Monday, July 23, 2012

Post #293 - One Last Shot at Sanity

In Istanbul, it is now nearly tomorrow, July 24, the day that talks on Iran's nuclear program are to continue in that city.

Istanbul is perhaps the perfect place for such a dialogue. It is literally on the cusp between Europe and Asia. It is the principal metropolis of a country that is predominantly Muslim, but which holds up the standard of westernization and modernization. Over the centuries, it has been the scene of more than one clash of civilizations -- Western Christendom rudely knocking the stuffing out of Eastern Christendom in 1204, for example. It was the center of one of the rather large empires (Iranians being descendants of another such imperial power, the ancient Persians, and we Americans being the putative current imperial power in the world).

In Greek mythology, Io was transformed into a cow and had to roam the earth until she crossed the Bosporos and met Prometheus (whose memory is now kept alive in a recent sci-fi thriller about an empire even more powerful than ours). Both East and West have been condemned to wander through a valley of fruitless diplomacy and dangerous unease since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The phrase "crossing the Bosporus" evokes thoughts of decisive movements beyond one's comfort zone; one can hope that such a spirit can infuse the parlay that will take place this week.

The spokesman for Iran is slated to be Mr. Ali Baqeri, Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator. His given name links him to the most prominent figure in Shi'ite Islam (after The Prophet); his surname marks him as "erudite" or "sagacious" -- one could almost guess that he had been born for this role. Back in January (at the last Istanbul round of talks), the chief Iranian negotiator, Jalili, was reported to have said, about the nuclear fuel deal (some sort of international exchange to give Iran what it says it needs, but without involving its gaining weaponizing capabilities), "[this] could be one of the most important areas for cooperation." After those sessions ended without much result, Press TV quoted Baqeri as saying that his country received the P5+1 proposal, but “we stressed that Iran does not need fuel swap and what prompts Iran to negotiate on the issue is cooperation and not necessity...These talks could continue in the future and there is no obstacle, but the P5+1 should be given an opportunity to reach a conclusion for cooperation.” After the last talks, he told a television interviewer, "Adopting a strategy of pressure against Iran would not be effective...the Iranian side is ready to take serious steps and welcomes a step-by-step and reciprocal approach. We are waiting for confidence-building measures.” One senses, in Baqeri, a cagey and careful representative of the IRI.

Across the table from him will be Ms. Helga Maria Schmid, the European Union's deputy head of foreign policy affairs, who met with Bageri in early May in Geneva, and later in Baghdad. Her official title is deputy secretary general for the External Action Service. It should be recalled that after being graduated from the Diplomatic Academy, her posts have included several years as public affairs office in the German embassy in Washington in the early '90s, and as head of the Political Staff of the Federal Foreign Office and Head of the Minister's Office, in Berlin in '03-05.

So, will they pursue an agreement similar to the deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey over two years ago, which was derided and scuttled by the United States, even though we had earlier signaled a desire for just such a solution? [see the text of that agreement, below]    An EU spokesman told Al-Monitor today, "The objective for the to look further at how existing gaps in positions could be narrowed and how the process could be moved forward." That publication reported that "The meeting plans come a week after nuclear experts from the seven nations met in discuss the technical details of a P5+1 confidence building proposal," which would ask Iran "to halt its 20% enrichment activities, ship out its 20% stockpile, and decommission the highly fortified Fordo enrichment facility, built into a mountain near Qom in exchange for fuel and safety upgrades for Tehran’s medical and civilian eactors and spare parts for its civilian aircraft."

Will any radically new ideas come out of this quiet, out-of-the-limelight process? Can a military "solution" be avoided? Or have things simply deteriorated too far?

We must wait with bated breath...

May 2010 Iran/Brazil/Turkey pact:

1. We reaffirm our commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and in accordance with the related articles of the NPT, recall the right of all State Parties, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy (as well as nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment activities) for peaceful purposes without discrimination.
2. We express our strong conviction that we have the opportunity now to begin a forward looking process that will create a positive, constructive, non-confrontational atmosphere leading to an era of interaction and cooperation.
3. We believe that the nuclear fuel exchange is instrumental in initiating cooperation in different areas, especially with regard to peaceful nuclear cooperation including nuclear power plant and research reactors construction.
4. Based on this point the nuclear fuel exchange is a starting point to begin cooperation and a positive constructive move forward among nations. Such a move should lead to positive interaction and cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities replacing and avoiding all kinds of confrontation through refraining from measures, actions and rhetorical statements that would jeopardize Iran's rights and obligations under the NPT.
5. Based on the above, in order to facilitate the nuclear cooperation mentioned above, the Islamic Republic of Iran agrees to deposit 1200 kg LEU in Turkey. While in Turkey this LEU will continue to be the property of Iran. Iran and the IAEA may station observers to monitor the safekeeping of the LEU in Turkey.
6. Iran will notify the IAEA in writing through official channels of its agreement with the above within seven days following the date of this declaration. Upon the positive response of the Vienna Group (US, Russia, France and the IAEA) further details of the exchange will be elaborated through a written agreement and proper arrangement between Iran and the Vienna Group that specifically committed themselves to deliver 120 kg of fuel needed for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).
7. When the Vienna Group declares its commitment to this provision, then both parties would commit themselves to the implemention of the agreement mentioned in item 6. Islamic Republic of Iran expressed its readiness to deposit its LEU (1200 kg) within one month. On the basis of the same agreement the Vienna Group should deliver 120 kg fuel required for TRR in no later than one year.
8. In case the provisions of this Declaration are not respected Turkey, upon the request of Iran, will return swiftly and unconditionally Iran's LEU to Iran.
9. We welcome the decision of the Islamic Republic of Iran to continue as in the past their talks with the 5+1 countries in Turkey on the common concerns based on collective commitments according to the common points of their proposals.
10. Turkey and Brazil appreciated Iran's commitment to the NPT and its constructive role in pursuing the realization of nuclear rights of its member states. The Islamic Republic of Iran likewise appreciated the constructive efforts of the friendly countries Turkey and Brazil in creating the conducive environment for realization of Iran's nuclear rights.

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