Thursday, Sept 28, the US State Department warned that time is running out for the latest round of European-Iranian diplomacy to solve the nuclear impasse. The warning followed an announcement earlier that day by Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that his country would not halt uranium enrichment for a single moment.
The two statements marked another dead end to the latest effort by European Union foreign affairs executive Javier Solana to break the Iranian nuclear Gordian knot by diplomacy.
How far the EU executive was willing to go to bring his mission to success is revealed here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources.
In the first week of September, French president Jacques Chirac and German chancellor Angela Merkel informed US president George W. Bush that they would not support sanctions against the sale of oil derivatives, such as fuel and cooking oil, to Iran. All they were prepared to do was to vote for a UN Security Council resolution protesting Iran’s continuing enrichment of uranium in defiance of previous resolutions.
The two European rulers thus transferred their backing from the Bush administration’s drive for real sanctions against Iran to the Russian-Chinese position which is adamantly opposed to such measures.
They informed the US president in separate messages that they had changed sides after accepting the proposition Iran’s nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani had presented to Solana in their secret talks.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources touch the Iranian proposition’s high points:
1. Ignore Ahmadinejad’s fiery rhetoric. He is not taken seriously in Tehran. When Solana asked for corroboration of this judgment, the Iranian official advised him to peruse the Tehran press which he said carries daily attacks on the president in matters of religion, which is what counts in Iran.
2. Through me (Larijani), you have a direct line to the supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and ex-president Hashem Rafsanjani. They are the real powers in the Islamic regime.
3. You (Europeans and Americans) must understand that Iran does not suffer from megalomania or entertain imperialist aspirations. We have no desire for a confrontation at the Security Council at this stage. But as long as sanctions hang over our heads, we will give nothing away on our nuclear program. The moment the sanctions threat is removed, you will find how accommodating we can be and how far we are willing to go to make concessions.
American, French and German officials held high-level discussions this week in Washington, Berlin and Paris, to determine what the Larijani offer meant and whether it was worth taking up. Chirac and Merkel decided in favor of acceptance out of three considerations:
A. They believed Larijani meant what he said and that he truly represented the views of Khamenei.
B. Security Council sanctions are anyway out of reach because they would be blocked by Russian and/or Chinese vetoes.
C. They were persuaded that the outcome of the Lebanon war had convinced the United States and Israel to abandon plans to attack Iran. Since the two options of sanctions and military action had fallen by the wayside, all that was left was diplomatic compromise.