Ivory Tower Negotiations

There is an interesting twist to the international nuclear road show involving Iran and another six powers this week. President Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying that the West should climb down from “ivory towers”; and “We have said several times that the Iranians will not negotiate with anyone over their basic rights“.

Last year, the group of 6 powers* offered to engage in a nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran. This was rejected mainly due to the fact that there were inadequate guarantees in place to secure Iran’s side of the bargain.

Later, Iran came up with her own proposal involving not just the 6, but also two emerging powers in the shape of Brazil and Turkey. The proposal would have left Iran’s low-enriched uranium in the hands of Turkey as an honest broker with additional safeguards to ensure that Iran could not be cheated.

This latter proposal was rejected by the other parties involved, and instead the US pushed through a new round of Security Council sanctions earlier this year. It was assumed that greater isolation would lead to greater incentives for Iran to yield to foreign pressure.

After much back and forth and a few local and national elections here and there, the group of 6 and Iran appear ready to sit around the table again this month. The former is likely to assume a position of strength after relative yet unconvincing success with the sanctions push.

Iran on the other hand appears to be moving into an unexpected position that assumes even more power than the period before the latest round of sanctions: it appears that Iran is happy to meet with the group of 6, but is refusing to discuss her nuclear enrichment activities or a nuclear swap deal.

It has to be reiterated that Iran has no nuclear weapons, and that the group of 6 and the UN’s IAEA have no proof of any weapons programme in Iran either. Their concocted ‘case’ is ostensibly built around the fuzzy concept of ‘trust’ or the lack of it. Iraq II?

Not for the first time in Iran’s modern history a group of foreign powers are scheming to choke her power. The country is surrounded by foreign invaders across the region and their weapons of mass destruction, and Israel poses an existential threat with her illegal nuclear arsenal – something that the UN’s IAEA barely talks about, let alone address.

So Iran is making it plain that she wants to discuss her security concerns, while the group of 6 have prepared their own items for the agenda. This may actually work because Iran is not willing to discuss other countries’ concerns if her own are not met.

The stage may be set for Iran to make a deal by exchanging her fuel for security guarantees and recognition of her role, particularly in the region. She would at the same time redirect the interrogator’s light back onto those who are actually guilty of causing nuclear proliferation, namely Israel, Pakistan, India and the group of 6 with the possible exception of Germany – assuming that one can ‘trust’ Germany to tell the truth on such issues.

Such a deal would be a good outcome for the non-proliferation agenda, and Iran might after all prove to be a positive influence on global scurity if her strategy works.

Question is, would the actual nuclear proliferators actually let this happen though?

* The group of 6 (5+1) is a nuclear-armed gang of 5 that aims to monopolise world power as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China – plus Germany.

Photo: Karkas Mountains, Abyaneh, Iran.

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