Return to What Negotiations?

The European Union’s Germany, France and United Kingdom, in association with the United States, China and Russia, (the so-called E3+3) have reportedly recently offered Iran "a range of economic and political incentives" to "return to negotiations," this time without U.S. insistence on "preconditions."

What negotiations?

Well, way back in November, 2004, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, (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 was exclusively for peaceful purposes.

Now, why would the EU seek additional guarantees, above and beyond those required by the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons?

Well, a cynic might suppose that what the EU really wanted was a rationale for normalization of economic ties with oil-rich methane-rich Iran.

And, why would Iran even consider supplying such additional guarantees?

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

You see, 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 subject to an extensive US-led campaign of obstruction and intervention.

  • Valid and binding contracts to build nuclear power plants had been unilaterally abrogated;

  • Nuclear materials rightfully purchased and owned by Iran had been illegally withheld;

  • exercise of Iran’s shareholder’s right in several national and multinational nuclear power corporations had been obstructed;

But, the E3-Iran agreement 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 had never missed an opportunity to note that the "military option" – to attack and destroy Iran’s IAEA Safeguarded facilities – was "on the table." And since the United States was not, formally, a party to the negotiations, the E3/EU was not in a position to provide Iran "firm commitments on security issues."

However, some Bush-Cheney weenies argued that we should 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 essentially unilateral war of aggression against Iraq – so as to prepare the ground for military action in the event that "diplomacy fails."

So on March 23, 2005, Iran made a confidential offer [.pdf], suggested by an advisory panel of European and U.S. 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, signed, but yet to be ratified by the Iranian Parliament.

Everything contained in the Iranian proposal was to be subject to IAEA verification and monitoring, of course.

Hallelujah! Dancing in the streets! Right?


Not only would Bush-Cheney-Rice not let the E3/EU accept the offer; they wouldn’t even let the E3/EU acknowledge receipt of it.

The Iranians waited four months and when no response to their offer had been received, notified the IAEA that the E3/EU negotiations – and the suspensions of IAEA Safeguarded activities associated with them – were off.

Well, that notification got an immediate "response" by the E3/EU.

They required Iran to "return to the negotiations" and "not to pursue fuel cycle activities other than the construction and operation of light-water power and research reactors."

When the Iranians refused, Bush-Cheney-Rice got the IAEA Board of Governors to "deem" it "necessary" for Iran to;

  • re-establish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the Agency;

  • ratify promptly and implement in full the Additional Protocol;

  • implement transparency measures, as requested by the Director General, including in GOV/2005/67, which extend beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and include such access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual use equipment, certain military-owned workshops and research and development as the Agency may request in support of its ongoing investigations;

Worse, the IAEA Director-General was to "report" to the UN Security Council that "these steps are required of Iran by the Board."

Now, nowhere does the UN Charter, the IAEA Statute or the NPT, itself, even suggest that the Board needs to satisfy itself that any country’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.

And, for the Board to "deem it necessary" for a sovereign state to promptly ratify the Additional Protocol to its existing Safeguards Agreement – a treaty – is an egregious violation of the IAEA UN-proscribed charter.

Nevertheless, Bush-Cheney-Rice managed to strong-arm the Security Council into adopting UNSC Resolution 1747 [.pdf], in which the Council, in contravention of the procedures set forth in Chapter VII of the UN Charter, imposed sanctions on Iran and;

"re-affirmed that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall without further delay take the steps required by the Board of Governors in (IAEA) resolution GOV/2006/14, which are essential to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme and to resolve outstanding questions."

There was then established the E3+3 group (Brits-French-Germans plus China, Russia and United States, sometimes referred to as the P5+1) which proceeded to "invite" Iran to participate in negotiations about which of Iran’s inalienable rights – if any – were to be recognized.

At last report, Iran’s position continues to be that the IAEA Board of Governors exceeded its statutory authorities (a) in requiring suspension of IAEA Safeguarded programs and (b) in "reporting" Iran’s refusal to suspend such programs to the Security Council, alleging it to be a "threat to the peace" in the region.

Hence, as of this writing, Iran continues to insist that the Security Council first return the Iranian "dossier" to the IAEA. Then, and only then, will Iran, once again, attempt to get firm commitments on certain "security issues."

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.