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Media Watch | 'The Baghdad Conquest': Iranian Reaction to Nuclear Talks

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

28 May 2012 01:17Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

JaliliMaliki.jpg [ in focus ] Two days after the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- ended in Baghdad, Iran's mass media continues to react to the outcome. The headline of the Saturday issue of Kayhan, the hardline newspaper that is believed to reflect the views of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, read "Iran Did Not Budge."

In an editorial titled "Resolution of the Problem, Stopping the Negotiations," Kayhan's hardline managing editor, Hossein Shariatmadari, warned that the P5+1 has pursued negotiations with Iran for political purposes, motivated by the distressed economic conditions in the West. "As far as we can tell, the West pursues the negotiations for the sake of negotiations, not for resolving the problems between the two sides and melting the 'artificial ice' that it has created and spread during the past decade over Iran's nuclear program," Shariatmadari wrote. "Thus, if this is true -- and all evidence indicates that it is -- then Iran's agreeing to continue the negotiations in Moscow or any other place in the world needs serious reconsideration. There is concern that continuing the negotiations, at least without an agreed-upon modality and the commitment of both sides to move along this path, will be tantamount to playing in the enemy's field."

He pointed out that the West's redline in regard to Iran's nuclear program has shifted considerably over the past decade. "In the past," he wrote, "whenever the West talked about creating trust between the two sides, it implied that Iran had to suspend all of its nuclear activities," but now it appears that the Western powers agree that Iran has the right to enrich uranium at low levels.

Shariatmadari said that the West has demanded that Iran stop enriching uranium at 19.75 percent, but in return has not made any firm promises to Iran. "Some European diplomats said that the P5+1 promised to supply fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, while others said that P5+1 promised to facilitate supplying the fuel," he wrote. "The question is, Have the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] and the [International Atomic Energy Agency] Safeguards Agreement barred Iran from enriching uranium at 19.75 percent? The answer is negative."

"We can predict that the Moscow negotiations will not achieve anything, and if the negotiations are to continue along this path -- and evidence indicates that they will -- then our presence in Moscow will only help the enemy's need for negotiations and, therefore, it is better not to participate in the next round of negotiations, whether in Moscow or elsewhere," Shariatmadari concluded.

In Tehran Emrooz, a newspaper close to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Hassan Vazini wrote, "The latest round of negotiations between Iran and P5+1 presented a new landscape.... Although the meeting did not result in a joint statement [by the two sides], and perhaps this was less than what was expected of it, still one cannot call the negotiations a failure, because the agreement to continue the negotiations in Moscow indicates both sides' determination and hope for an agreement."

Jomhouri Eslami, whose managing editor, Masih Mohajeri, is close to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, ran an editorial that stated, "As predicted, nuclear negotiations between Iran and P5+1 ended in Baghdad without any result. Both sides agreed to continue the negotiations, with the next round being in Moscow. There has been much speculation as to why the negotiations failed, but the main reason was expressed by [European Union foreign policy chief] Catherine Ashton [who led the P5+1 group], which was that the West was demanding too much and insisting on its previous positions. Under the United States' leadership, the West insists on politicizing the nuclear issue and refuses to recognize Iran's right to its nuclear program. The meaning of what Ashton said, 'The P5+1 seeks the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions,' is that Iran must suspend uranium enrichment." The editorial expressed disappointment at the Obama administration for not taking the initiative to ensure that the negotiations succeeded.

In the reformist newspaper Shargh, political analyst Sadegh Zibakalam wrote, "The fact of the matter is that there was no definitive agreement in Baghdad. But this was not all that happened in Baghdad. Objectively and from another perspective, Baghdad, if we do not call it a victory, was a success. It was a new beginning between Iran and the West. Iran's two main negotiators [Saeed Jalili and his deputy, Ali Bagheri] demonstrated to the Westerners that Iran is interested in finding a solution and reaching an agreement." Zibakalam opined that that Jalili and Bagheri skillfully created a delicate balance between the redline that Iran has established for its nuclear program and continuation of the negotiations.

Fars, the news agency that is owned by a foundation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, enumerated what it called Iran's achievements in Baghdad:

(1) Transforming the nuclear negotiations to all-encompassing ones by bringing up both nuclear and nonnuclear issues in its proposed package to the P5+1;

(2) changing the West's "pressure-negotiate" tactic to one of "negotiate-cooperate";

(3) making use of a card regarding the location of the next round of the negotiations, since it was always the P5+1 that dictated where the two sides met;

(4) making the agenda of the meetings significant based on Iran's demands, because in the past the two sides insisted on their positions, particularly the Western side by insisting on its unreasonable demands, forcing both sides to lecture each other;

(5) changing Iran's position from the accused to the plaintiff, as the P5+1 has recognized that it cannot force Iran to abandon its rights by making minor concessions such as providing spare parts for Iranian airliners;

(6) increasing Iran's bargaining power and its regional credibility; and

(7) preparing the public for the negotiations.

The hardline Raja News website declared the negotiations the "Baghdad conquest," claiming that they constituted a great victory for the Islamic Republic for several reasons, ranging from the fact that the talks were held in the capital of a nation that is now a close ally of Iran, to the rift that supposedly developed among the P5+1 members.

***

Dr. Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that the reasons offered by the International Atomic Energy Agency for its request to visit the Parchin military facility are still not convincing to Iran. "Due to the pressure by some countries that demand that the agency visit the Parchin site, the visit has always been of interest to the IAEA, but we are not yet convinced about this," he said. "We do not have a nuclear site in Parchin." Referring to the agreement that Iran reached last week with the IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano, Abbasi Davani said the agreement provided a framework for cooperation, but the agency must still convince Iran why it needs to visit Parchin, a military site about 19 miles southeast of Tehran that has been used by Iran for decades to produce conventional munitions. The IAEA has alleged that Iran might have carried out experiments with high explosives that are relevant to triggering a nuclear weapon.

Separately, Abbasi Davani said declared that the Bushehr light-water nuclear reactor will reach its full capacity, 1,000 MW of electricity, by December. The reactor and power plant have been operating for some time now, and have been connected to Iran's electricity grid, generating 942 MW of electricity. Abbasi Davani added that once the reactor reaches its full capacity, Iran will assume control of it from Russia. He also said that Iran will add two more nuclear reactors, including another 1,000 MW light-water reactor in Bushehr, which was originally planned during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Pointing out that Iran does not have experience in designing such reactors, Abbasi Davani said that the design of the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor can be used as a model for the light-water ones, but that Iran can design and construct research reactors with 10-20 MW capacity. He added that Iran has reached self-sufficiency in its nuclear fuel cycle.

In the same speech, Abbasi Davani said, "We produce as much enriched uranium at 19.75 percent as we need, not more." Regarding the IAEA report that traces of uranium enriched to 27 percent were detected at the Fordow facility near Qom, Abbasi Davani said, "This was a technical error. We usually fix the enrichment level for the centrifuges at 19 percent, to prevent it to go about 20 percent as a result of fluctuations. But, one of the centrifuges had been set at 20 percent, which fluctuations caused it to go above 20 percent. No violation [of our safeguards obligations] has taken place. We can produce 27 percent-enriched uranium, but it is not useful to us. This is not something that can be a point of contention between us and other nations."

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, said on Saturday that the trace of 27 percent-enriched uranium is a "common problem [for enrichment sites that have begun operating], and is under investigation by the [IAEA] experts." Without naming anyone, he accused "some" of trying to create an anti-Iranian environment by taking advantage of a "minor technical issue that also occurs in other countries."

The IAEA announced that its inspectors and experts will visit the Bushehr reactor in 2013. Iran had sent a letter to the agency inviting it to send a delegation to inspect the reactor.

***

Nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who defected to the United States in May 2009 and returned to Iran on July 13, 2010, was sentenced by a military court to ten years of incarceration and a five-year ban on any type of social activity. Upon his return to Tehran, Amiri had been greeted at the airport by officials from the Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Defense, and been declared a "national hero," but he has been held in Heshmatieh Prison in east Tehran for the past 20 months -- in solitary confinement, according to his family. Amiri, whose area of expertise is radioisotopes that are used in medical treatment, was working at Malek-e Ashtar University in Tehran before he traveled to Saudi Arabia and disappeared there. The school is operated by the Ministry of Defense.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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