Last minute breaking news: Tehran warns the six world powers it is considering opting out of the next round of nuclear negotiations in Moscow on June 13.
The performance of Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili at its nuclear talks with the six powers have so impressed his masters that his name is being put forward as frontrunner to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran’s next president in the 2013 election.
This is revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources, who stress that he is to be thus rewarded – not for the ‘constructive’ and “positive” attitude, for which Western sources praised him after the second round of nuclear negotiations in Baghdad on May 23 – but for the reverse: standing up to international pressure and blocking every attempt to crack Iran’s bargaining position.
We claim no credit for exposing the Iranian negotiator’s real performance in Baghdad: His opening speech in Baghdad was deemed important enough for Hoseyn Shari’atmadari, a close associate of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to run it verbatim in the conservative Kayhan Iranian daily of May 29 – although it was not picked up by any Western publication.
“Ladies and gentlemen! Do you know what day this is?” Jalili began by asking.
The question took them aback; representatives of the negotiating teams could not understand what it had to do with the subject of the meeting. They were amazed enough to answer him: “Today is Wednesday, 23 May 2012.”
And Dr. Jalili continued: “And it corresponds to 3 Khordad, namely the anniversary of the day 30 years ago when we managed to liberate Khorramshahr from the occupation of Iraq under Saddam.”
“We will not ourselves to be bullied…”
He then recounted how during that eight-year war different countries, including the members of the 5+1 group, and the smaller and bigger powers in the world of those days, which was then divided into two blocs, had supported Saddam with all their weapons and war materials and with al the might of their political and propaganda machines.
Jalili offered a list: “The weapons that they provided to Saddam's Ba’athist regime included German Leopard tanks, British Chieftain tanks, French Exocet missiles and Super Etendard aircraft, Russian MIG fighter-planes and Scud-B missiles, German and British chemical weapons, American Sidewinder missiles and AWACS aircraft, Saudi, Kuwaiti, and Emirati dollars.
“In the words of our late Imam (may he rest in peace), at that time we were all alone but you now see that we have successfully overcome that hard and breathtaking experience. However, where is Saddam today and what is our (Iran) position at the present time? … Today, on the anniversary of the powerful liberation of Khorramshahr, at a time when the Iraqi government has been returned to the hands of its wronged people and our strategic friends, we are sitting here talking to you in Saddam's palace.
“In those days, when the whole world was on one side and the Islamic Republic of Iran was on the other, we did not surrender to the Western or Eastern bullies and their regional supporters. Therefore, you should not expect that today, when we are at the height of our power, we will let ourselves be bullied or surrender to their illegal and unjust demands.”
The long speech embellished Iran’s “no”
The US delegation leader Wendy Sherman later reported to Israeli officials that the talks were focused and had progressed enough for a date to be set for their continuation in Moscow on June 13.
The fact of the matter is that Iranian negotiators not only reverted to their old tactics of interminable palaver but, worse, their long-winded tirades dredging up past episodes to illustrate Iran’s unshakable resolve and unbreakable strength in the face of the combined might of world powers.
The trouble is that the public in the West never gets a true account of Iran’s negotiating maneuvers. Few people know enough Farsi to read Iranian media and fewer still are capable of analyzing the fine points of Tehran’s bargaining techniques when they do. Western media preferred to disseminate the Obama administration’s upbeat version of the proceedings unchallenged.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources took note of the European negotiators’ total silence after the talks.
Jalili made it quite clear in his speech in Baghdad that Iran will not in the foreseeable future be receptive to President Obama’s demands (revealed exclusively in our last issue: “Another Secret Obama Plan to Draw Iran’s Nuclear Claws: Is This One Realistic?”): removal from the country of the highly-enriched uranium usable for bomb-making against a guarantee to return the material in the form of nuclear plates, from which it is very hard to produce nuclear weapons; reduction of the stocks of 3.5-5 percent enriched uranium and their transfer abroad, leaving behind only enough to build “half of a nuclear bomb”; discontinuing nuclear operations at the subterranean Fordo plant.
US officials spoke of “decommissioning” the Fordo facility – that is, not dismantling it, only removing certain elements.
Tehran is not dismayed by tougher sanctions in prospect
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Tehran report that since international diplomacy was broached on Washington’s initiative last month, the only change in Iran’s nuclear bargaining position has been a hardening. The ayatollahs have demonstrated that they are less ready than ever before to give ground on their nuclear aspirations and conduct.
Tehran sees its situation ahead of the Moscow talks as characterized by five points:
1. The US has run out of unilateral options for dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons program and depends now on the cooperation of Moscow and Beijing to achieve any progress. Tehran infers this from Washington’s turn to the Russians for help in resolving the Syrian crisis. (Obama’s new Syrian game plan is discussed in a separate article.)
2. The world powers facing Iran at the nuclear negotiations in Istanbul and Baghdad (referred to in Tehran as the P7 Talks) did not present a united front on behalf of the international community – as depicted by the Obama administration, but were rather a disjointed group split at least three ways between Russia, China and the West. It is therefore in Tehran’s interest to keep the talks dragging on for as long as possible and so widen the divisions and isolate America.
3. Tehran is aware of US plans to impose harsher sanctions very soon, including an air and marine blockade, and is not dismayed. In fact, Iranian strategists are busy figuring out ways to get around them. They see no sense in Obama’s policy, because the tougher the sanctions, the higher the price they will exact for every nuclear concession. From this perspective, tougher sanctions will buy Iran more time and a faster route to a nuclear bomb.
Iran capitalizes on talks with world powers for status
4. Tehran regards the staging of the P7 Talks as part of a wider picture. A high-ranking Iranian source said: ‘If the negotiations were just about nuclear issues, why bring in the major powers? The talks could have been handled by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
Iran’s leaders are nonetheless capitalizing on P7, using the talks as a short cut to broad global recognition of the Islamic Republic’s status as a major world power.
“We are already more than half way to achieving this,” they say in Tehran. “Moscow and Beijing have got the message. The Europeans, struck down by their political and economic troubles, have had to come to terms with Iran’s big power status,” said another Iranian source. “All that is left is to convince the United States, and we are closer to that than many people in the West believe.’
5. In view of the first four points, Tehran believes it is on a winning roll and can afford to stand fast against giving ground on a single one of its nuclear and technological advances.
Therefore, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s demand Thursday, June 7, that Iran come to the next round of talks “prepared to make concrete steps to curb its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity,” sounded in Tehran rather like whistling in the wind.