Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Revelations of Iran's Confidential Response

Iran’s confidential response to the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, US + Germany) offer on August 22, 2006 was made public by David Albright for the first time on September 11, 2006.

According to the document, “The Islamic Republic of Iran does not intend to reject the whole issue unilaterally, and is ready to provide an opportunity for both sides to share their viewpoints on this issue and try to convince each other and reach a mutual understanding.” It also warns that if the UN Security Council deliberations on imposing sanctions on Iran continue, “the positions expressed in this response would be void and the Islamic Republic would choose a different course of action.”

While Iran’s proposal suggests that ending enrichment should not be a prerequisite to negotiations, as demanded by the United States and other countries, it does offer to temporarily suspend enrichment. On page eleven, the document states, “The remaining issue is suspension of Iran’s dossier in the Security Council during the negotiation period by the other party, and suspension of enrichment activities by Iran through negotiations. I.R. Iran essentially agrees with consideration of some principles and conditions for further assurances of productive negotiations and considers that as a correct step.”

On September 13, Dr. Jalil Roshandel opined on the significance of Iran’s offer to suspend enrichment:

  • Tehran’s offer to suspend enrichment for a defined period is a concession born out of a trend towards moderation among Iran’s conservatives.
  • This trend can reverse itself if Washington decides to push for sanctions at the Security Council.
  • At this junction, when Iran has offered temporary suspension of its enrichment activities, support for talks rather than sanctions is more likely to lead to a much-needed breakthrough.

Iran’s response to the P5+1 also mentions that the country might be willing to adhere to the Additional Protocol. The response states that the country “would facilitate the necessary working conditions for IAEA’s inspections for clarification of the ambiguities, would provide the utmost cooperation for expedition of its work, and if deemed necessary, would consider voluntary steps towards implementation of the Additional Protocol, given the provision of the legal conditions.” But again, this offer is preconditioned on the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors suspending discussion of Iran’s nuclear program until a “final report” is presented by the IAEA Director General.

Among other significant elements, the proposal calls for “simultaneous mutual confidence-building” that would include a commitment by the foreign governments “to seriously follow up the fulfillment of a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, particularly the commitment to disarm [Israel] from weapons of mass destruction and in particular nuclear arms.”

Meanwhile, after much internal debate, the European Union countries (Britain, France and Germany) finally reached consensus on their approach. After some successful private talks last weekend with Iran, the country allegedly offered to suspend enrichment for up to two months. The EU3 and Iran are set to resume talks with Iran on September 14. There is much speculation that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will try to pin down Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani on the offer to suspend enrichment.

As for the rest of the UN Security Council, on September 12, Russia and China refused to endorse US-backed tough language to move to sanctions quickly, favoring continued negotiations instead. In a slight softening of position, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signaled this week that a temporary suspension of Iran's nuclear programs might be enough to pave the way for the first direct negotiations involving the US and Iran in more than a quarter of a century.

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