The main problem lies in Israel-Iran relations
The latest Iranian nuclear talks concluded in Istanbul, Turkey on April 14, with both Iran and the six world powers describing them as positive and constructive.
The six P5+1 members, the United States, France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany, have spearheaded diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to limit its nuclear program, which Iran says is purely peaceful but the West suspect has military purposes.
After over a year of stalled talks, Iran and the Group 5+1 eventually accepted last month to resume their negotiations in Istanbul on April 14 and in case of good progress hold a second round of talks in Iraq’s capital city, Baghdad on May 23.
The dialogue is expected to bear fruit in resolving the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
The two sides attended two meetings at Istanbul’s Lutfil Kirdar Hall on April 14, about 15 months after the last round of negotiations, which were also held in Istanbul, turned out fruitless. The Iranian side headed by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Saeed Jalili.
Shortly after the talks, European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who headed the delegations of the six world powers, also described as “constructive and useful” the Istanbul talks.
At the first round of talks, the Iranian team of negotiators called on the western parties to take proper measures to build Iran’s confidence. Iran has refused to stop enriching uranium, despite pressure from Western sanctions, and says its nuclear work is for purely peaceful purposes.
Western diplomats reacted to the meeting with cautious optimism but said there was a long way to go before any deal could be done.
The last meeting between the two sides took place in Istanbul in January 2011. Iran and the G5+1 had also held two rounds of multifaceted talks in Geneva in December 2010.
The US and the European Union have used the pretext to impose international and unilateral sanctions against Iran.
On January 23, EU foreign ministers met in Belgium and approved sanctions against Iran aimed at banning member countries from importing Iranian crude oil and carrying out transactions with the Central Bank of Iran (CBI).
The EU’s decision followed the imposition of similar sanctions by Washington on Iranian energy and financial sectors on New Year’s Eve.
The sanctions are expected to come into force on July 1.
SNSC Secretary Jalili after the Istanbul meet cautioned against the persisting US-led sanctions on Tehran, stressing that sanctions will have a “negative impact” on Europe as well as Iran.
“Today Europeans are paying a cost which they do not deserve to pay. They are missing out on opportunities and possibilities and that will have a negative effect on their economic situation,” Jalili said in an interview with Euronews following the latest round of multifaceted talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers in Istanbul.
“Today the Islamic Republic of Iran has a good export capacity for European Union member states, mostly in energy and oil sectors, and Europe is missing out as well on the Iranian market, which serves 70 million people,” he added.
If those 70 million were able to purchase European goods, Europe’s economy would certainly benefit from it, the SNSC secretary pointed out.
He said that sanctions, especially those imposed on Iran’s banking sector, were blocking great potentials for the Islamic Republic to import from European countries.
Jalili emphasised that Europeans are paying the price through thousands of lost job opportunities.
REACTION IN IRAN TOP-BRASS
Tehran‘s interim Friday Prayers Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said on April 20 the West should stop sanctions against Islamic Republic of Iran, if it wants to acquire Iranian nation’s trust.
Addressing hundreds of Tehrani worshipers at Tehran University’s central campus, Jannati added, “If the West continues its hostility toward the Iranian nation by the stretch of sanctions and pressures, Iran would leave the negotiation table.”
Tehran’s interim Friday Prayers leader also noted that since the western side accepted officially Iran’ right for peaceful nuclear enrichment, Istanbul talks were a success for the Iran.
Jannati stressed the importance of improvement of Iran’s economy and the elimination of unemployment and poverty, adding that an independent country needs an independent economy.
Iran‘s Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi on April 19 asked the European Union (EU) to reconsider its sanctions on the Islamic republic’s oil exports.
“If Europeans don’t cancel the oil sanctions, it will, for sure, have grave impacts on the energy market especially on the energy security,” Qasemi said on the sidelines of an international oil show in Tehran.
Iran‘s Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi on April 16 suggested the five UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany (P5+1) lift sanctions against Tehran before the next round of nuclear talks in Baghdad.
Salehi said Iran was “ready to resolve all issues very quickly and simply”. His words were echoed by parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani and senior MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi.
Salehi said that his country will not accept any precondition to the upcoming nuclear talks in Baghdad.
Analysts say in a change from past failed negotiations, Iran has also hinted progress could be made if the sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union were reviewed.
The US Congress has recently debated a further round of sanctions against Iran’s energy, shipping, and mining sectors but President Obama has not yet commented on them.
Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any compelling evidence to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population due to the fact that the country’s fossil fuel would eventually run dry.
Despite the rights enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.
Tehran has dismissed the West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing those sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians national resolve to continue with the civilian program.
Analysts and some diplomats have told Reuters in recent weeks both sides must compromise for any chance of a long-term settlement, suggesting Iran could be allowed to continue limited low-level enrichment if it accepts more intrusive U.N. nuclear inspections.
They added Iran might be prepared to consider an updated proposal of a 2009 fuel swap deal that collapsed when the two sides failed to agree on the details of implementation.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on April 11 that the Iranian nation will not step back “an iota” from their rights, implying that in the upcoming nuclear talks Iran will not yield to Western pressures over its controversial nuclear program.
A day before, Ahmadinejad said that Iran will defend its rights and will never allow anyone to forfeit its rights.
They both showed their determination to apply sanctions with the strongest firmness as long as Tehran refuses to comply with its international obligations, in particular Security Council resolutions on its military nuclear program.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on April 12 in Washington said foreign ministers from the Group of Eight (G8) are calling for concrete results from the Iran nuclear talks in Turkey’s Istanbul.
The G8 groups together eight industrialised countries — the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia.
Warning that the diplomatic window will not remain open forever, Clinton said: “We want to get started this weekend and we will certainly proceed in a very expeditious, diligent manner and in a sustained way to determine whether there is the potential for an agreement.”
She noted that the United States and other countries are receiving “signals” that Iran is bringing “ideas” to the nuclear talks to be held on Saturday.
“This is a chance for Iran to credibly address the concerns of the international community,” the chief US diplomat said. “Iran, in coming to the table, needs to demonstrate that they are serious.”
ISRAEL VS US
Meanwhile, when the talks were underway on April 17, Israel‘s defense minister said that Israeli military action against Iran remains an option even while nuclear negotiations are under way, and voiced strong doubts whether the talks would succeed.
Asked whether the negotiations, which began in Turkey on Saturday, could persuade Iran to halt uranium enrichment, Ehud Barak told Army Radio: “It does not look to me as if it is going to happen – not now, in the wake of Istanbul, and not … after the (Baghdad round of talks next month).”
Before Barak’s flying to Washington on Thursday to meet U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, there had been speculations in the Israeli media that Israel has promised its main ally that it will refrain from attacking Iran while the talks continue. “We are not committing to anything,” Barak said, when asked whether any such pledge had been made. “There is not, there has not been, there should not be and there cannot be (such a promise).”
Barak has said that Iran could soon enter a “zone of immunity” against Israeli attack as it puts its nuclear installations deep underground, comments that raised international concern that a strike could be nearing.
In the interview, he reiterated Israeli fears that the negotiations between Iran and a group comprising the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany could drag on and waste what he described as “precious time”.
On April 15, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to open a rift with Washington over the talks by saying that a five-week break between the Istanbul meeting and the next session in Baghdad on May 23 gave Iran a “freebie” to continue enriching uranium.
Barack Obama, responding to Netanyahu’s accusations, said “so far at least we haven’t given anything away” and that it had been made clear to Iran that “the clock is ticking” and there could be no “stalling process”.
In an interview on April 16, Iranian foreign minister said the Islamic Republic could make concessions on its higher-grade uranium enrichment in exchange for an easing of international sanctions.
Iranian oil sanctions, if applied effectively and with continued international support from powerful EU and BRICS countries, will continue to impair Iran’s crude oil exports. The Iranian nuclear program poses a potential threat to the international community.
Negotiations will not work until Iran has no other options. For countries serious about reforming Iran’s human rights abuses and nuclear ambitions, offering support of sanctions is the best option. Many already seem willing to do so.
The two allies sat earlier on March 6,when Netanyahu told Obama that Israel must always remain “master of its fate”.
Israel fears Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, although Tehran insists its nuclear plans are peaceful.
At the White House, Obama said a nuclear Iran would be an “unacceptable” development.
“The bond between our two countries is unbreakable,” Obama said, as the two leaders sat side-by-side in the Oval Office. “We believe there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution,” but added that the US would consider “all options” in dealing with Iran.
“I know that both the prime minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically,” Obama said. “We understand the costs of any military action.”
For his part, Netanyahu said: “I believe that’s why you appreciate, Mr President, that Israel must reserve the right to defend itself.” He went on to add that Israel must remain “the master of its fate”.
And speaking later at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), Netanyahu reiterated that Israel was “determined to prevent Iran having nuclear weapons”.
He stressed that all options were “on the table, but containment is not an option”.
“The Jewish state will not allow those who seek our destruction the means to achieve that goal. A nuclear armed Iran must be stopped,” Netanyahu told Aipac.
Obama told the pro-Israel conference in Washington that there had been too much “loose talk” of war with Iran.
Obama and Netanyahu are said to have a famously cool relationship. In May 2011, during a visit to Washington, correspondents widely noted the frosty body language between the two leaders.
In November 2011, at a G20 summit, journalists overheard a private exchange between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Obama in which Mr Sarkozy called the Israeli leader a “liar”.
Obama replied: “You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day.”
The US has pushed for the imposition of ever-stricter sanctions against Iran, including recent curbs on its central bank and its ability to export oil to the West.
Yet despite the ratcheting up of sanctions, speculation has been mounting that Israel might choose to attack Iran sometime during 2012.
Hours before the two leaders held bilateral meetings the head of the UN nuclear agency, Yukiya Amano, reiterated that the organisation had “serious concerns” that Iran could be hiding secret work on developing atomic weapons.
Reiterating concerns detailed in an agency report, he said the organisation was unable “to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities”.
In his speech to Aipac, Obama said the US “will not hesitate” to use force to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. But he stressed that diplomacy could still succeed.
“Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment – I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama told the conference.
“And as I’ve made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”
However, he said Iran was isolated and there was an opportunity “for diplomacy – backed by pressure – to succeed”.
“Already, there is too much loose talk of war,” Obama added.
“Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil which they depend upon to fund their nuclear programme.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who attended the Istanbul talks as Russia’s representative, told Itar-tass news agency on April 15 that Moscow was satisfied with the results of the talks.
He confirmed the parties have reached consensus on several specific issues.
“The main thing is we have reached an understanding that we should go further on the principles of step by step and reciprocity, which Russia has defended from the outset of the present stage of dialogue with Iran,” Ryabkov said.
China backs Iran’s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and is opposed to unilateral sanctions imposed by the West on Tehran.
Its Permanent Ambassador to UN Li Baodong said on April 20 that Istanbul talks proved that negotiation is the best option to resolve Iran’s nuclear issue and described the recent talks as constructive.
The Chinese envoy, speaking at a UNSC meeting said that commitment to talks is necessary for resolving the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
After a seven-hour meeting between the parties on April 14 in Istanbul, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu, who is also Beijing’s representative to the renewed talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear program, said in a statement this round of dialogue is serious, useful and constructive.
“We exchanged views on the Iranian nuclear issue. All sides are willing to conduct dialogue and negotiation based on the principle of step by step and reciprocity as well as on the basis of equality and mutual benefit so as to build mutual trust for the comprehensive, just and proper settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue,” Ma said after Saturday’s talks.
“Thanks to the efforts of all sides, today’s meeting starts a sustained process of dialogue and has made positive achievements,” he said.
Ma said that China has made unremitting efforts for the resumption of the dialogue. “Prior to the meeting, we have kept frequent contacts with all sides, urging for diplomatic solution and early resumption of the negotiations,” he said.
During the talks, “we pushed all sides, in the spirit of forward-looking, to show flexibility and sincerity, and take each other’s concerns seriously so as to make the dialogue a success,” said the Chinese official.
Ma meanwhile noted that the Iranian nuclear issue is a complicated one, stressing “We may encounter difficulties or setbacks of all kinds in the future.”
“We hope all parties … could cooperate with sincerity … and make greater efforts for the peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation,” he said.
China stands ready to work with all sides to promote talks and peace, and will continue to play a constructive role in the settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue through peaceful dialogue, he added.
China and India, for example, have publicly refused to support sanctions. It is no coincidence that these two countries are the largest importers of Iranian crude.
Despite their public statements, however, both countries have limited their financial relationships with Iran. China has cut purchases of Iranian crude oil. Though this may have more to do with oil discounts from Russia than with a moral obligation to support Iranian sanctions, China has nevertheless impacted Iran’s export economy.
Indian refineries have also cut purchases of Iranian crude by at least 15 percent, despite public statements by their government that they would not support sanctions.
India on April 19 launched 5000 Km missile. Though North Korea failed with its attempted launch of a long range ballistic missile. India, however did not.
The Agri-5 was launched successfully making its nuclear arsenal more of a threat to Russia, Pakistan and China, and a challenge to US Forces deployed in the Indian Ocean should relations between our two countries ever break down:
* Defence Minister A K Antony congratulated the team for “the immaculate success” of the Agni-5, hailing the efforts of “numerous unsung scientists of DRDO who have worked relentlessly years together to bring the nation to this threshold”.
* The DRDO chief told Business Standard the Agni-5 was not just a long-range rocket. “This missile incorporates unique technologies that will allow us to have multiple variants. We can achieve short ranges, higher ranges… all with the same missile,” he said.
Although the DRDO calls the Agni-5 an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), its range of 5,000 km puts it — by most conventional measures — in the class of intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), which have ranges of 3,000-5,500 km.
The Agni-5’s range is carefully calibrated; it can reach targets anywhere except for America and Australia. This would allow it to strike all of India’s potential adversaries, even as friendly capitals in Western Europe and the US stay out of range. DRDO sources say that, in case of need, the Agni-5 could easily be ramped up into an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), with a range of more than 5,500 km.
The world, facing the challenges of resource shortages, ethnic and religious conflicts, economic problems and climate change just became a more dangerous place.
This is not to disparage India, but this technological advance in missile technology combined with its already existing nuclear program automatically makes India a regional military superpower with the ability to threaten the dominance of the US military in the region, as well as its traditional rivals in China and Pakistan.
2011 IAEA REPORT
With reports from the International Atomic Energy Authority, the devil is in the detail. And the detail referring to the “possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme” is contained in the annexe, said Guardian on November 9, 2011.
This makes clear what is already known: that there have been concerns “about the nature of Iran’s nuclear programme” since late 2002. It also sets out the problems since then, including: “A number of significant failures [by Iran] with respect to the reporting of nuclear material, the processing and use of undeclared nuclear material and the failure to declare nuclear facilities where the material had been stored and processed.”
The IAEA makes clear that Iran has continued to conceal its activities despite repeated demands for more transparency.
This report relies on information the agency has gathered for itself, and material received from 10 other countries. The answers the IAEA has received from the regime have “tended to increase the agencies’ concerns rather than dispel them”, the report says.
It adds that the IAEA has “credible” information linking Iran to:
INDICATORS OF NUCLEAR EXPLOSIVE DEVELOPMENT
* The IAEA has been concentrating on the potential for development of a “high-enriched uranium implosion device” – essentially a nuclear bomb. It says: “Iran has developed the capability to enrich uranium to a level of up to 20% U-235.”
* The IAEA makes clear that “senior Iranian figures feature within the command structure” of the nuclear enrichment programme. It says it has been shown documents which link this to studies being conducted by the Iranians into missile vehicles. The report says that Mohsem Fakhrizadeh, suspected to be to the mastermind of Iran’s weapons programme, known as Amad, now leads the country’s “Organisation of Defensive Innovation and Research”.
The IAEA says that Iran has been using private firms to try to procure “equipment, materials and services which, although having other civilian applications, would be useful in the development of a nuclear explosive device”.
These include high-speed electronic switches and spark gaps – useful for triggering and firing detonators – and radiation detection and measuring equipment.
The report says that Iran has been trying to secure a source of uranium suitable for use in “an undisclosed enrichment programme” – and that this had created “more concern about the possible existence of undeclared nuclear facilities and material”.
The IAEA makes clear Iran has provided it with details of specifications of detonators, but “has not explained to the agency its own need or application for such detonators”. It acknowledges there are non-nuclear applications for such devices – but only a few.
The report says Iran also has had access to the designs for a “multipoint initiation system”, which is also needed for a nuclear warhead. Iran’s construction of “a large explosive containment vessel to conduct hydrodynamic experiments” – another requirement for simulating nuclear explosions – has also caused concern.
The IAEA says some of the computer modelling that has been done by Iran is “of particular concern”.
It states: “The application of such studies to anything other than nuclear explosive is unclear to the agency.”
Iran has also undertaken work in manufacturing “neutron initiators” – which help to set off a nuclear chain reaction – and “carried out preparatory experimentation which would be useful were Iran to carry out a test on a nuclear explosive device”.
Iran has also conducted computer modelling on payloads for missiles and ballistic trajectory, the report says.
“While the activities … may be relevant to the development of a non-nuclear payload, they are highly relevant to a nuclear weapon programme,” the report concludes.
In the direct, secret exchanges between the US and Iran which led up to the Istanbul talks with the six powers, on April 14, President Barack Obama quietly backed off from his demand that Iran “come clean” on its nuclear activities and open up to international inspection, reports Debkafile, an Israeli website that is often criticized for using unidentified sources and rumours but whose reports often turn out to be true..
This concession paved the way for Tehran’s consent to discuss his framework proposal to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent, halt work at its underground facility for higher enrichment near Qom, and export its stockpile of highly enriched uranium for final processing to 20 percent for use in medical isotopes. This would be presented as a deal for settling the nuclear controversy.
Debkafile’s military sources report that the Iranians may find it worth their while to accept this framework. After all, once sanctions are lifted by the end of June – as Tehran demands – and they are freed of IAEA oversight, the Iranians can go forward with their plans for building a nuclear weapon undisturbed and Washington can celebrate a breakthrough.
Israel has not received word of this deal.
Debkafile’s Washington sources report that in contrast with the downbeat mood in Israel, Washington is already celebrating its success in resolving the Iranian nuclear conundrum and averting war.
Our sources have two points to make in this regard:
1. Tehran has not yet put pen to paper to approve the American proposal and agreed only to move forward in their back-door negotiations without prejudice.
2. Obama will eventually have to level with Israel, the American people and the rest of the world on his deal with Iran. There is no chance of Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu going along with agreements on the lines under discussion between Washington and Iran, because they would allow Iran to develop nuclear armaments relieved of the hindrances of international oversight and sanctions.
The Israeli prime minister, when he addressed the state ceremony marking the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 18 night, spoke at length of the mortal danger a nuclear Iran for the Jewish state. He said those who maintained Israel lacked the military capacity for dealing with the Iranian menace were wrong.
“We can and will defend ourselves,” he said. “I won’t stop stating the truth (about Iran) at the UN, in Washington and in Jerusalem.”
Debkafile reported on April 18 that officials in Jerusalem angrily dismissed reports of a breakthrough in last Saturday’s nuclear negotiations in Istanbul between six world powers (P5+1) and Iran and most emphatically the claim that “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played his expected role in this choreography” by criticising the negotiators for giving Iran a five-week freebie for continuing enrichment without limitation, as cited in a Washington Post article on April 18, by columnist David Ignatius.
Iran is presented as ready to agree to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent and halt work at its underground facility for higher enrichment near Qom, and export its stockpile of highly enriched uranium for final processing to 20 percent for use in medical isotopes.
Israeli sources say this report is false. Far from this being the shape of an eventual settlement, it was the shape of American demands relayed to Tehran in side-channels going via Paris and Vienna.
Israel was never informed of Iran accepting this formula or its presentation to the Istanbul meeting.
Above all, they stressed, Netanyahu has not and will not play a role in any choreography of this kind staged by the Obama administration.
The Americans appear to have been taken in by the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s public pledge in February not to commit the “grave sin” of building a nuclear weapon as representing the Islamic regime’s face-saver for caving in to US pressure.
The WP article is indeed captioned” “The stage is set for a deal with Iran.” Nothing, say Debkafile’s military and intelligence sources, is farther from the truth. According to our Iranian sources, there is no sign of the Iranians caving in.
The article itself appears to represent Washington’s comeback for a radio interview aired a few hours earlier, Tuesday, April 17, by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon, in which he sharply criticised the Obama administration for its handling of the nuclear dispute with Iran: “We (Israel) no longer believe in the Americans, and on the Iran issue, we are not in the same boat.”
“Three years ago, Iran had 1,200 kilos of low enriched uranium; today it has five and a half tons,” he pointed out.
Ya’alon also warned that after the way the proceedings went in Istanbul, right after the second round of talks on May 23 in Baghdad, “Israel will review its steps.”
Citing the classical Hebrew adage: If I do not watch out for myself, who will?, he noted: “Obama too has said Israel has the right to self-defence.”
The deputy prime minister was the first Israeli national figure to suggest that, after May 23, the Netanyahu government would approach a decision on the date for a countdown to an attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
Ya’alon certainly said enough to cause some agitation in Washington, judging by the flood of phone calls Debkafile’s sources report coming in from Washington with requests for clarifications.
Earlier that Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in another radio interview that the “P5+1” group’s talks with Iran must result in a clear-cut resolution, the end of Iran’s nuclear program. He did not believe they would, although he hoped to be proved wrong.
The two Israeli ministers would not have delivered their downbeat comments if indeed US talks with Iran over and under the negotiating table had achieved, or even approached, the breakthrough depicted in Washington.
Shirin Ebadi an Iranian Nobel Prize laureate, lawyer, human rights activist and fierce critic of the Iranian regime yet despite her opposition to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies, opposes the current sanctions against Iran because they “hurt the Iranian people.”
“Prices have augmented and internal production has gone down as primal resources are not accessible,” she told The Huffington Post in a phone interview on April 20. Sanctions should instead serve primarily to weaken the government, she said.
Ebadi is on a tour of the United States and recently released a new book, “The Golden Cage: Three Brothers, Three Choices, One Destiny.”
The Nobel laureate is also critical of current international strategies to engage Iran in negotiations on its nuclear program, arguing they do little to improve the lives of people living in Iran. She said the United States should not be leaving human rights off the agenda in the ongoing round of talks between Iran and six world powers. Earlier this month, Tehran agreed to take part in international negotiations in Istanbul.
“Maybe the Americans only want to talk about nuclear energy because the security of the American people is more important than the destiny of the Iranian people,” Ebadi said. “Yet what brings sustainable peace in the region is democracy. Democracy is good for the people of Iran and it would eradicate the danger against America.”
Ebadi maintains that Iranians do not support the regime’s nuclear policy, and says that the nuclear issue would be easily resolved in a democratic society. If human rights were a condition during negotiations, the international community could force Iran to comply with human rights standards, she argues.
Ebadi was born in 1947 to a family of practicing Muslims. She studied law and became the first female judge in the history of Iran when she was in her 30s. However, Ebadi was forced to leave the post in the wake of Iran’s 1979 revolution, when all female judges in the Islamic Republic were dismissed and given clerical functions. She started her own law practice in 1992, taking up many prominent human rights cases.
In 2003, she became the first Muslim woman and the first Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The award committee awarded her efforts for democracy and human rights and lauded her for speaking out “clearly and strongly” in her country “and far beyond its borders.”
Ebadi left Iran after the contested presidential elections in 2009 and has not returned since then. According to BBC, Ebadi said that she had received “threatening messages” and that her husband was arrested and severely beaten in Tehran.
A blogger in Snafu::Blog wrote recently: Living in Interesting Times; Drumbeats of War – P5 Fantasies, Iran Oil Sanction Facts; The shiny sheen of P5 seems to be dulling for the Iranians.
No leaks discernible from the detailed working discussions between Ali Baqeri… the deputy of Iran’s prime P5 negotiator Saeed Jalili… and EU foreign policy deputy chief Helga Schmid. But in the light of continuing demands by the U.S. and EU that Iran shed a large part of their nuclear program before the May 23 meeting, Iran is making threats and demands of their own.
Jerking the EU’s chain back and forth, Iran announced today in their most official media that Iran has ‘officially cut off its oil exports to London and Paris’, but that ‘Iran will continue its oil exports to other countries excluding Britain and France’. Other Iranian media quoted Iranian Oil Minister Qasemi explaining that ‘a stop of Iran’s oil export to refiners in Greece, Spain, and Germany is not “official”’.
Qasemi then added a threat, that ‘Iran will cut oil export to all European countries if they do not lift sanctions on Tehran after the next round of talks in Baghdad’. Iran says there will be a huge economic toll for Western economies if that happens. Qasemi said, “If the sanctions currently imposed against Iran would not be removed and if new sanctions be imposed against the country instead, this would seriously turbulent (sic) the energy market.” He added that ‘Tehran was closely watching the way European states were dealing with Iran’.
Iran continues to boast that they can sell all the oil they have to non-Western countries. Actually, according to the reports of unbiased commercial oil industry media, they seem to be telling the truth. Their current sales keep running about the same as before the sanctions, sometimes higher.
Iranian official media reports that ‘Iran is currently supplying 100% of Sri Lanka’s oil needs, 51% of Turkey, 25% of South Africa, 14% of Greece, 13% of Italy and Spain, 11% of India and China and 10% of Japan and South Korea’s oil demands.’ On the other side of the coin, Iran has stopped selling to Shell Oil because they own Iran over a billion dollars for oil already delivered. (I wonder how that shows on Shell’s balance sheets.)
But today’s kicker, again from Iranian official media, is that ‘Switzerland says it will not follow the European Union in freezing the assets of Iran’s Central Bank and in imposing an oil embargo on the Islamic Republic’. The Swiss do not import oil from Iran. They control oil trading hubs in Geneva and Zug, which is more important. It means other countries can use Swiss banks for transfer of oil payments to Iran.
According to world mainstream press, the Swiss Ministry for Economics said the decision was made “due to its importance for the Iranian economy.” Which of course made the Iranians happy on two accounts: that the economic dike of economic sanctions had sprung a great big leak, and that the Swiss made a point of saying they cared about the Iranian economy.
The only P5-oriented carrot offered publicly by either the U.S. or Iran was a highly spotlighted announcement of a fatwa by Iran’s number one head man, Leader of the Islamic Revolution and top cleric Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. It forbids ‘the production, proliferation and use of nuclear bombs’ for any practicing follower of Islam. It is an absolute edict which must be followed by every Muslim… who agrees that Khamenei’s word is law. That would probably only include some Shia Muslims, and probably not any Sunnis, which are the majority in most Muslim states outside of Iran.
It also seems probable that the non-religious West will take this pronouncement as essentially meaningless… despite Iran’s deep belief that they have just now given their most solemn promise, and should be taken at their word with no further proof. If their oath is seen as inadequate, it seems very probable that they will become heatedly frustrated. That will probably have very serious practical consequences.
The media splash on the fatwa was huge, with a great deal of detailed Iranian political and military history included in the announcement. They were especially harsh about U.S. involvement in the bloody Iran-Iraq war. They made a point of mentioning that ‘In 1984 Iraq became the first country to use a nerve agent on the battlefield’. There was no doubt where they thought it came from.
One particular section from the media splash is emotional to the point of being maudlin. But it really gives a feeling of what Iran’s fundamental stance is going to be in regard to P5 negotiations, and their feelings about the US and what we ‘owe’ them. So I include it here. Please remember these words probably come straight from the top of the Iranian political structure.
“Under the encouragement and direction of the US government, how many bombs fell on the Iranian cities while people were sleeping? How many youths lost their lives in a war that dragged on for eight years? How many women were widowed? How many children were orphaned? Is there no remission to this political insanity?
The US government is morally and financially indebted to Iran. What seems to be the right course of action to be taken by the US government is that Washington should make it clearly known to Iran that it entertains good intentions about the Iranian nation and that it is resolute to compensate for the agony and havoc it has wrought upon Iran.
In other words, it is Washington which should take first steps to dispel ambiguities as to its intentions.”
That sounds like there is no possible chance of Iran making a ‘good will’ gesture… like closing down the Fordow (Qom) nuclear facility… or anything else… before May 23.
SecState Clinton keeps repeating there is not the slightest possibility of the U.S. lifting sanctions before May 23, and probably not even then.
If Israeli media with Mossad connections have correct inside information, President Obama has already cut a deal with Iran. On May 23, sanctions will be lifted, and Obama will let Iran’s nuclear program continue free of IAEA oversight. Iran’s quid pro quo will simply be to promise they won’t store enough enriched uranium to build a bomb.
And he hasn’t told Israel he’s going to do this.
You and I now know. But Israel doesn’t.
Lots of things look really wonky about this fascinating but terribly strange story. But it is difficult to tell if the wonkyness is in the Israeli source material, or in Washington. I’m guessing Washington, because even the source media says that if the Iranians go along with this plan, which is by no means certain, Israel will go ballistic… perhaps literally… when it comes time for Obama to ‘level with Israel’ about the deal.
Today, April 19, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Important speeches are made. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu devoted nearly two-thirds of his speech to… Iran.
He likened himself to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who warned the Jews of Poland in the 1930s of the ‘impending storm’. But, Netanyahu said, “the leading Jewish intellectuals of the day ridiculed Jabotinsky, and rather than heed his warning, they attacked him.” Israeli mainstream media says that translates to: ‘Israeli politicians who disagree with Netanyahu on Iran are being equated to those who failed to foresee the Holocaust’. Strong words.
Again he called the Iranian nuclear program an existential threat to Israel. Again he said it was up to Israel to stop them if no one else would.
“The truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran is a political threat to other countries throughout the region and a grave threat to the world peace. The truth is that Iran must be stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons. It is the duty of the whole world, but above and beyond, it is OUR duty (caps in the official transcript).”
One possible take on his stance is that it is more distancing, more blather to scare the Iranians into rolling over on their nuclear program.
Serious mainstream Israeli media is reading his words as anything but bluff. And a home-view of a person’s motivation is useful.
They point out that Netanyahu is the son of Jabotinsky’s secretary.
Apparently that is very meaningful in this context.
Dena Robinson in Maroon News on April 19 in her “What’s Left: All is Fair in Love and War?” wrote: Last Saturday, the United States and other key world powers met in Istanbul with Iran to discuss the development of a nuclear program. Although the talks were regarded as positive and constructive, global powers failed to begin the eradication of Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran and the West have been at odds over its nuclear program for years, and this trend is only picking up steam. Since Iraq’s invasion of Iran, the U.S. government has been increasing sanctions against Iran. In 1984, sanctions prohibited weapons sales and all US assistance to Iran.
In October 1987, President Reagan issued an executive order prohibiting the importation and exportation of any goods or services from Iran. Since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 as the president of Iran, the United States’s sanctions have only increased.
Ahmadinejad lifted the suspension of uranium enrichment that had been agreed upon by the EU3 (France, Germany and the United Kingdom) and the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Iran’s non-compliance with its safeguards agreement to the UN Security Council. It is here that we find ourselves.
I am chiefly concerned with Iran’s apparent instability and hostility within Middle Eastern countries. I worry of the possible ramifications associated with such countries acquiring nuclear weaponry. However, it seems equally plausible that if Iran is being asked to disable their nuclear weapons program, other countries should be asked to as well. Currently under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which attempts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom are NPT nuclear weapon states. Other states with nuclear weapons include India, Pakistan and North Korea.
States believed to have nuclear weapons and/ or weapons programs are Israel, Iran and Syria. Despite this, Iran is being pressured to end its nuclear weapons program. I understand the West’s concern about Iran’s nuclear program; mainly that Iran does not recognize Israel and has absolutely no diplomatic ties with the country.
Furthermore, there exists a concern among Western nations that Iran will divert its civilian nuclear technology to a weapons program. I think in discussions regarding Iran’s nuclear program, it is important to assess the effect that these sanctions have had on the Iranian economy and its people.
As we discuss these positive talks with Iran and its nuclear program, we must assess the nuclear programs of other countries. Specifically, we should stand true to our values and truly seek to eradicate all countries’ nuclear weapons programs, if that is a chief concern of ours. For a moment, we should talk about Israeli and Palestinian relations, a tense and often polarising issue that has contributed too much of the panic regarding nuclear weapons programs in the 21st century.
Why are people so obsessed with Iran and Israel? Well, the anti-Israel rhetoric of Ahmadinejad has caused many, Western countries included, to worry about a potential nuclear attack against Israel. However, for almost the past decade, Israel has been prepared to take unilateral military action against Iran if it were to fail to stop the development of nuclear weaponry.
The two nations constantly find themselves in rhetoric of fear of nuclear attack and retaliation. Thus, it seems fair to concede that both nations should disable their nuclear development programs. In my eyes, not only is a threat posed to Western nations, but a threat is posed to Israel as well. Due to a threat being posed to Israel, a threat is posed to Iran.
When analysing their relations, we have to remember that not only has Iran posed dangers to Israel, but Israel has also committed atrocities of its own. Throughout the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel has constructed settlements for Palestinians while Hamas in Palestine have been involved in orchestrated attacks against Israel. Some Palestinians consider attacks against Israel to be a form of resistance against foreign occupation, while many Israelis view said attacks as terrorism. Clearly, there is severe tension between Israel and the Palestinians.
However, because the United States has a close relationship with Israel, it has supported Israel’s nuclear weaponry. The fact that we, as Western nations, will criticise one potentially hostile country for their nuclear programs while condoning the nuclear programs of other equally hostile countries is alarming. For, if we truly value nuclear proliferation and want to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, we should hold every country to a similar standard.
When it comes to nuclear proliferation, there should be no distinctions made, and no favourites taken into account as to which countries will be allowed to increase their nuclear weaponry or be forced via a sanction to dissemble theirs. Either we all form nuclear weaponry together or we all dissemble our nuclear weaponry and truly practice what we preach.
The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has announced its plan to establish a satellite channel and promote investment in the media to fight Islamophobia and enhance exchange of information among the member states.
“We have a number of important proposals to strengthen Islamic media activities. They include the launch of an OIC satellite channel,” OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told a conference of information ministers from the Islamic world.
Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondinba opened the two-day conference titled “Session of Information Technologies in the Service of Peace and Development.” Ihsanoglu also announced a three-year media plan focusing on the African continent.
Twelve draft resolutions have been presented to the ministers for discussion and potential adoption. They include the restructuring of the International Islamic News Agency (IINA) and the Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU), formation of an OIC Journalists Forum and opening of OIC media offices in different parts of the world.
The OIC, which is the second largest international organization after the UN, has set out a strategy to combat what it calls “rising intolerance against Islam and Muslims in the West.”
One resolution says negative news in some Western media has resulted in negative stereotyping and racial discrimination and victimization directed against Muslims. Stressing that the Islamic faith is based on the core values of peace, tolerance, moderation and peaceful coexistence with all other religions and faiths, the OIC labeled the emergence of Islamophobia as a “contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam.” It also added that Islamophobia manifested itself “through intolerance, discrimination, hostility and adverse public discourse.”
The Gabon conference has short, medium and long-term goals for putting in place an action plan to fight Islamophobia. It asks member states to create funding for media campaigns to counter intolerance against Islam and discourage using expressions such as “Islamic” fascists or “Islamic” extremists for criminal terrorists. For the medium term, the resolution asks member states to implement media literacy programs in schools to combat misperceptions, prejudices and hate speech. It aims to utilize success stories in the Muslim world “as a means to show that the interests of Muslims are similar to the rest of the world when it comes to democracy, good governance and human rights.”
The OIC plans to create awards for excellence in unbiased journalism, reporting, photography and publishing. It sets up scholarship programs for Westerners to study in the Muslim world and encourage reporter-exchange programs between the Muslim world and the West in order to disseminate this information throughout media outlets.
Iran’s Culture Minister Sayed Mohammad Hosseini on the sideline of conference of information ministers from the Islamic world in Gabon on April 20 asked for the Muslim countries’ united action against the ongoing Islamophobia which aims to show a bad face of Islam.
Iran is ready to transfer its experience in fields of art, press and other cultural issue to the Muslim countries. Iran’s successes in fields of peaceful nuclear energy, science and technology including Nanotechnology and Airspace are beneficial to all Muslim countries.
“The West is not happy with Iran’s scientific progresses because they are afraid that Tehran transfers its scientific achievements to other Muslim countries.”
Related BBC links: