U.S. Says Only Reason for Talks with Iran Is Enrichment Halt

IPS — The agreement on draft Security Council resolution sanctions against Iran has grabbed the headlines on the Barack Obama administration’s response to Iran’s nuclear swap proposal brokered by Turkey and Brazil. But the more consequential response is the acknowledgement by the U.S. State Department Monday that the administration is not willing to hold talks with Iran unless it agrees to a complete halt in uranium enrichment.

That announcement was accompanied by the revelation that the objective of the original swap proposal last autumn was to get Iran to agree to eventually suspend its enrichment programme.

The Obama administration had not previously declared publicly that it was demanding an end to all enrichment by Iran, and had suggested directly and indirectly that it wanted a broader diplomatic engagement with Iran covering issues of concern to both states.

The new hard line ruling out broader diplomatic engagement with Iran and the new light on the strategy behind last year’s swap proposal confirms what has long been suspected — that the debate within the Obama administration last year over whether to abandon the demand for an end to Iranian uranium enrichment as unrealistic had been won by proponents of the zero enrichment demand by late summer 2009.

U.S. State Department spokesman, P. J. Crowley, said Monday the United States would not negotiate with Iran on its proposal to send 1,200 kilogrammes of low enriched uranium to Turkey to be replaced with 120 kilogrammes of fuel rods for its Tehran Research Reactor, unless the Iranians agree to take up the broader subject of their nuclear programme and specifically an end to their uranium enrichment programme.

Responding to a question about the U.S. willingness to meet with Iran on the new proposal, Crowley said, “[I]f it’s willing to engage the P5+1, “then it has to commit that it’s willing to engage the P5+1 on its nuclear programme.”

The P5+1 groups the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.

Crowley noted that Iran had offered to have discussions with “the international community” but not about its nuclear programme. “[I]n our view, the only reason to have that discussion,” Crowley said, “first and foremost, would be to address our core concerns in the — with regard to Iran’s nuclear programme.”

Crowley revealed for the first time that the original proposal for Iran to swap 1,200 kilogrammes of low enriched uranium for 120 kilogrammes of uranium enriched to nearly 20 percent roughly a year later “was meant as a means to a larger end, which was to get Iran to fundamentally address its – concerns the international community has”.

He went on to explain that “the fact that Iran…continues to enrich uranium and has failed to suspend its uranium enrichment programme, as has been called for in the U.N. Security Council resolutions: that’s our core concern.”

Crowley was clearly suggesting that the talks which were supposed to follow Iran’s acceptance of the deal would be focused on ending its nuclear enrichment programme rather than on addressing the sources of conflict between the United States and Iran.

Last October, the swap proposal was presented as a “confidence building measure” that would gain enough time for a broader diplomatic dialogue between Iran and the United States to take place. It would allow the Obama administration to argue with Israel that Iran had temporarily given up its “breakout capability” by transferring most of its low enriched uranium abroad.

Mohammed ElBaradei, the lame duck director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), declared on October 21 that the swap agreement “could pave the way for a complete normalisation of relations between Iran and the international community”.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly argued, moreover, that the swap proposal implicitly accepted Iran’s right to enrich uranium, although nothing in the proposal addressed that issue.

The history of the swap proposal shows, however, that its origins were intertwined with the objective of halting Iranian uranium enrichment.

Gary Samore, Obama’s chief adviser on nuclear proliferation, devised the swap deal. He had published a paper in December 2008 with co-author, Bruce Reidel, of the Brookings Institution proposing that the new administration demand that Iran’s LEU be exported to Russia to be converted into fuel rods for the Bushehr reactor in order take away Iran’s nuclear “break-out capability”.

Ironically, it was Ahmadinejad’s public suggestion of interest in a straight commercial deal under which Iran would send LEU to any country that would enrich it to 20 percent for the Tehran Research Reactor that led to the formulation of the swap proposal.

Samore simply shifted the focus of that proposal from Bushehr to the Tehran Research Reactor, and it quickly became a P5+1 initiative to temporarily strip Iran of nearly 80 percent of its low enriched uranium.

Samore was known to be a strong proponent of demanding that Iran end its uranium enrichment programme, who privately expressed certainty that Iran intends to manufacture nuclear weapons. He had publicly expressed pessimism that Iran would accept any proposal demanding an end to enrichment without a credible military threat, whether by the United States or Israel.

Before entering the administration Samore had advocated offering a lifting of economic sanctions, assurances against regime change and even normalisation of relations as inducements to accept that demand.

No Iranian regime could have accepted a complete end to enrichment as part of a deal with the United States, however, because of popular support for the nuclear programme as a symbol of Iran’s technological advancement.

Proponents of the zero enrichment option were confident enough to leak to the press the fact that the aim of broader talks with Iran would be to end enrichment entirely. The Washington Post reported October 22, 2009 that U.S. officials commenting on the proposed uranium swap “stressed that the deal would be only the first step in a difficult process to persuade Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and that suspension remains the primary goal”.

Now the administration has given up whatever flexibility it had previously retained to adjust its position in the face of a firm Iranian rejection of the zero enrichment demand. That position portends a continuation of high and possibly rising tensions between the United States and Iran for the remainder of Obama’s administration.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. His latest book, with John Kiriakou, is The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis: From CIA Coup to the Brink of War. Read other articles by Gareth.

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  1. Rehmat said on May 20th, 2010 at 10:19am #

    There is very remote chance that Barack Obama would show political courage to agree with this proposal. The powerful pro-Israel lobbygroups which put him in the White House – have the evil power to kick him out of the White House as they have proved in the past. One has to know Obama’s political background to understand his anti-Muslim mentality. According to Jeff Gates, Obama’s political career is a product of a West Chicago Ashkenazi network with roots that trace directly back to organized crimes of the 1920s. Obama’s top fundraiser Penny Pritzker’s ancestors served as defense lawyers for the organized crime mafia. Clinton White House counsel Abner Mikva, who served as Congressman and Federal Judge – called Obama the first Jewish President.

    Is it a Western trap laid out to deprive the Islamic Republic of its nuclear assests which Tehran has been enriching under NPT guidelines? In reality, the Western capitals are against Iranian nuclear program because they want to divert world’s attention from Israel’s 240-400 nuclear bombs and punish Tehran for its support for Hamas and Hizb’Allah. Therefore, Jewish lobby groups will keep the pressure on Tehran to “come clean”. The response coming from the ZOGs in the US, Britain, France, Germany and EU have proved that. French Zionist-Jew foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner said that the IAEA ( Zionist assest after ElBaradei) must be the first body to reaspond to Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal. German government spokesperson, Christofph Steegmans (Jewish) said that even if IAEA agrees with the deal “that cannot be replaced by a accord with other countries”. EU foreign affairs chief, British Zionist Catherine Ashton, said that the deal doesn’t answer all of the concerns raised by Iran’s nuclear program. Hillary Clinton not only told Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu that any “summit in Tehran would be just a ploy to stop the UNSC imposing Crippling Sanctions against Iran – but later publically predicted the failure of Turkey-Brazil efforts to broker a deal with Tehran. British junior foreign minister Alistair Burt said: “Iran is still a serious cause of concern”. And who is putting these words in their mouths? “The Iranians have manipulated Turkey and Brazil. The Iranian have already pulled off such a trick in the past – by pretending to accept such procedure to lower tension and reduce the risk of harsher international sanctions, then refuse to follow through,” an Israeli official told AFP.


  2. bozh said on May 20th, 2010 at 10:48am #

    Christo-talmudic or christo-mosheic soyuz need at this time as before to threaten or wage war-occupation against any people who do not respect or show deep obeisance to it.
    The soyuz needs now more than ever an unstable iran, afgh’n, palestine, pak’n, iraq, yemen, and somalia.

    But if that was all, it still wldn’t be that bad; now they want to destabilize and demoralize own peoples and not just alien pop.
    For asoialistic structure of society, being much or too much [like indian]iniquitous cannot ever bring pleasant fruit.

    We’ve had it for ca 7k yrs. And as long the abysmal differences in earnings bwtn classes remain, we shall for that long [centuries, millennia, eons] have a klepto-corpo-monetary rule and a worsening for majority of people.

    It makes all priests happy: people wld run to churches [or so they hope] for solace an hope, but as always before, find nothing there of value. tnx

  3. Rehmat said on May 21st, 2010 at 5:52am #

    According to Israel daily Jerusalem Post – On Thursday, Rahm Emanuel invited 15 Rabbis at the White House for the second time to apologize for Obama administration’s screwing up its relation with the Zionist entity during the last 14 months. He told the Rabbis that it will take more than one month to make up for those 14 months. Dennis Ross who runs Obama’s Iran policy – also attended the meeting. He assured the Rabbis that by calling for a nuclear-free Middle East – doesn’t mean that Washington’s policy toward Israeli nuclear arsenal was changing. Dan Shapiro, who oversees Obama’s policy for Israel aand its Arab neighboring countries, lso participated in the meeting. The other Obama administration official who were present in the meeting included Susan Sher, the chief White House liaison to the Jewish community and Danielle Borin, special assistant to the Vice-president Joe Biden……..

    Emanuel – Like father like son

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 21st, 2010 at 10:18am #

    There is nothing that Iran can do to avert being attacked. It is in the same position as Iraq was in 2002. Following the diktat of ‘The Zionist Plan for the Middle East’,Iran is to be destroyed and split up along ethnic and sectarian lines.Israel gets regional dominance, to build up Eretz Yisrael as de facto global overlord by dint of dominance of the West and massive money power gained through ‘legitimate’ business and dominance in drug trafficking, sex trafficking,human organ trafficking, blood diamond trafficking, financial malfeasance etc, all those areas where Jewish business acumen is legendary. The US gets to exploit and control Iranian hydrocarbons and throttle China. Of course Iran will be a tougher nut to crack than Iraq, softened up by war, no fly zones and ‘sanctions of mass destruction’. One fervently hopes that the Iranians sink an aircraft carrier or two, or give the Israelis some of the treatment they dish out so pitilessly on Gaza or Lebanon, but their resistance is only likely to invite more vicious retribution from the psychotic aggressors, for whom, after all, killing civilians, even children,are religiously sanctified.