debkafile: Rice offers Iran more carrot than stick – better relations for suspending uranium enrichment and abandoning “confrontation”

The United States does not have “permanent enemies,” said the secretary of state Friday night and pointed to warming ties with Libya after Muammar Qaddafi renounced weapons of mass destruction and surrendered components of his nuclear program in 2003.
In Vienna, the US envoy to the international Atomic Energy Agency, Gregory Schulte, called on Iran to “come clean,” like Libya and North Korea, on its weapons program, which a US intelligence report claimed had been suspended in 2003.
debkafile‘s sources report that the two statements lifted a corner off the understanding Washington and Tehran have been negotiating secretly in recent weeks. They reminded Iran that the NIE had released that intelligence report on Dec. 3 to further a deal and prodded Tehran to follow through, which has not happened so far.
The secretary reiterated in her end-of-year news conference: “I continue to say that if Iran will just do the one thing that is required of it by the Security Council resolutions – and that is suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities – then I’m prepared to meet my counterpart any place and anytime and anywhere and we can talk about anything.”
According to the Washington Post, the NIE release signifies that “Bush has thrown in the towel on Iran’s nuclear program.” This confirms debkafile‘s disclosure three weeks ago that the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program had ended in victory for Tehran.
In Israel, prime minister Ehud Olmert acts as though the penny has not dropped. He has rebuked officials, such as internal security minister Avi Dichter, for talking in terms of an approaching Yom Kippur war threat from Iran.
The Bush administration has so far made the running by giving Iran a clean bill of health from US intelligence and this week’s approval of a shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia for Iran’s atomic reactor in Bushehr. Both the US and Russian presidents declared that following this delivery, Iran had no further need to develop its own uranium enrichment capabilities.
Losing patience with the lack of reciprocity from Tehran, Secretary Rice and Ambassador Schulte outlined the script which Washington expects Iran to follow. While Rice emphasized the potential rewards – and appealed for suspension rather than halting enrichment – Schulte stressed Iran must acknowledge that it had a nuclear program up until 2003. “And we’re looking for them to cooperate fully with the agency in understanding their current activities.”
This was a warning that if Iran was shown to have resumed its weapons program after 2003, Washington would revise its intelligence estimate, bringing tough sanctions back into the foreground of the crisis.
At the same time, the Iranians may well interpret these statements as reflecting Washington’s despair of achieving much from its efforts for an accommodation before the Bush administration’s tenure runs out. This assessment would tend to toughen their bargaining position.

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