More Condi Diplomacy?

The French, Brits, and Germans (the E3, allegedly acting on behalf of the European Union) have just made a confidential take-it-or-you’ll-be-sorry offer to Iran to “come back to the negotiating table.”

To what table and to negotiate what?

Well, with the Tehran Agreed Statement of 2003, Iran had hoped to get the EU to ignore or surmount the barriers erected by the United States in the late 1950s to European economic and technological cooperation with Iran.

For its part, the E3/EU ostensibly wanted to get “objective guarantees” about the peacefulness of Iran’s nuclear program. But realistically, it’s more likely the EU wanted to keep Iranian oil and natural gas flowing to Europe, rather than to China.

Of course, Iran’s nuclear program was already subject to an International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards Agreement, entered into as a condition of Iran’s being a non-nuke signatory to the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Nevertheless, in order to “promote confidence”– Iran offered to sign an Additional Protocol to their Safeguards Agreement and to immediately begin cooperation with the IAEA “in advance of its ratification.”

Furthermore, while the Tehran Agreed Statement reaffirmed Iran’s “right under the nuclear nonproliferation regime to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” Iran voluntarily suspended for the duration of the negotiations “all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities as defined by the IAEA.”

A magnanimous offer by the Iranians.

And what did Iran get in return?

Not much. The E3/EU governments did formally “recognize the right of Iran to enjoy peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with the NPT.”

Now, that’s big of them, since the NPT makes that Iran’s “inalienable right.”

Anyway, a year later, the E3/EU and Iran notified all IAEA members that they had agreed – the Paris Accord [.pdf] – to negotiate a formal agreement that would “provide objective guarantees [to E3/EU] that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. It will equally provide firm guarantees [to Iran] on nuclear, technological, and economic cooperation and firm commitments [to Iran] on security issues.”

Three months after that, Iran submitted – as required by the Paris Accord – an initial package [.pdf] of “objective guarantees” that included a voluntary “confinement” of Iran’s nuclear program.

In particular, the Iranians offered to forgo indefinitely the chemical processing of spent fuel to recover unspent uranium and plutonium.

The Iranians also offered to limit their uranium-enrichment activities to those necessary for meeting contingency requirements of Iran’s power reactors.

The Iranians even offered to go beyond the requirements of the Additional Protocol to allow the “on-site presence of IAEA inspectors at the conversion and enrichment facilities.”

Did the E3/EU accept this magnanimous offer?

No, they didn’t even acknowledge it.

Did the E3/EU submit – as required by the Paris Accord – an initial package of “guarantees on nuclear, technological, and economic cooperation” as well as “firm commitments” that a coalition-of-the-willing wouldn’t be allowed to do unto them what had been done to Iraq?



Well, evidently, Condi Rice wouldn’t let them.

After the Iranians broke off the negotiations last August (because the E3/EU obviously weren’t negotiating in good faith) and announced they were resuming – subject to IAEA Safeguards – the nuclear activities they had voluntarily suspended, the E3/EU sent a letter to the IAEA Board of Governors, wherein they stated their objection to Iran ever resuming those activities.

In particular:

“We do not believe that Iran has any operational need to engage in fissile material production activities of its own, nor any other reason to resume [UF-6 production] activity at Esfahan, if the intentions of its nuclear program are exclusively peaceful.”

By some strange coincidence, that’s Condi’s belief, too:

“I think it’s fair to say that we would be very concerned if the Iranians were left with stockpiles of UF-6 that could be used in nuclear weapons. But I don’t want to get any further into details about what may be being contemplated by other parties to the negotiations – by the parties to the negotiations.”

“Other” parties?

Well, reportedly, the confidential take-it-or-you’ll-be-sorry offer the E3/EU has just made to the Iranians was endorsed by Condi.

And, reportedly, the offer merely requests Iran suspend the actual enrichment of uranium for the duration of the renewed talks, not indefinitely. Furthermore, reportedly, it allows Iran to continue UF-6 uranium-conversion activities.

If these reports are accurate, no wonder Iran is considering the offer “favorably.” Now, if they can just get “firm commitments” that they won’t get preemptively bombed in their burqas even if they accept the take-it-or-you’ll-be-sorry offer.

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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.