Iranian leaders agree with the Obama administration that the back-channel talks between them are on the fast track. Still, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is highly skeptical about their yielding practical results. This thinking marked his resigned-sounding comment in a speech Tuesday, March 20: “We do not have atomic weapons and we will not build one. But in our defense against an attack – either by the US or the Zionist regime – we will strike back on the same scale as their attack.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources report that circles close to Khamenei disavow any of the Iranian-US channels of dialogue said to be current (see a separate item in this issue about four), other than an indirect one brokered by Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the Sultan of Oman.
The first informal US-Iranian contacts took place in Nicosia with an exchange of messages between Washington and Tehran.
In early March, the Sultan launched a new initiative and moved the two delegations from Nicosia to the US and Iranian diplomatic missions in Muscat, where he could keep an eye on them.
Our intelligence and Iranian sources obtained a list of the demands and conditions exchanged in the negotiations so far.
Iran will attain a full nuclear cycle on condition of transparency
Iran has made important concessions on its nuclear program – less than claimed by sources within the Obama administration, but betokening an improvement in bilateral relations.
For instance, Tehran may agree in principle to forego the military dimension of its nuclear program but insists on its right to carry on with that activity in full transparency and openness to international inspections.
The Americans – and even more so, the Israelis – strongly suspect that Iran is borrowing the North Korean subterfuge for completing “the nuclear cycle.” Reaching a bomb from that point would take between six months and under a year from the moment the order was given.
The list of the conditions Iran has raised in its most recent exchanges with the US through the Sultan of Oman is published here for the first time:
1. The US will publicly acknowledge Iran’s right to complete its nuclear project and “the nuclear cycle” provided full transparency and free access to international inspectors are granted.
Khamenei offered a fatwa signed by leading ayatollahs affirming Islam’s prohibition on developing weapons of mass destruction.
The US will start lifting sanctions, starting with oil
2. The US will phase out sanctions in time with Tehran’s provision of nuclear transparency and confidence-building gestures. The sequence would start with lifting the cutoff of Iran’s access to SWIFT money-transferring services and the ending of the embargo on Iranian oil.
3. A US will timetable with dates for the lifting of sanctions will be enshrined in a new UN Security Council resolution, as Russia has proposed.
4. US national networks and influential media will present the accord as an Iranian victory achieved by Tehran’s steadfast struggle for its nuclear rights. Washington must accept that Iranian domestic media will continue to disseminate harsh anti-American propaganda up until the moment a final accord is struck – in the interests of the negotiations’ total secrecy.
5. The Voice of America will discontinue interviews with Iranian opposition figures.
6. The US will pledge to keep its hands off the Assad regime in Syria and refrain from cooperating with Saudi and Qatari efforts to undermine it.
7. The US will bend every effort to abolishing the UN Special Tribunal investigation of the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
8. The US will refrain from backing Kurdish independence in any part of the region, including Iran, Iraq and Syria.
9. The US must stop its allies’ subversive activities among Iran’s ethnic minorities.
Iran must desist from violence in Afghanistan and Iraq
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources outline the demands the American side put to Iran in Muscat:
1. Iran must halt subversive operations in Afghanistan, withdraw its support from Taliban and al Qaeda and help Afghan President Hamid Karzai institute reforms.
1. Iran must go into negotiations with the five Security Council permanent members + Germany wholly committed to maximum transparency, a pledge to abstain from foot-dragging and other wiles, and the offer of evidence to prove its innocence of plans to build a nuclear bomb.
2. Iran must stop engineering violence and sabotage in Iraq, refrain from any activity for delaying or disrupting the departure of the last US troops from the country and sowing the kind of mayhem that would jeopardize Barack Obama’s reelection as president.
3. Iran must endorse the NPT protocol authorizing nuclear watchdog spot inspections at any Iranian facility.
4. All these commitments must be implemented before November 6, 2012, to give President Obama a chance show his policy of engagement has been vindicated.
Iran is not confronted with demands regarding its respect of human rights.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report that US and Iranian negotiators meet again in Muscat on March 26.