Thursday, May 22, 2008

Iran's Offer

On May 13, Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki delivered a letter and “Proposed Package for Constructive Negotiations” to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The letter and offer was delivered just before European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana is set to travel to Iran to deliver a “not-so-new package of incentives” from the so-called P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Germany, U.S. and Russia) meant to convince the country to abandon its nuclear enrichment activities.

The English translation of the Iranian offer available is unofficial and very crude and thus may accurately reflect what the offer is actually meant to convey. However, a few observations can still be made. Perhaps of most significance, the letter and offer delivered by Foreign Minister Mottaki stresses a long-standing issue for the Iranians of the need to approach negotiations with mutual respect.

The Iranian offer may also be viewed as a preemptive measure to the “new package of incentives” to be delivered by the P5+1. Though there are some additional incentives in the P5+1 offer, including enhanced nuclear cooperation, it does not include U.S.-backed security assurances that it will not attack Iran. Most importantly, the U.S. adamantly maintains the precondition that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities before negotiations can even begin, which Iran refuses to do.

The Iranian offer is likely a reflection of the view inside the government that they will just wait out the current U.S. administration because they do not see the possibility for real dialogue at present. In light of this, the Iranian government has perhaps made this offer mostly for media purposes.

In the offer, the Iranian government presents itself as a global player, equal to all of the members of the P5+1. Iran says it is willing to enter into talks with the P5+1 “on cooperation to strengthen a just peace and bolster the stability and the advancement of democracy in regions that suffer from instability, militarism, violence and terrorism. Such cooperation can take place in different parts of the world- more specifically in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa, and Latin America. Cooperation to assist the Palestinian people to find a comprehensive plan- one that is sustainable, democratic and fair- to resolve the 60-year old Palestinian issue can become a symbol of such collaboration.” There is no mention of security guarantees in the Iranian offer.

The offer also calls for talks between the P5+1 and Iran to include cooperation on Economic issues, including in the energy sector, trade and investment, common effort to help fight poverty in less developed countries and reducing the impact of sharp price fluctuations and retooling global monetary and financial arrangements.

In regards to the nuclear issue, the Iranian offer does not mention its own nuclear program and instead proposes discussing the nuclear issue in the global context and a focus on disarmament. The offer calls for talks to include:

  • Obtaining a further assurance about the non-diversion of the nuclear activities of different countries.
  • Establishing enrichment and nuclear fuel production consortiums in different parts of the world- including in Iran.
  • Cooperation to access and utilize peaceful nuclear technology and facilitating its usage by all states.
  • Nuclear disarmament and establishment of a follow up committee.
  • Improved supervision by the IAEA over the nuclear activities of different states.
  • Joint collaboration over nuclear safety and physical protection.
  • An effort to encourage other states to control the export of nuclear material and equipment.

The failure of the P5+1 to produce a credible offer to Iran without preconditions and with security assurances has essentially ensured that substantive talks over Iran’s nuclear program are not going anywhere anytime soon. The Iranian position has only further hardened and as the Iranian offer demonstrates, it has only become more difficult to break the impasse. Tough-minded resolve from all parties to engage in difficult give-and-take of diplomacy, as well as creative diplomatic solutions are urgently needed to prevent the situation from further deterioriating.

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