Saturday, May 19, 2007

Analysis: Iran's Uranium Enrichment Programme

The following is a translation from a recent Arabic political analysis Q&A:


The Nuclear crisis of Iran has now become an oft-repeating issue, negotiations, failure of negotiations and now referred to the UN Security Council, which passes a resolution and allows Iran a deadline of a month or two to comply with it. Then there is a report by its Secretary General to the effect that Iran has not complied. This is followed by yet another resolution and another deadline for Iran to comply, and this goes on…..

How has this crisis developed and what is its current status? What are the chances of either the US or Israeli carrying out an attack? Further is there a link between this crisis and the North Korean Nuclear crisis?


It is known that the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) was carved out in 1968 C.E and Iran had become its signatory in 1970 C.E, and Iran under the Shah had begun its nuclear activity in collaboration with some European firms (French and German).

Khomeini had pulled a stop on Iran’s nuclear activity in 1979 C.E. Rafsanjani later resumed the nuclear programme in 1995 C.E and it continued during the reformist period (1997-2005 C.E) under Khatemi. During this period (summer 2003 C.E), after the occupation of Iraq, the exiled Iranian opposition announced that Iran was pursuing a secret and unsafe nuclear programme under cover and hiding it from the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Based on this, the chief of IAEA, Mohammed el Baradai prepared a report and presented it to the IAEA.

This is when the Iranian Nuclear Crisis gained momentum and began a round of give-and-take in the dialogue with the European ‘Troika’ of Germany, France and Britain. It was followed by a protocol signed on 25th October, 2003 C.E during the rule of Khatemi and was named as the ‘additional protocol’ which allowed the IAEA to carry out surprise inspections. This was aimed to prevent accusations against Iran that it covers up the sensitive matters from the inspectors during routine and scheduled inspections.

Despite this and in spite of Iran ceasing the enrichment process for the sake of negotiations, the noose continued to be tightened against Iran without guaranteeing its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Iran therefore resumed its uranium enrichment programme.
The matter continued like a growing ice-berg which would sometimes warm up a little and the ice would melt somewhat, only to magnify again until the UN Security Council passed its resolution 1737 on 23rd December, 2006 C.E which called for ceasing of the uranium enrichment. But Iran refused to renounce its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes as guaranteed in the international treaty. The UNSC met again on 23rd April, 2007 C.E, this time to pass its resolution 1747 and gave a deadline of two months to Iran to stop the enrichment process which amounts to requiring Iran to renounce its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Though it common knowledge that those countries that object to Iran using uranium for peaceful purposes are themselves engaged in enriching uranium for military use and for making nuclear weapons which the US actually used during the Second World War!
What is apparent is that while Europe is engaged in negotiations with Iran on its nuclear conflict, the US is remote-monitoring the situation and even sabotaging the negotiations:

For instance, while the European ‘Troika’ was engaged in negotiations with Iran to find a solution to the problem, the US was busy trying to delay a solution, but outwardly always maintained that it supported the European Solution to the issue. Whenever the negotiations reached a point of near-solution, the US officials would issue a statement with an implied warning that the US had all options open to it to further mess up the crisis!

Again for instance on 27th April, 2007 C.E i.e. two days after his meeting with Larijani on 25th April, 2007, Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief envoy, called upon Washington to open all channels of communication with Tehran including the nuclear issue and added that the Iranians, including their higher authorities are open to such a dialogue. Solana had in his talks with Larijani proposed that both parties abandon their positions in favour of a mid-way solution in good faith. But Washington backed off insisting that Iran first suspend its uranium enrichment as a pre-condition for any direct dialogue with it, although it was well aware that Iran’s nuclear enrichment was well within 5%, the limit for enrichment for peaceful purposes, whereas for nuclear process to be of use for military purposes, a very highly enriched uranium (97%) is required. This speaks volumes for America’s so-called fears that Iran’s nuclear programme is headed towards military applications! All this indicates that America is bent upon seeing this conflict alive and without solution so that it can exploit the situation to secure its own interests as follows:

To exploit the nuclear conflict issue in order to instill a sense of fear in the Gulf countries. This will enable America to retain its bases and its destroyer ships active in the region with the aim of protecting the Gulf States from the alleged threat of Iran. While the true aim is to keep firm control of the region with its vast oil resources and thus keep its own industrial activity running intact. The proven petroleum resources of this region are in the range of 357,000 million barrels of crude oil! While the potential reserves are far higher in magnitude. The expert sources add that the Saudi oil resources alone are about 160,000 million barrels which are sufficient for the next 50 years at least at the current high rate of production which stands at over 13 million barrels per day! It is known that the three biggest oil producers are in this region i.e. Saudi, Iran and Iraq, and when we add Kuwait and other emirates of the gulf, there is no doubt that this forms the arteries of the industrial and financial world as a whole. Therefore it is not surprising that the big western countries are competing with one another and their oil companies are crowding this region for the sake of its enormous energy resources. This is the reason they are sending their soldiers and experts and planting their military bases as well as their agents in the region.

To construct a nuclear protection shield in Eastern Europe (Poland & Czech republic) right in the belly of Russia that has the ballistic missiles capable of striking America. The US had already announced that it wants to spread a protective shield aimed at what it called “to alert it to the potential danger of missiles from Iran and North Korea”. Russia responded to it saying that it was impossible that missiles from Iran or North Korea could travel across Europe and into America!

Russia is well aware that the missile shield is aimed at her and the Iran pretext is rather feeble. Sergie Lavorov, the Russian Foreign Minister, therefore stated on 4th April, 2007 that his country was monitoring the missile shield project being undertaken in Europe and studying the dangers it poses to Russia as well as Europe as a whole in order to impress upon Europeans the danger it spells for Europe. Lavorov repeated his warning a week later on 24th April, 2007 C.E.
On 21stApril, 2007, a Polish newspaper quoted a government source as saying that Bush would visit Warsaw June next to hold talks on building the missile shield in Poland. He is likely to visit the Czech Republic for the same purpose.

Reacting to the indecisiveness of Europe on taking a firm stance on the issue of the US’s missile shield, Putin announced on 26th April, 2007 that his country will freeze all action on the conventional weapons treaty in Europe. At the same time, Rice declared that Moscow’s fears on the proposed missile shield were ridiculous and unfounded.

This is how the US is exploiting the conflict for its own benefits. It is fully aware that there is no nuclear threat from Iran in the foreseeable future and the sanctions will further erode Iran’s capacity, if any. It is therefore more likely that America will exert all its efforts to stall a solution and whenever the dialogue approaches solution, it will create hindrances as we have stated earlier.

As for an American attack on Iran to tackle the crisis, there are various factors why such a scenario is rather unlikely; first of all, the internal situation in the US after the Democrats victory and rising death toll of Americans in Iraq with more dead bodies being brought home, the regional situation (the imbroglio in Afghanistan and Iraq) and globally there is opposition to such an attack. Furthermore, Iran has the capability to strike at American interests in the region. The statements by the US officials reinforce this argument:

On 29th of January, 2007 C.E, Bush said: “How can one say that American Forces and our interests cannot be secured except by carrying out an attack on Iran.”

The US Defence Secretary on 3rd February, 2007 C.E said: “We do not plan a war against Iran.”
On 5th April, 2007, the new commander of the US Central Military Command, Admiral William Falon who succeeded John Abizaid, rejecting ‘imminently striking Iran’, said: “We have enough problems in Iraq.” This was after he met the Egyptian President at Sharm el Sheikh.

On 17th April, 2007, the head of the US Naval Operation Michael Moulin said that America has no plans to attack Iran and asserted that the American reinforcements in the Gulf are aimed to protect peace in the region.

A US attack on Iran is therefore unlikely in the foreseeable future as the regional and international facts indicate; we say foreseeable future because the global developments vis-à-vis relations and interests are known to shift depending on the current realities.

But nevertheless, there are three pertinent factors that must be considered:
First of all: The Jews’ state is concerned and interested in carrying out a strike because it realises that a nuclear capability with any Islamic country is a threat to the Jews. But considering Iran’s own military strengths, such an attack by the Jews can not guarantee results. Moreover Iran itself can inflict severe harm upon Jewish state in case of an attack. This is why the Jews want the US to attack Iran and to this end they are appealing to the sentiments of the Neo-Conservatives who have a religious inclination towards the Jews. During the visit of the US defence secretary to the occupied Palestine on 18th April, 2007, tried to impress upon America the necessity of undertaking military action against Iran, but they could not achieve their desired results from the defence secretary.

The Jews media dwelt at some length on this issue after the Gates visit on 19th April, 2007 C.E. the sources mentioned that during the wide-ranging discussions in which the Israeli security agencies’ heads met Secretary Gates and his aides, the Israeli officials explained the comprehensive Middle East situation to the Gates delegation, while the head of the Israeli intelligence agency briefed Gates on the happenings in Iran and shared with him some highly confidential information on Iran. The Israeli intelligence heads also asked Gates to tell them about US information on Iran, but Gates told them in no uncertain terms that the US still holds on to the diplomatic option to solve the Iranian nuclear issue and categorically ruled out a military attack on Iran. The newspaper added that the Israeli officials bluntly asked Gates for more information on the American intentions so as to allow Israel to finalise its own strategies on the subject, but Gates unequivocally refused to entertain their demands and said categorically that the American administration is still considering only the diplomatic option to bring pressure upon Iran to renounce its nuclear programme.

Secondly, Britain is concerned about the over heating of atmosphere, the Americans’ woes in Iraq and the looming confrontation with Iran. This is evident in many of its actions, for instance, its recent announcement that Britain will reduce numbers of its troops in Iraq, although at the same time the US announced that it needs for forces in Iraq to have a grip on the security situation in Iraq.

But the clearest indication of aggravation of situation pushing America to an armed clash with Iran is British Naval personnel’s crossing over into Iranian territorial waters, which was timed with the UNSC considering sanctions on Iran on 23rd April, 2007; the night when resolution 1747 of the Security Council was passed which further tightened the sanctions. This was a time of high-alert for the Iranian armed forces and was manifest in heightened level of war exercises. It must be appreciated that this portion of the sea, the shatt-al –Arab is not a huge area where the British Naval Personnel could have got lost, especially because they are already familiar with the surroundings having been there for the last four years. The British certainly would have known that Iran would not remain silent on its own waters being breached on intention by the British soldiers. This is how the fifteen were detained.

Hence the conflict heightened and Blair promised on 3rd April, 2007 that if the Britons were not released during the next 48 hours, he will take severe and harsh action, he said: “the next two days will be decide one of the two courses of action: First, to solve the issue through negotiations; Secondly, if negotiations do not result in their release, we will take stern action.” This evidently was aimed to provoke Iran, also that in case of an armed clash on this issue, the US will most certainly be a party to it result in a fierce war. Blair knew well that his statement will provoke Ahmedinijad who is from a revolutionary background.

But what happened turned out to be different; Ahmedinijad pardoned and released the soldiers with out an official regret. On 4th April, 2007, i.e. before the expiry of the two day deadline, he announced their release at a press conference. Thus this conflict ended in a way Blair had not anticipated, as he said in his statement on 5th April, 2007, when the plane carrying the released soldiers arrived at London’s Heathrow airport: “Their release has been achieved sooner than expected and without any deal.” Thus the second partner failed to incite war just as the first partner was disappointed. It cannot be ruled out that the US played a role in the prisoners’ release.

Thirdly: The Republican Party lost its popularity owing to the failure of its administration’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan and this may make their chances in the presidential elections weak if not totally lost.

These are the three factors that deserve to be considered, however, as we have previously mentioned, a military option does not seem likely in the foreseeable future.

As to a possible link between the North Korean nuclear stand-off and the Iranian conflict, there is none; North Korea is already a nuclear state producing nuclear weapons, while Iran is still at a preliminary stage where it is enriching uranium within the limits suitable for peaceful usage.
But there is a connection of a different kind; and that is a solution to both the conflicts is being deliberately hindered. The United States seeks to sustain the conflict in the neighbourhood of China and therefore has roped in North Korea’s neighbours in a six-sided conference to prolong and complicate the issue. This is why it refuses to enter into a bilateral dialogue with North Korea. Also because China is the country considered closest to North Korea, America wants to keep the issue alive right in the immediate vicinity of China.

To sustain the conflict means to hinder a solution and keep North Korea as nuclear state and not as a non nuclear state. That is why you find that whenever China is close to a solution, America blocks it with excuse or another, therefore when they were about to sign a agreement whereby North Korea would dismantle one of its plants in exchange of specified American aid, the US moved to freeze North Korean funds in a Macau bank and prevented its transfer to North Korea. Meanwhile the deadline expired on 13th April, 2007 for dismantling of the plant without North Korea receiving the aid. Thereby the quagmire continued with no sign of a thaw and North Korea insisted that it will not begin dismantling of the plant until the funds were transferred to it.

Although the funds in question are only 25 million dollars, which is a paltry sum considering that it is the price of dismantling of a North Korean nuclear plant (the Pyongyang plant), however the imbroglio continues until date and this prompted the Russian deputy foreign minister to comment on 16th April, 2007: “The US is hindering a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue by preventing transfer of Pyongyang’s funds from Macau.”

Finally on 26th April, 2007, a South Korea negotiator working on the North Korean conflict stated that he expects the issue of transfer of the frozen funds from Delta Ajya bank in Macau to be settled in a week’s time!

It can therefore be said that there is a similarity between the North Korean nuclear issue and the Iranian issue in that the US is hindering progress towards a solution in both the cases in order to keep the conflict alive as long as it can.

13th Rabee’ ul akhir, 1428 A.H
30th April 2007

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