Iran should receive amnesty from past transgressions or curbs on economic penalties if it agrees to support an international investigation of possible weapon-related atomic activities, Reuters on Sunday quoted experts as saying (see GSN, July 13).
Six leading nations in talks with Tehran -- China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- would probably need to float a potential deal in their wider effort to resolve concerns about Iranian atomic operations, according to the news service. The United States and other Western powers fear Iran's atomic program is geared toward establishment of a nuclear-weapon capability; the Persian Gulf regional power maintains its ambitions are strictly peaceful.
Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency have failed on multiple occasions this year to reach an agreement enabling the U.N. nuclear watchdog to vet facilities, personnel and records it deems necessary to address uncertainties over suspected Iranian atomic efforts (see GSN, June 8).
"It looks to me now that the IAEA-Iran track isn't going to go anywhere unless there is progress made in the talks between Iran and the powers," Stockholm International Peace Research Institute expert Shannon Kile said.
Former IAEA Deputy Director General Pierre Goldschmidt said the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany should attempt to end the stalemate by offering Tehran "a grace period with no adverse consequences in case their full transparency with IAEA inspectors reveal past wrongdoing."
One high-level Western international relations official said: "Personally I see no problem with immunity for the past."
"But it has to be verifiable. The models are South Africa and Libya. I fear Iran will not accept such true transparency," the source added in reference to the shuttering of nuclear-weapon initiatives in the two African countries.
Among other concerns, the International Atomic Energy Agency suspects Iran's Parchin site to have housed a tank for performing nuclear weapon-usable combustion studies. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi brushed off suggestions that Tehran had sought to conceal incriminating evidence at the military facility.
"I totally refute such accusations ... nobody can clean any nuclear contamination," the official said to Reuters.
Iran in June demanded limitations on potential audits when the U.N. organization sought to finalize plans for executing the investigation, envoys said. Diplomatic officials attributed the failure to reach a deal in part to Tehran's demand that the agency be prohibited from revisiting areas of concern once they have been addressed.
"It is back to square one," an Western international relations insider stated.
A top-level foreign dignitary said Tehran had taken the atomic agency "for a ride" in welcoming IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano for a widely publicized visit earlier this year (see GSN, May 22).
One diplomatic official said IAEA personnel "went through such a disappointing and frustrating process last time that they would be loath to repeat that."
Tehran, though, has said it would join further discussions with the U.N. agency. Salehi said efforts to reach a deal "may have stalled a little bit but it will speed up" (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters I, July 15).
Meanwhile, Iran's envoy to the United Nations last week said the production of 20 percent-enriched uranium "is an issue that could be discussed and decided" by Tehran and the six governments participating in multilateral atomic discussions.
"It is not off the table," Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee told al-Monitor last week. "I’m sure that at the meeting in July (July 3) between the technicians that issue has been discussed" (see GSN, July 5).
The United States and allied governments have pressed Iran to end production of the higher-enriched material, which they fear could enable faster preparation of bomb-capable uranium with an enrichment level of roughly 90 percent. Tehran insists the effort is intended to provide fuel for a medical research reactor.
The six powers have also called on Iran to relinquish stored 20-percent material and to shutter the underground Qum enrichment plant, according to earlier reporting. Tehran, in turn, has pressed for curbs on financial penalties as well as acknowledgement of its uranium refinement efforts as legal under global statutes.
They nations "said they will try to consider" providing Iran with material for the medical reactor in exchange for concessions by Tehran, the ambassador said. "There is no promise in the proposal. There is consideration, thinking, trying."
Khazaee belittled an offer by the six powers to make nonmilitary aircraft components available to Iran in return for the potential atomic moves.
"This is a humanitarian issue. People are getting killed because of [aircraft] crashes," he said. "Put yourself in Iranian shoes."
A later phase proposed by the powers would involve "capping enrichment at 5 percent as well as (ending production of) the heavy water in Arak in exchange for thinking, finding a way for removal of unilateral sanctions," Khazaee added.
"The third part of the proposal is that Iran should implement fully the Security Council resolutions. Then they will consider to remove the (U.N.) sanctions," he said. The Security Council has adopted multiple measures demanding a comprehensive halt to Iranian uranium enrichment.
"I do not think [an agreement] is impossible," the ambassador said. "It is possible to close the gap … based on good will, respect, preserving the Iranian nation’s right, not harming them, vice versa we do not harm anybody. How to take steps forward … that’s the issue that lawyers and technicians … can discuss" (Slavin/Rozen, al-Monitor, July 11).
Iranian Supreme National Security Council Undersecretary Ali Bagheri on Sunday said the Western state participants in the multilateral negotiations had previously acknowledged Iran's legal entitlement to employ civilian atomic systems, the nation's Fars News Agency reported.
In multiple written statements to Iran following an April meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, the Western powers "acknowledged the Iranian nation's nuclear rights," Bagheri said.
Iran called on the countries "to prove this in action," and "they presented their proposal in the Baghdad talks" in May, he said. "In return, Iran also presented its own proposals in the [June] Moscow meeting in detail and elaborated on the legal principles of its offer as well" (Fars News Agency I, July 15).
Separately, recent remarks attributed to British Secret Intelligence Service chief John Sawers reflect a presumption that Tehran was acting to build a nuclear bomb, Agence France-Presse on Friday quoted experts as saying. Sawers reportedly said Iran is "two years away" from gaining the status of a "nuclear weapons state."
"Most Western intelligence agencies believe that Iran has not made the decision to acquire a nuclear weapon, but is amassing the capability to weaponize when it decides to do so," said Dina Esfandiary, an expert with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
"He (Sawers) seems to be completely glossing over that," Esfandiary said. "At the moment, Iran has enough low-enriched uranium for four or five bombs if further enriched," she added.
Chatham House analyst Patricia Lewis said she was "surprised by the date because, if you look at IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) documents, the general understanding is that any weapons activities that Iran had stopped in 2003."
The British official's remarks contained "assumptions ... as to how you define a weapon ... whether Iran has developed a warhead, whether it has the technology to do it," Lewis said (Ruth Holmes, Agence France-Presse/Yahoo!News, July 13).
British government insiders, though, have suggested Sawers referred only to the success of Western intelligence services in delaying Iranian progress toward a nuclear-weapon capability, as opposed to a completed bomb, the London Guardian reported on Friday (Julian Borger, London Guardian, July 13).
Iran's possible manufacturing of atomic armaments was one subject of a Monday discussion between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli President Shimon Peres, the Associated Press reported (Associated Press I/USA Today, July 16).
Elsewhere, a measure backed by an Iranian legislative panel would require the nation to develop atomic-powered commercial sea vessels and supply material to operate them, according to a Sunday report by Iran's Mehr News Agency. Atomic material for powering atomic-powered submarines has enrichment levels ranging between 20 percent and more than 90 percent.
Iran's legislature would conduct deliberations on the proposal next week, parliament member Mohammad Bayatian said.
"Given the sanctions that enemies have imposed against our country, the bill must be enacted," he added (Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press II/Google News, July 15).
Another Iranian draft measure under consideration by lawmakers would direct Tehran to restrict access to the Strait of Hormuz, a vital regional oil transport route, for ships supplying petroleum to state supporters of penalties targeting Iran over its nuclear program.
"(Based on the draft bill) the closure of the Strait of Hormuz will continue until the annulment of all the sanctions imposed against Iran, and the government will be allowed to open the Strait only after meeting 14 conditions," Javad Karimi Qoddousi, a high-level Iranian legislator, said to Fars News on Sunday. The demands would include extracting a 3 percent fee from vessels transporting goods to state importers of petroleum, Qoddousi said (Fars News Agency II, July 15).
Iranian military Chief of Staff Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi on Sunday said Tehran has "a plan for closing the Strait of Hormuz, but executing the plan needs the permission of the supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Fars reported.
"The armed forces have their own plans for every subject, but the decision to close the Strait of Hormuz lie on the commander in chief (Ayatollah Khamenei), who also receives consultations from the Supreme National Security Council," Firouzabadi said.
Western powers "allege that we are bluffing in a bid to appease themselves," the officer added. "Of course, we don't want to block the Strait of Hormuz, but we have a plan for closing it, which is a clever and wise one" (Fars News Agency III, July 15).
Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval chief Rear Adm. Ali Fadavi added: "If they (the U.S.) do not obey international laws and the [Revolutionary Guard's] warnings, it will have very bad consequences for them," Reuters reported.
"The [Revolutionary Guard's] naval forces have had the ability since the (Iran-Iraq) war to completely control the Strait of Hormuz and not allow even a single drop of oil to pass through," Fars News quoted him as saying on Saturday (Yeganeh Torbati, Reuters II, July 14).
Iran should receive amnesty from past transgressions or curbs on economic penalties if it agrees to support an international investigation of possible weapon-related atomic activities, Reuters on Sunday quoted experts as saying.