In a rapid succession of phone conversations, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton EU Foreign Policy Coordinator Catherine Ashton settled on a strategy for pinning Iran down to attending the third round of nuclear talks with the six powers (US, Russia, France, UK, China and Germany) taking place in Moscow on June 18-19.
Following the guidelines they agreed, Ashton, who heads the six-power negotiating team, had a long conversation with senior Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili.
The two versions published after that conversation both exposed the major concessions that were made to meet Iran’s demands.
Tehran presented its version as, "We are ready to hold talks in Moscow on Iran's 5-item proposals (presented) in Baghdad, which included nuclear and non-nuclear issues."
Ashton’s version: “The Iranians agreed on the need for Iran to engage on the (six powers') proposals, which address its concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program.”
One communiqué embodies six-power consent to award Iran major power status in non-nuclear issues such as Syria and Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal in the framework of the region’s nuclear disarmament.
(See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 544 of June 8: Radical Nuclear Negotiator Jalili in Line as Iran’s President)
Ashton’s statement endorsed “the exclusively peaceful nature” of its program. This would seem to make the entire international nuclear diplomacy set-up superfluous.
Neither touched on the uranium enrichment issue at the core of the nuclear controversy with Iran
Tehran forces world power recognition of its equal status
In a single phone conversation, therefore, Tehran achieved three of its primary goals:
1. International recognition of the peaceful nature of its nuclear program;
2. With the nuclear issue out of the way, Iran can redirect the Moscow talks into global avenues and force the six powers to heed its voice on such matters as Afghanistan, Syria and the Palestinians;
3. Iran will face the six world powers as an equal and make up a seventh.
Given the achievements Tehran chalked up in a single conversation with the EU’s foreign executive, the Moscow session’s outcome is easily predicted.
The day before that phone call, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources report two American exercises designed for muscle-flexing opposite Iran:
— The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln-CVN 72, accompanied by the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS New York-LPD 21 and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter-DDG 78, crossed the Strait of Hormuz.
On board the New York is the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit-24th MEU – the same 2,200 US Marines who for three weeks in May took part in the big Eager Lion 2012 military exercise on Jordan’s southern shore alongside Saudi and Jordanian special forces.
Iran is not impressed by US muscle-flexing
That terrain resembles the Iranian coast which those marines now face opposite the three islands which control the entry to the Strait of Hormuz – Abu Musa, Greater Tanb and Lesser Tanb.
In that exercise the marines drilled raids on beaches and the rapid seizure of fortified bases and command centers located in mountains overlooking the beaches, which closely simulated Iranian Revolutionary Guard special marine forces command centers.
— The USS Enterprise aircraft carrier and its strike force moved over to the Arabian Sea off the southern coast of Iran, not far from the Iran-Afghanistan border and opposite Chabahar, the most modern Iranian naval and air base and its best access point to the Indian Ocean.
Neither American military move appeared to impress Tehran into moderating its diplomatic tactics or easing its hard-line demands. Iran is clearly acting on the assumption that the United and Israel have given up on plans to attack its nuclear sites.