- Posted September 25, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
West Can Afford To Trust Iran
Recently, in Iran, the nuclear file moved from the Supreme National Security Council to the Foreign Ministry. How do you evaluate this change?
The very positive aspect of this change is that Iran’s chief negotiator on the nuclear question will now be Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif. He is highly respected in Western capitals as a man of great intelligence and remarkable diplomatic skill. He is a brilliant negotiator, tough but imaginative. He knows the ins and outs of the nuclear file.
With the new nuclear team in Iran, is a nuclear deal more possible?
Yes. The new team is likely to feel more confident about engaging in a fluid, constructive negotiation with the P5+1. The public image in the West of the new President and Foreign Minister is such that Western leaders can afford to be seen to trust them to respect any deal that emerges from a negotiation. Western negotiators will feel under some pressure not to waste the opportunity to resolve this question that has been presented by Dr. Rohani’s election and the appointment of an experienced and skilful team.
We have seen that Obama has sent a letter to the Iranian officials and recently eased some sanctions, meanwhile Rohani talks about better relations with the international community. Are they just testing the waters or has the real change finally happened?
I think it is too soon to say that the real change has happened. But I do sense a greater US readiness to engage in direct contact with the Iranian President and his administration than at any time since January 2002. No doubt at this stage both parties are testing each other. I would guess that the US side has been impressed so far by the new Iranian administration’s responses and by the signals the latter has initiated.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Zarif and Mrs. Ashton will meet to decide on a date to resume nuclear negotiations and, a few days later, the meeting between Iran and the IAEA will begin in Geneva. In your opinion, are negotiations more efficient in the IAEA framework or with the P5+1?
Both are needed. The IAEA wants to resolve certain ambiguities or uncertainties about the nature and extent of nuclear and nuclear-related research in Iran. That is the IAEA’s job, mandated by its member states. The P5+1 want to explore Iran’s readiness to re-build the confidence in its nuclear intentions that was forfeited when in 2003 IAEA inspectors discovered that Iran had been “pursuing a policy of concealment for 18 years”. Confidence can be re-built by measures which demonstrate that Iran is not interested in producing highly enriched uranium or plutonium, and by allowing the IAEA to complete the investigations that were interrupted in 2006.
Once more, Amano has appealed to gain access to Parchin. What lies behind Amano’s insistence and Iran’s refusal?
It’s hard for an outsider to judge. The IAEA seems to believe that research into the technology needed to detonate nuclear devices took place at Parchin more than ten years ago. They want to see whether they can find evidence to corroborate that suspicion. Personally I am not convinced that it is essential to resolve this question. It is much more important to acquire confidence that, whatever may or may not have been Iran’s nuclear intentions prior to 2003, Iran’s intentions now are entirely peaceful and in accord with its obligations as a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran’s nuclear case is much more about politics than about legal issues and this trend makes things more complicated. Do you agree with those who say that the nuclear file must be resolved between Tehran and Washington?
Yes. But I don’t see it as a mere symbol of the quarrel that has divided Iran and the US since 1979. I believe that the US needs to feel that it understands and can accept the strategic rationale for Iran’s nuclear programme, just as, for instance, it understands and accepts the rationale for Brazil’s nuclear programme. The US needs especially to be convinced that Iran’s nuclear programme is not a threat to its allies, Israel and Saudi-Arabia, who have invested prodigiously in convincing legislators in Washington DC (and, to a lesser extent, London and Paris) that Iran is or intends to become a threat to regional and global peace and security.
The US and its partners still insist on enrichment limitations, but Rohani has said that Iran will not give up one iota on its nuclear program. Do you have any suggestions to break this impasse?
This very issue will form the crux of the nuclear negotiation, in my view. Success or failure will hang on whether Iran can suggest arrangements that do not compromise its right to make use of enrichment technology for peaceful purposes but that are also effective demonstrations that Iran is not interested in producing highly enriched uranium. I have some ideas but do not wish to compromise them by voicing them publicly at this stage!
Recently, David Albright – the head of ISIS – has said that converting enriched uranium to fuel is not a confidence-building step and Iran must send its stockpile to another country or limit the quality and quantity of the centrifuges. Do you agree with him?
I have sensed in Mr. Albright a fondness for “worst-case scenarios” that I have encountered among Israeli experts. His argument is that enriched uranium which has been converted from gaseous into metallic form can be converted back into gaseous form without much difficulty and is therefore effectively available for enrichment to 93% U-235. He seems oblivious to the fact that re-conversion and transfer to Natanz or Fordo from Isfahan could not take place over-night and, once detected, would set alarm bells ringing. And of course he takes it for granted that Iran’s decision-takers are itching to produce 93% U-235, despite assurances to the contrary from US national intelligence agencies. But, that said, if Iran were ready to store its stockpile in another country, this. Would undoubtedly be reassuring for those who still worry about Iran's nuclear intentions"