Mainichi Daily News
Japan lauds Brazil-Turkey deal on Iran
Fri May 21, 2010 16:37

Japan lauds Brazil-Turkey deal on Iran
(source: The Mainichi Daily News)
Friday, May 21, 2010

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan has hailed a deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey on Iran's nuclear program and agreed with the two countries to continue to closely consult on the matter following a U.S. move to impose additional sanctions against Iran, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada held separate teleconferences Wednesday with his Turkish and Brazilian counterparts Ahmet Davutoglu and Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim and stressed the importance of implementing the new deal, in which Tehran agreed to send 1.2 tons of its low-enriched uranium stock to Turkey.

However, Okada pointed out in the phone talks with the two countries that the situation remains serious as Iran continues its uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity, according to the ministry.

The United States said Tuesday it has presented to the U.N. Security Council a draft resolution to impose additional sanctions against Iran over its nuclear ambitions, including conducting cargo inspections and slapping new restrictions on Tehran's import of conventional arms.

Iran insists that it has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons and that its uranium enrichment program is strictly for peaceful purposes. But the United States and its allies suspect it is pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program that requires highly enriched uranium of over 90 percent purity.

The foreign ministers of Turkey and Brazil -- both nonpermanent Security Council members -- told Okada that the fresh deal provides a chance to settle the standoff diplomatically, the ministry said.

Okada is scheduled to discuss on Friday a response to Iran's nuclear ambitions with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Tokyo.

On Wednesday, Iranian Ambassador to Japan Seyed Abbas Araghchi urged Tokyo not to endorse the resolution presented by the United States to the U.N. Security Council, warning that Tehran could take countermeasures if Japan, also a UNSC nonpermanent member, approves it.

(Mainichi Japan) May 20, 2010


US strikes back at Tehran
by Kaveh L Afrasiabi (source: Asia Times)
Friday, May 21, 2010

TEHRAN - With the Tehran nuclear swap deal approaching like a curve ball, the United States swung into action in an attempt to hit it out of the park and press on with its attempt to impose further sanctions on Iran.

Washington announced it had secured Russian and Chinese support ''overnight'' backing strong United Nations sanctions, irrespective of the proposal brokered on Monday by Turkey and Brazil to defuse tensions over the nuclear standoff.

After months of negotiations and one day after the trilateral declaration, the release of a draft UN resolution that would represent a fourth round of international sanctions against Tehran if eventually passed, was ''as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide',' US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.

Clinton may have come under intense pressure to push on with the United States' bid for further sanctions, with a Wall Street Journal editorial painting Monday's agreement in Tehran as a "debacle" for US President Barack Obama's diplomacy.

The Tehran agreement could create enough doubt to undermine or delay the White House drive for sanctions at the UN, especially since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, has yet to consider details of an agreement that opens up an alternative route to sanctions.

''There are a number of unanswered questions regarding the announcement coming from Tehran,'' Clinton said in a statement that acknowledged efforts by Turkey and Brazil to find a solution to the standoff. The permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council - Russia, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France - plus Germany, known as the "Iran Six", are rallying ''the international community on behalf of a strong sanctions resolution that will, in our view, send an unmistakable message about what is expected from Iran", Clinton said in the statement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Clinton overnight that Moscow still agreed with the draft text, after a nuclear deal agreed between Iran, Brazil and Turkey, the Foreign Ministry said. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the efforts by Brazil and Turkey would "aid the process of peacefully resolving the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations".

In a regular press briefing, Ma added, ''We hope relevant actions of the Security Council could help safeguard the international non-proliferation regime, maintain peace and stability in the Middle East and press for a proper settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue.''

The 15-nation council is expected to vote on the resolution early next month, with minor revisions in the intervening period. Brazil and Turkey, both members of the council, have said that further sanctions aren't necessary if Iran respects the pending trilateral arrangement under which enriched uranium from Iran would be shipped to Turkey in exchange for new fuel for a Tehran research reactor.

The 10-page UN draft resolution agreed by the "Iran Six" calls for international inspection of vessels suspected of carrying cargo related to Iran's nuclear or missile programs and to clamp down on financial transactions suspected of aiding Iran's nuclear or missile programs. It also calls for expansion of an existing arms embargo on Tehran to include more types of heavy weapons. Originally, the US and the Europeans had hoped to impose a total arms embargo and blacklist the Iranian central bank, but Russia and China opposed those moves.

The chances are that the Tehran declaration, reflecting Iran's embrace of a fuel swap deal openly supported by Obama last October, represents a mini-victory for US (ie a win-win scenario) despite the Tehran dailies' rush to describe it as a "check-mate" for the US.

As per the terms of the Tehran declaration, the Vienna Group, consisting of the US, Russia, France and the IAEA, will need to study and reflect on the terms of the declaration, wherein Iran commits to ship a bulk of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey for safekeeping until an equivalent mass of high-enriched uranium is delivered to Iran, plus fuel rods, ostensibly from Russia and France. From Iran's vantage point, the Tehran declaration satisfies the issue of "objective guarantees" via Turkey, which is obligated to return Iran's LEU in case there is any hitch in the deal and Iran requests it back.

The IAEA said it had received the joint declaration and wanted "written notification" that Tehran would follow through. After the letter is received by the IAEA, an agreement between Tehran and the agency must be drawn up and signed.

On Monday, Iran, Brazil and Turkey agreed that a letter be sent to the IAEA within one week of the trilateral agreement being signed, to declare that Iran was ready for the fuel exchange. The Tehran declaration also mentions the need to focus on "common elements" of the two packages - of the "Iran Six" and Iran's own package of ideas - and that could mean a "Vienna II" with a broader agenda inclusive of extra-nuclear, ie regional and security issues.

Clinton went on record several times over the past few months to accuse Iran of rejecting an equivalent fuel-swap agreement, but in effect torpedoed it with her announcement of coming sanctions. This will anger the Turkish officials who coordinated their Tehran moves with Washington, only to see the Americans about-face in the form of Clinton's abrupt remarks before the US Congress. Not only that, in light of China's positive response to the Tehran declaration, it is far from clear that China is on board with new sanctions, as Clinton claimed to be the case.

Part of the problem is that at the Vienna meeting in October, the US did not insist on any preconditions for the IAEA "draft agreement", such as the suspension of Iran's uranium-enrichment program, and yet increasingly that is precisely the impression that Clinton and other top US officials give.

The net result is that on one hand, a mini-breakthrough in the form of the nuclear fuel swap is on the table at the IAEA, while on the other, a major intensification of the nuclear standoff could also be in the offing if new and "strong" sanctions are imposed by the UN. In such a scenario, the glue that binds Iran to the IAEA through the swap agreement would be considerably thinned or perhaps unraveled by the heat of coercive sanctions.

A prudent diplomatic alternative would be to hold off on new sanctions and give the nuclear swap deal a chance. "Iran has now demonstrated a good deal of reconciliation at the UN by telling the world that we are totally opposed to nuclear weapons and their production and acquisition and we support a Middle East free from nuclear weapons, unlike Israel, and we have now accepted the swap deal with a minor modification of [role for] Turkey,'' a Tehran foreign policy analyst told the author. ''Our question is: Is the US going to let this opportunity pass?"

Skepticism may be justified, yet no matter the instant, face-saving diplomatic gestures in Washington, the sequel that will take place in Vienna creates an opportunity for both sides to concentrate on areas of agreement and the potential for a breakthrough in the nuclear stalemate reflected in the Tehran declaration.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here. His latest book, Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) is now available.


Iran's regional influence irks US, prompting UN's sanctions bid
(source: Press TV)
Friday, May 21, 2010

US President Barack Obama has boasted a UN draft resolution that calls for new sanctions against Iran only days after Brazil and Turkey brokered a nuclear deal with Iran that would lead to an Iranian nuclear fuel exchange in Turkey, satisfying Western demands for Iran to ship its low-enriched uranium out of the country for an exchange with a higher-enriched fuel Iran needs for its Tehran Research Reactor. The deal would also satisfy Iran's major demand for guarantees on a timely swap.

The Tehran nuclear declaration raised international optimism about the eventual resolution of Iran's nuclear deadlock with the Western nuclear powers.

However, Washington continues to insist that more sanctions are needed to force Iran to halt its nuclear program, while Brazil and Turkey, among other members of the UN Security Council, namely Lebanon and China have expressed reservation and even opposition about imposing new sanctions on Iran.

Press TV talked to John Rees of Stop the War Coalition, in London on recent developments on the issue. The rush transcript follows:

Press TV: Thank you John Rees for joining us. Though the new nuclear deal was sealed in Tehran on Monday, Washington immediately turned up the heat to have more sanctions implemented against Iran. Why do you think that was the case?

John Rees: Because primarily this have not been about nuclear weapons, this is about the condition the United States finds itself in after the disastrous war in Iraq. The unintended consequence of US failure in Iraq was to correct Iran as even stronger regional power than what was before the Iraq war. The Americans are deeply uncomfortable with that. It does fit the global strategic plan. The argument about nuclear weapons is a way of trying to shut down Iranian influence in the region.

Press TV: So what are you telling Mr. Rees is that the nuclear weapons' excuse is just basically an excuse. Explain to me what you are exactly saying there.

John Rees: Yes, because we can see, we know that the state of Israel has nuclear weapons, we know that it's the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East. If the Americans were genuinely concern with the nuclear proliferation they would be dealing with the weapons that we know to be there in Israel. They are not interested in this. They are interested in closing down the influence of a state they regard as regional rival in this part of the globe.

Press TV: Mr. Rees on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama has met with 37 Jewish lawmakers, reassuring them that the United States would seek to implement a new round of sanctions against Tehran. I want to get your comment on that.

John Rees: Well we know that the US government foreign policy is intimately linked with the state of Israel as it is its most secure ally in the region, so that statement doesn't surprise me. But the hypocrisy is absolutely enormous and at the same time that we are trying to gain authority for more sanctions, supposedly because of the fear of nuclear weapons, does the pledge being given about a state which, we know, does have nuclear weapons. The same is true about the new government here in Britain. Tory and Lib-Democrats government has a foreign secretary who said his first loyalty in foreign policy is to the state of Israel. This is not a surprise.

Press TV: You said it is not a surprise. Are you surprised that the media has not focused on perhaps what could be called the irony of the situation that the US President Barack Obama would be meeting with some Jewish lawmakers concerning Israel and also reassuring them that there would be new sanctions against Iran for their nuclear program, when Israel have nuclear arsenal?

John Rees: Well I'm always surprised on the ability of media to ignore what most of the people in the world see as facts. The media speaks to the people who speak for the Israeli state. A very large body of opinion amongst Jews in this country, in the United States, has grown opposed to the state of Israel. So the pro-Zionist lobby is very strong, but they don't speak for all the Jews. Not all the Jews support the states of Israel.

Press TV: Does the US want more sanctions simply on Iran or is it after some thing else? Is it possibly even after a military confrontation? Or dose it want to make a deal with Iran? Why has it taken such an aggressive stand, when the situation has developed after Brazil and Turkey made the deal on the nuclear issue? How do you see what is taking place to transparent right now?

John Rees: Well I think the aim is a compliant Iran, I think the aim as every American foreign policy is to have other powers which are open to American business and fit in with the American strategic military objectives. The tools they will use to obtain that will depend on what they could to get away with and what they are able to do any one point in time. They may like in some point think that the military option is still available to them. But I think the situation in Iraq and the situation in Afghanistan wouldn't allow them to exercise that military option immediately. So efforts short of military activity, the sanctions regime, will be what be used at the moment and that would be seen as the process in which can either resolve the situation itself or soften Iran out for military incursions in the future. But I think it is important to say the United Stated doesn't have its rein quite the way they had in the past. The divisions now between Brazil and Turkey on one side and the US and its allies on the other, it's not the first time that we've seen such divisions. During the Iraq war, we even saw the division between Donald Rumsfeld at that time and the American allies and the old Europe, what was meant to be France, and the old Germany, finally oppose to the Iraq war. So the American authority isn't what it was in the world and they have a greater difficulty in getting a coalition of allies than what they did in the first (Persian) Gulf war or the cold war.

Press TV: There are

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