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News | Iran-IAEA Negotiations Fail, Moscow Talks in Doubt

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

09 Jun 2012 21:30Comments

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.

NuclearRod.jpg9:30 p.m. IRDT, 20 Khordad/June 9 On Friday, representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) failed to finalize an agreement that would allow more inspections of Iranian sites by the IAEA. The unsuccessful talks concluded after a day of apparently intensive negotiations in Vienna, where the agency is based. No additional round of negotiations has been scheduled. On May 22, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano announced that he had reached a preliminary agreement with Iranian officials for broader inspections.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, said he anticipated additional discussions on an agreement to lay out a "structured approach" for the IAEA probe, saying, "This is a very complicated issue. We have decided to continue our work and we are going to decide on the venue and date soon. We hope that we will be able to conclude this structured approach." According to IRNA, Iran's state news agency, Soltanieh said, "Everything is moving on the right path." But IAEA safeguards chief Herman Nackaerts was pessimistic. "There has been no progress," he said. "Indeed, Iran raised issues that we have already discussed and other new ones. This is disappointing."

The agency has repeatedly asked for the right to inspect Parchin, a military site 19 miles southeast of Tehran, where Iran has been producing ammunitions and explosives for its military since the 1950s. The IAEA has alleged that Iran may have been carrying out experiments with high explosives that are relevant to triggering a nuclear reaction. Satellite photos have indicated activities in a certain building inside the Parchin complex that have led to speculations by some experts and even Amano himself that Iran might be trying to clean up the building before the visit by the IAEA. However, if nuclear materials have been used in the alleged experiments, the likelihood that Iran can remove them completely is essentially nonexistent, and if conventional explosives have been used, the issue would be mute.

Iran surely knows that it is under intense scrutiny by the international community and, therefore, it would seem strange that it would undertake a cleaning operation while it is being watched. Investigative reporter Gareth Porter reports that many pundits believe that Iran is intentionally prompting the IAEA, the United States, and Israel to give greater urgency and importance to a request for an IAEA inspection visit to Parchin in the context of negotiations between Iran and the IAEA, in order to receive a major concession by the United States and its allies, without actually having done anything at Parchin that would violate its safeguards obligations toward the agency.

Before the latest round of negotiations got underway, Soltanieh told reporters, "Another embarrassment [for the IAEA] is on its way." He was referring to the fact that the same type of suspicion about Parchin also existed in 2004, but "when the inspectors of the IAEA were taken to the suspected building, it turned out to be a toilet that was being used by the workers." He claimed that the agency's inspectors were angry for "having been misled" by the speculations.

Exchange between Bagheri and Schmid and doubts about Moscow parley

Meanwhile, another factor has cast doubt on the upcoming negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- scheduled to take place in Moscow on June 17 and 18. Ali Bagheri, chief deputy to Saeed Jalili, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and chief nuclear negotiator, had sent a letter to German diplomat Helga Schmid, senior adviser to Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy and security affairs chief who leads the P5+1 team in the negotiations. Bagheri had demanded that "deputies" -- meaning himself and Schmid -- and teams of experts from both sides meet prior to the Moscow meeting to agree on the agenda. Schmid sent a letter to Bagheri on June 7, apparently rejecting a meeting with him and claiming that only meetings between the two sides' experts had been agreed on. In her letter, Schmid declared,

Let me say that I am somewhat surprised by the issues raised in your recent letters. I would like to recall that during our recent talks in Baghdad the E3+3 [the three E.U. members, plus the United States, Russia, and China] presented a straightforward proposal which addresses on the one hand our key concerns on the 20% activities and at the same time offers interesting opportunities for co-operation in the nuclear and other areas which would be beneficial to Iran.

At that time, [the] E3+3 have already expressed readiness to have in-depth discussions, including at the level of experts, in order to examine the details of this proposal.

Unfortunately, in Baghdad Iran was not prepared to take up our suggestion to enter into discussions on the substance of the proposal.

We would feel very encouraged if Iran were now ready to enter into these discussions since it remains the collective conviction of the E3+3 that this proposal continues to represent the most promising basis for moving our discussions towards achieving concrete results at an early stage.

Iran is presenting Schmid's letter as evidence that the P5+1 is reneging on "promises" it made in Istanbul and Baghdad in April and May. In a dispatch titled "The one-sided course of action by P5+1 against the fate of the Moscow negotiations," ISNA, the Iranian Students News Agency, claimed that "meetings between deputies" had been agreed upon in Baghdad. Prior to the talks in both Istanbul and Baghdad, Bagheri and Schmid met several times in undisclosed locations to set the agendas. Schmid's refusal to meet with Bagheri again and her letter indicate that the P5+1 believes that the agenda for the Moscow negotiations has been set -- Iran's response to its proposal -- and is not willing to discuss anything else. After the Baghdad talks, Bagheri claimed that the negotiations between the experts and deputies of both sides were "unfinished" and, therefore, will continue prior to the Moscow meeting. It has also been reported that in his letter to Schmid, Jalili warned her and Ashton that the P5+1's refusal to meet "has cast doubts on the Moscow negotiations."

The main headline of the Saturday edition of the hardline Kayhan newspaper Kayhan was "Kayhan's report on doubtful outlook of Moscow negotiations." An editorial stated that Schmid's letter to Bagheri indicates that the "P5+1 is interested [only] in bringing up in Moscow its agenda for the Baghdad negotiations." Kayhan's tone is, in fact, pervasive in the Iranian media within Iran, with some of them saying that Saudi Arabia has increased its oil production, the price of oil has been decreasing over the past several weeks and, therefore, the West has been reassured that further sanctions imposed on Iran will not hurt the Western alliance against Iran.

Majles deputy Avaz Heidarpoor said "no foreigner will be allowed into Parchin." He threatened that Iran will take the IAEA to international court for what he called "spying [on Parchin] by satellite." Heidarpoor was a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in the last Majles.

Speaking in Istanbul on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Iran to be prepared to "take concrete steps," particularly in halting uranium enrichment to 19.75 percent, at the next round of talks with the P5+1.

Ahmadinejad: No one can prevent Iran from making nuclear weapon

Last week Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led a delegation to Beijing to take part in a gathering of the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in which Iran takes part as an observer. He emphasized to reporters that Iran is seeking a negotiated solution for its standoff with the P5+1 over Iran's nuclear program. He declared, "If Iran decides to make a nuclear weapon, it will not be afraid of anyone, will announce it publicly, and no one will be able to prevent it [from doing so]. The most that those who want to dominate [the world] can do is what they are doing now, namely, create difficulties that we are witnessing now. But the issue is that the Islamic Republic of Iran's fundamental and definitive policy does not permit any move toward making nuclear weapons."

Meeting with senior Chinese officials, Ahmadinejad also said that Iran is prepared to deliver the oil that it exports to China to the tankers in a port beyond the Strait of Hormuz, and that it can continue constructing its gas pipeline to Pakistan through Afghanistan to deliver gas to China on its border with Afghanistan. Iran is completing a pipeline that will exports its natural gas to Pakistan, produced by the giant South Pars reservoir in the Persian Gulf.

China asks Iran to be "realistic", "flexible"

Ahmadinejad met in Beijing with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who told Ahmadinejad that "progress in the Baghdad talks created the foundation for continuing the negotiations," but that "there are still deep differences between the two sides." He expressed the hope that "based on evaluation of the situation, the Iranian side will act realistically and flexibly, and negotiate honestly with the P5+1, and work more closely with the IAEA, so that the negotiations will ensure that tension between the two sides is reduced."

Jalili a presidential candidate?

As reported by Tehran Bureau, supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believe that Jalili will run in Iran's presidential election next year and, therefore, have begun an effort to push him out of the political arena, or at least discredit him by criticizing the nuclear negotiations under his leadership. The assessment appears to have been bourn out. Several new websites have sprung up recently encouraging Jalili's candidacy. One that calls itself "Campaign to invite Saeed Jalili to be a candidate for [13]92 [2013]" is operated by followers of Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, the conservative cleric and a formerly ardent supporter of Ahmadinejad. They have declared that the pillars of their thinking is "absolute obedience toward Velaayat-e Motlagheh Faghih [that is, toward Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], and following the revolutionary clerics." They are supporters of Jebheh Paaydaari-e Enghelaab-e Eslami (Stability Front of the Islamic Revolution), which supported a large number of candidates in the recent parliamentary elections, and now has a faction of about about 80 deputies in the Majles.

A second website refers to itself as the "Blog of supporters of Dr. Saeed Jalili." It says that the blog has been created by "some revolutionary youth who believe for various reasons that the best candidate for the next presidential elections is Dr. Saeed Jalili." Interestingly, the blog refers to the youth as sevvom-e Tiri--those who support 3 Tir, or June 24, the day in 2005 when Ahmadinejad was elected president for the first time. The date has been used by his supporters to distinguish themselves from dovvom-e Khordadi -- those who support 2, or May 23, the day in 1997 when Mohammad Khatami was first elected president. The blog also says that "it seeks redemption from the 'sedition' [Green Movement], 'perverted group' [the inner circle of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and chief adviser], and saaketin-e fetneh [those who were silent about the 'sedition,' a reference to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani]." Two other blogs calling themselves "Supporters of the candidacy of Dr. Saeed Jalili" and "Youth supporting Saeed Jalili for president" advocate similar themes and appear to be written by the same group. Jalili himself has said nothing about his intention for next year's elections.

Book censored on Khamenei's order

Hamid Davoodabadi, a conservative cultural activist, said that Khamenei ordered him to remove about 400 pages from a book that he has written about those who fought in and survived the Iran-Iraq War. He did not say anything about the content of the pages, nor did he explain why Khamenei wanted them removed. Meanwhile, Ali Saeedi, Khamenei's representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps claimed, "The power of the Supreme Leader is the same as those of the Prophets and Imams" and that absolute obedience toward him is obligatory for everyone.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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