that reason, the EU-Iranian negotiations have been on the agenda of several meetings of Russian president Putin, French president Chirac and German chancellor Schroeder.

Here is what Putin had to say after their meeting last year.

"We were categorically against widening the club of nuclear nations, including the addition of Iran. I want to stress this: we are categorically opposed to this. We hold talks with our Iranian partners, and we will try to achieve certain guarantees from their side, such as agreements, and we believe that this problem can and must be examined by the international community at this stage in the framework of the MAGATE [IAEA Safeguards regime]. We will work with our partners on this issue, transparently, actively and persistently.

"At the same time, our position is that these problems should not lead to an additional unjustified competitive fight for the according markets. The market of nuclear technology used for peaceful means is severely limited. Iran is one of these markets. We need to reach agreements according to which we act by common rules. But all of us, I repeat, are unanimous that we must do everything to prevent the widening of the club of nuclear nations, including the addition of Iran."

So, Putin believes that Iran’s subjecting all its nuclear programs – including the nuclear power plant at Bushehr the Russians are completing, despite a decade of fierce opposition by the United States – to the full scope IAEA Safeguards regime does provide the necessary "objective guarantees" that Iran’s nuclear programs are and will remain entirely peaceful.

But Putin also realizes that the EU can’t guarantee future EU-Iranian nuclear, technological and economic “cooperation” so long as the United States enforces Congressional Acts and Presidential Directives that prohibit it.

Of course Putin can – and probably will – guarantee future Russian-Iranian nuclear, technological and economic cooperation.

And Putin probably can provide "firm commitments" to Iran on "security issues."

So, thanks to Condi the EU-Iranian negotiations are destined to fail.

Putin won’t lose any sleep over that.

Read more by Gordon Prather

Author: Gordon Prather

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.