More Failed Diplomacy

Back in November, 2004, the United Kingdom, France and Germany (E3) undertook to negotiate with Iran on behalf of the European Union a mutually acceptable long-term agreement which would provide the EU “objective guarantees” that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

Now, why would Iran agree to provide additional guarantees, above and beyond those required by the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons?

Well, Iran was to receive, in return, equally “firm guarantees on nuclear, technological and economic cooperation” with the EU as well as firm commitments on certain “security issues.”

Since the Islamic revolution swept the CIA-installed Shah of Iran from power, Iran’s nuclear programs and its “inalienable right” – guaranteed by the NPT – to nuclear technology had been the subject to an extensive US-led campaign of obstruction and intervention.

  • Valid and binding contracts to build nuclear power plants were unilaterally abrogated;
  • Nuclear materials 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;

Hence, for more than 20 years, Iran’s rights under the NPT had been grossly and systematically violated, while major state parties to the Treaty failed to meet many of their NPT obligations to Iran.

The November agreement [.pdf] declared right up front that:

“The E3/EU recognize Iran’s rights under the NPT, exercised in conformity with its obligations under the Treaty, without discrimination.”

Without discrimination!

Iran offered to voluntarily suspend for the duration of the negotiations certain Safeguarded activities, to include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities. In return:

“The E3/EU recognize that this suspension is a voluntary confidence building measure and not a legal obligation.”

Now, Bush, Cheney, Bolton and Condi never miss an opportunity to note that the “military option” is “on the table,” so the E3/EU cannot of itself provide Iran “firm commitments on security issues.”

Nevertheless, other Bush-Cheney weenies argued that we must at least appear to form a united front with Europe – just as we appeared to form a united front with Europe in the months leading up to our invasion of Iraq – so as to prepare the diplomatic ground for military action in the event that “diplomacy fails.”

But then, a year ago, Iran made an offer [.pdf], suggested by an advisory panel of European and US scientists and experts, voluntarily restricting certain of its alienable rights. The offer included:

  • Foregoing reprocessing of spent fuel and recovery of plutonium;
  • A low ceiling on the level of enrichment;
  • A limitation on the capacity of the enrichment program to that needed to meet the contingency fuel requirements of Iran’s power reactors;
  • Immediate conversion of all enriched Uranium to fuel rods to preclude even the technical possibility of further enrichment;

Furthermore, Iran offered to allow continuous on-site presence of IAEA inspectors at uranium conversion and enrichment facilities to provide unprecedented transparency, above and beyond even that required under the Additional Protocol.

Now this was an incredible offer by Iran. The nuclear power plant at Bushehr was nearing completion by the Russians, and as many as six more were expected to be built in Iran by someone. But it would be at least ten years before Iran would need to have its “contingency” uranium-enrichment plant fully operational. Furthermore, Russian experts who had visited existing Uranium enrichment-related activities in Iran estimated it would take the Iranians at least that long to actually build such a facility and get it operating.

All subject to continuous IAEA monitoring, of course.

Hallelujah! Dancing in the streets! Right?


Not only would Bush not let the EU accept the offer – which had been made in private – he wouldn’t even let them acknowledge receipt of it.

So the Iranians waited four months and when no response to their offer had been received, notified the IAEA that the Paris Agreement negotiations – and the suspensions of activities associated with them – were off.

Well, that got a an immediate response from the E3/EU.

Reinstate the suspensions – or else.

Or else what?

Well, it’s six months later and we’re about to find out.

Condi and the E3/EU have managed to get the IAEA Board to demand that Iran reinstate the suspensions. They’ve even reported their demands to the UN Security Council.

Quoth Condi:

“They [the Iranians] need to suspend the activities in which they’re engaged and return to negotiations.

“People are looking to the international community to show that this can, indeed, be dealt with diplomatically.”


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.