British, French and German negotiators found their second meeting with Iranian officials on Tehran’s nuclear program on Wednesday, October 27, more frustrating that the first. Iranian replies were evasive, full of tall stories and braggadocio. Above all, they did not give an inch on their determination not to give up uranium enrichment for good or slow their headlong advance towards a nuclear bomb.
Europe’s five-point incentives package was generous: 1. A light water nuclear reactor not capable of producing atomic weapons; 2. Nuclear fuel for any nuclear power stations Iran may build provided it guarantees the return of spent fuel rods to make sure they cannot be used to make fissionable material; 3. Nuclear know-how for medical, agricultural and other civilian purposes; 4. Resumption of economic talks with Iran – without reference to the touchy human rights issue; 5. A European declaration that the dissident Mujahideen al-Khalq is a terrorist organization. The group, based in Iraq, is the most effective fighting force of all Iranian opposition movements. The Islamic regime sees it as a threat to its survival.
Despite Europe’s disappointment over Iran’s intransigence, the door still appears open to further negotiations.
Iran reiterated that it has no intention of building nuclear weapons, which it claims would be a violation of Islamic tenets and contrary to the regime’s strategic defensive doctrine. Tehran also offered to place itself under strict International Atomic Energy Agency oversight to prove it is not bent on diverting nuclear technology to military uses. But its nuclear program, the officials insisted, is a symbol of national and Islamic pride and is therefore irreversible.
Ordinary Iranians, Tehran claimed, would regard concessions on this issue as surrender and a mark of weakness by their government. In addition, it argued, the billions of dollars sunk into nuclear projects in the cities of Karaj, Tehran, Isfahan, Natanz, Arak and Kashan, would go to waste. But as a gesture of goodwill, the Iranians offered to guarantee not to build ballistic missiles with a range of more than 2,000 km (1,200 miles) – that can reach Europe. A public commitment to that effect would be forthcoming, if the Europeans insisted.
Iranian arguments don’t wash
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Vienna, the European negotiators easily tore Iranian promises and arguments apart. Statements coming from their own clerics, they said, flatly refute the government’s contention that nuclear arms are un-Islamic. The revolutionary regime’s founding father Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared on more than one occasion that the Islamic nation is obliged to employ all possible means to make itself the strongest force in the world. His successor as Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, maintains that Iran derives the strength to promote Islam abroad by dint of its military might. The experts cited the Islamic republic’s huge investment in missile development as striking proof that Iran plans to build nuclear warheads. Tehran, they stressed, is clearly of the same mind as Muslim Pakistan whose leaders view its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against the enemies of Islam.
As for the pledge to accept IAEA supervision, the experts noted that North Korea reneged on its commitment to the organization once it completed its uranium enrichment program. Tehran will not miss using this as a precedent.
The Europeans are perfectly aware that Iran continues to keep most of its nuclear facilities hidden from IAEA inspectors. They are deliberately scattered across the country, some in secret military camps. One of Iran’s most guarded secrets is that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein dismantled his nuclear installations and transferred some of the equipment, along with fissionable material, in trust to Iran in containers shortly before the US invasion in 2003. (The non-nuclear WMD and missiles were diverted to Syria.) That is the real reason why the United States has been unable to find any trace of these weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources, the containers, stored under the Zagros Mountains in western Iran, have not been opened. But Iran will not hesitate to make use of the treasure trove if it is pushed to the wall.
Addressing the claim that Iran’s nuclear program is a symbol of national pride, the Europeans remarked sarcastically that a dictatorship may safely make a 180-degree policy turnaround as it has no worries about mass media criticism – especially if it acts in the name of the greater Islamic interest. Khomeini himself did just that in 1988 when he was forced to agree to a ceasefire in the long war with Iraq. In any case, Iran can hardly hold up its nuclear program as a sign of technological progress when it is lagging so badly in so many other areas, such as the construction of badly needed refineries.
Indeed Iran currently imports refined fuels from neighboring countries at a cost of billions of dollars a year.
Further deconstructing Iran’s case, the Europeans declared that Iran’s announced intention of building six nuclear power stations makes no sense at all for a country second only to Saudi Arabia in fossil fuel reserves in the Middle East and to Russia in world natural gas reserves.
They accused Iran of lying about its ballistic missile plans.
Our military sources say the Shehab 4 missile already has a range of 5,000 km (3,000 miles), more than enough to hit Europe. Iran tried to hide this cold statistic by claiming that an improved Shehab 3 was used in its last test launch, when it was really a Shehab 4 that shot skyward.
Suspicious purchase of yellowcake
Iran offered no explanation to the European officials for the strong radiation IAEA inspectors picked up at the Natanz uranium enrichment installations or for its purchase 37 tons of yellowcake – enough material to build five atomic bombs.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Teheran, Iranian leaders have gone back to their well-tried tactic of foot-dragging. They will try and stretch out their talks with the European trio up until November 25 when the UN nuclear watchdog’s board of governors next meets. Then they will announce significant-sounding, but vague, concessions to string the Europeans along and convince them to block US steps to put their nuclear violations before the UN Security Council, which may well impose economic sanctions.
In return for these hollow concessions, Tehran will demand commitments from the Europeans and the Americans to refrain from action potentially dangerous to the Islamic regime.
The muscle-flexing will go on to raise the ante in negotiations with Europe. Iranian political figures and media swear Tehran will never ratify the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty providing IAEA inspectors with unlimited access to their nuclear installations. If pressed by the Security Council, Tehran may go so far as to repudiate the entire NPT.
Iran claims to have carried out four successful ballistic missile tests in the past two months. One will be used to launch a homemade spy satellite.
Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the national nuclear energy agency, has announced that construction of two of three heavy water units has been completed at Arak.
Hossein Moussavian, secretary for foreign affairs at Iran’s national security council and one of the negotiators facing the Europeans, declared that Iran is already in the world’s nuclear club.
And Hojjat-Ol-Eslam Hassan Rouhani, secretary general of the supreme council for national security and director of Iran’s international nuclear diplomacy, boasts that, even if the United States and Israel combine to wipe out his country’s atomic facilities, the wealth of knowledge gathered by Iranian scientists will remain at the service of the Islamic revolution.
In an editorial Wednesday, October 27, the Jomhouri-e Eslami newspaper wrote: “Iran’s nuclear technology is a matter of national pride. Ayatollah Khomeini did not lead the Islamic revolution so that colonial powers could continue to dictate to Iran. The era of the international bully has ended. Iran will never give in.”
According to the evaluations of our Iranian experts, the UN Security Council is more than likely to impose an embargo on Iranian oil exports. If the president who sits in the White House after November 2 plays the right cards, the prospects are promising for a popular uprising in Iran that would bring down the Islamic regime without US military intervention.
The bravado displayed by Iranian officials is also a cover for a grave security breach that is giving them sleepless nights. They have discovered that Iran’s nuclear secrets have been systematically leaked to the United States and Europe for months. Interrogations of all the nuclear scientists working on their undercover programs have not uncovered the culprit.
Neither has any leads been yielded in six months’ scrutiny by Iranian security and intelligence services of every word uttered in talks with the Europeans and at the IAEA discussions in Vienna.
Analysis of every article and news item in the US media on Iran’s nuclear program has led Iranian security to the conclusion that the Americans and Europeans know more than Iranian representatives have told them in Vienna or elsewhere.
To find the leak, they must search high and low in at least 12 secret nuclear installations, each of which operates independently of the others and some of which will come on line immediately if sister facilities are damaged by accident or attack.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Tehran the investigation is proceeding at full steam.
(See also DNW 177, Oct. 15, “Escaping Nuclear Scientists Surrendered by Syria for Execution in Tehran.”)