Nuts to Bush

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 obligations."

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 Chinese

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."

What 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 activities.

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.

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.