Ahmad Zeidabadi / Iran Press Service – 2006-05-17 23:32:44
TEHRAN (May 17, 2006) — More and more domestic and international personalities are calling on George Bush’s government to hold talks with Iran.
While the US government has so far rejected all of them, it seems it is getting harder to withstand the growing call. But should it decide to change its current posture and hold direct talks with Iran over the nuclear issue, it would prefer to do it multi-laterally and sit across Iran at a table which would also include the three European countries on its side
United Nation’s Kofi Annan and the International Atomic Energy watchdog Mohammad ElBarade’i too have recommended this format and have asked George Bush’s government to join France, Britain and Germany in drawing up a package of political and economic incentives to Iran in return for a suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment activities.
Furthermore, Director General ElBarade’i has even asked the US to consider Iran’s security concerns arising out of the existence of nuclear armed neighbors around it. From his perspective, only the US is in a position to address Iran’s security concerns, and not the three European powers that had engaged Iran for years. And while this is not a new call by the director, it is very significant.
His insistence on a US security commitment implicitly acknowledges Iran’s deterrent claims for its nuclear programs. In other words, ElBaradei views Iran’s efforts to posses the nuclear energy cycle technology not simply to produce electricity, but also as a tool guaranteeing its security against foreign threats.
In this light, French Foreign Affairs Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has said that the incentives package that the three European countries plan to present to Iran soon does address security issues in addition to political and economic cooperation. While he has not listed the details of what is to come, can one expect this to mean that a security guarantee may be presented in return for a suspension of nuclear enrichment?
[Actually, the European Union, led by the Big 3, offerd Tehran on 15 May a “package” of incentives that Mr. Xavier Solana, the Union’s senior Minister for Security and Foreign Affaires described as “generous”, acknowledging the right of Iran to nuclear technology, proposing cooperation in the construction of nuclear power plants and signing advantageous trade and cooperation agreements and offering security guarantees].
When the three Europeans countries initially presented Iran with a package of incentives in August of 2005, the offer was rejected by the new government of Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad in Iran and the reason cited in Tehran was that it did not include any guarantees for Iran’s security concerns.
If Tehran is really seeking a security umbrella, then it expects it from the US. But even if the Europeans present this guarantee on behalf of the US, the assurance will most likely be accepted by Tehran.
The big question of course is will the US provide such a guarantee to Iran. Apparently the US government may provide such a guarantee in return for Iran’s suspension of pursuing its nuclear cycle programs. But such a US guarantee is meaningless if Iran foregoes its nuclear programs, because then there is no need for the US to attack Iran, which Iran fears. So it appears then that if Iran is after a security blanket, then it wants a comprehensive one which is unconditional and not linked to the nuclear or any other issue.
And this is precisely what the US will not accept.
The US government fears that once Iran has such a comprehensive and unconditional guarantee, Tehran would relentlessly continue its anti American policies domestically and internationally, this time without any fear of reprisals from the US. It is in this light that according to the Israeli press, the US has pledged to the Israeli government that it would not provide any security guarantee to Tehran unless all of Washington’s concerns are addressed, one of which is recognition of the Jewish state.
So even if the US officially joins the European Troika in talks with Iran it seems unlikely that it would provide a comprehensive security blanket to the Islamic regime in Tehran simply because Iran pledges to suspend its nuclear activities. Unless of course all the issues between the two countries are resolved as part of the incentives package that the Europeans plan to present to Iran.
Should such a development take place, this would certainly be a revolution in the relations between Iran and the US, but it still does not seem to be within reach today.
Mr. Zeidabadi is a leading Iranian journalist and political analyst, writing for several Iranian and foreign-based media.
This commentary was posted by the pro-reform internet newspaper “Rooz” on 15 May 2006. Highlights and some editing are by IPS
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