Media roundtable on "The outcome of the discussion on the Iranian nuclear issue between the six international mediators and the Iranian delegation in Moscow."
Rajab Safarov, director general of the Center for the Study of Modern Iran
Western powers have very much tried to prepare public opinion for the fact that the Moscow talks were the last chance for Tehran. It is the last phase, the time limit will soon be used up. After the Moscow talks there will be no more talks with Tehran, and if in Moscow there are no results, then the Western powers will consider possibly adopting more radical measures in relation to Iran for the sake of, say, the world. The main objective was to threaten Tehran, create a situation when out of fear for the adoption of the most brutal and unnatural sanctionary measures, which come in force on July 1, as you well know, and include an embargo on exports of energy resources from Iran to the EU countries and, if I understand it correctly, not only to the EU, since during this time on the basis of bilateral talks, the EU countries and the Western countries, especially the US, adopted a great number of "depression" measures in order to influence non-EU countries and make them reduce their diplomatic relations with Tehran.
As if Tehran has not even tried to speak with them as equals in order to accept with a bow any proposals introduced by the West to Tehran. The talks were largely and significantly influenced by the joint statement of presidents Putin and Obama, based on their common vision of the development of the Iranian nuclear program. In fact, they specified a direction for the future discussion and development of this problem. The West accepted the proposal of Tehran on the future discussion of the Iranian nuclear program, together with a number of problems and issues of a geo-political character concerning national security, regional security and the strategic interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran. First of all, this concerns the situation in Syria, the situation in Bahrain, the future development of the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and other countries. Earlier, the West had no desire even to hear about Iran's proposals to participate in the discussion and adoption of measures on global problems and relate these discussions to their actions facilitating the elimination of the atmosphere of distrust and the creation of a more constructive atmosphere and environment of trust between Iran and the countries of the world community. The West is not insisting any more that Tehran categorically stops enriching uranium. This question is entirely taken off the agenda. It means that the world community, the active part of the world community of the European and Western countries headed by the US, recognizes Iran as a nuclear power, a member of the nuclear club in its own right, and therefore will treat it based on this perception.
In Moscow the question was about persuading Iran to decrease the process of uranium enrichment from 20 % to 2.5 or 5 %. None of the participants demanded that Iran stop all enrichment processes. The Moscow talks, so to say shocked, the Western intermediary delegations, because Iran introduced five new far-reaching and fully constructive proposals. Tehran is ready to give guarantees concerning the fact that the uranium enrichment will have solely peaceful purposes. The IRI offered political guarantees and the West did not know how to react to the proposition.
The Iranian authorities declared their readiness to accommodate them and said that they will stop uranium enrichment at the 20 % level, but they demanded guarantees that the necessary volume of uranium enriched at the 20 % level will be delivered to Tehran and that the Iranian Republic can have guarantees that it will be able to buy uranium enriched at the 20 % level for its own purposes. In order to monitor that Iran is not going to buy more, they proposed establishing a working commission, an international working commission, for the study of the actual demand of Iran for the fuel and Iran will buy solely this amount under the control of the IAEA. Overnight, in such a short time, it is impossible to adopt decisions of such a global and principal character.
Do you want Tehran to allow them to stop any processes at the Fardo plant? It is the very object of the Iranian nuclear complex. Tehran says it is ready to agree to that, but what will it be offered in return? There are issues that Iran, out of its good will and desire to create an atmosphere of trust, can undertake on its own. But such issues as suspension of operation of such an important element in the nuclear complex of Iran as the Fardo plant are detrimental to the development of the whole nuclear complex. What can the world community offer in return? Let us arrest the effect of your inhumane sanctions concerning the embargo on the export of energy resources from Iran to the EU. The West is not ready.
Tehran says: OK, you are insisting on letting IAEA experts into Iran's military site at Parchin. But Tehran says: excuse us, but this object has no relation at all to the nuclear complex of Iran. It is solely a strategic military site. It is a composite part of the military doctrine, the military complex of Iran. It is a strategic site that concerns and protects the national security of the country. You want to have access to it?
Despite all that, Iran is ready to give the IAEA experts access to it. However, after that the world community has to unequivocally issue a document that will close this question for life. So that in six months or in a year there will be no new suspicions that something is being produced at this plant.
Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the "National Defense" journal
If we have a look, at least from the position of the larger Near or Middle East, we will see that Iran is an ordinary democratic state. Even if we compare it with the current regimes in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and a number of other Arab powers… Against the background of these states, and in general based on the existing reality, Iran is an ordinary democratic state with the separation of powers. The politics of demonization of Iran which has been conducted in the last year has not produced any real tangible results.
With the arrival of Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, it became obvious that Russia is going to approach all the most important world problems based on its own national interests. And this is happening nowadays. In relation to the situation in Syria, the situation in Iran or the situation in the geo-political sphere in general, President Putin is conducting a policy of priority advocacy of Russian national interests. Based on this logic, the settlement of the situation around Iran is undoubtedly one of the most significant and strong priorities in Russian foreign policy.
I can say that certainly the policy of forceful economic pressure on Iran has no prospects. The regime is stable, the population is well-consolidated around their leaders, and the attempts to prompt a "color revolution", even by means of economic strangulation of Iran, will not be successful.
One of the significant factors is the absence of proof that Iran is implementing a military nuclear program. Yes, there are suspicions. The US and its allies have suspicions, Israel has suspicions, a number of other states have their suspicions. But suspicions are things that cannot be filed. We all remember the situation in Iraq, when the palaces of Saddam Hussein were searched under the pretext that bacteriological weapons and other weapons of mass destruction were produced there. Mr. Colin Powell, the then Secretary of State, was shaking a test tube containing white powder in his hand, claiming that it was a bacteriological weapon. However, Iraq was occupied and nothing was found. It appears that at the moment the same scenario is attempted to be implemented in Iran.
Iran is not implementing a military nuclear program, because if there was any proof of it, I assure you that all the world intelligence services which are at the moment focusing on acquiring information about what is going on in Iran with the help of secret agent intelligence as well as technical intelligence, would have already presented it all to us. That is why we assume that Iran is a state that is developing its nuclear program for peaceful purposes. In order not to remain curbed from progress, which any state associates itself with; any state that wants to be progressive has a well-developed nuclear complex. There is absolutely no need to recourse to the production of nuclear weapons.
By the way, Iran poses no missile threat to Europe. There have been official explanations from Tehran, for some reason they have not been noticed in the West. However, the missile program of Iran has also a solely regional character. There are neither considerations, desires, technical capabilities nor ambitions to create missiles that would be able to reach Europe. However, our Western colleagues do not notice this, because it eliminates any reason for the construction of the European missile defense system. The initiatives proposed by Tehran at the Moscow round of talks are undoubtedly constructive. However, one has to understand that Iran has its own interests. We can expect that by means of military pressure, threat of the use of force or economic sanctions, Iran's arms will be twisted. Iran has to be reckoned with.
Heydar Jemal, chairman of the Islamic Committee of Russia
I would like to note the special role of the IAEA as a part of the structure of the larger part of the world bureaucracy and the recent changes in the role of the IAEA. It is evident that in recent years this organization has been overstepping the bounds of its authority, which are described in its statutes and that are generally accepted and understood. It is actively engaged in its own game, which is on the fringe of provocation. One has to stress that the role of the IAEA and its policies began to rapidly change with the arrival of the Democrats in the White House and president Obama. It is particularly manifested by the changes in leadership. Nowadays, the IAEA is one of the most destabilizing squadrons in world bureaucracy.
It is enough to say that we are inclined to accept everything at its face value: the sanctions are caused by the nuclear program. However, the sanctions and the embargo on the export of Iranian oil have a hidden agenda: particularly they cause damage to the national administrations of states that are forced to comply with these sanctions. In the end, the speculative economy wins, that indirectly is the sphere which supplies the world bureaucracy with its financial resources and opportunities to manipulate.
The game of world bureaucracy in this direction is clearly related to attempts to first of all manipulate sovereignties and secondly is aimed at preparing public opinion for the future abridgement of sovereignty of independent states. Therefore, we have to clearly highlight the role of this new, mighty squadron that is becoming more and more important in the conjuncture of political factors in the international arena.
Without exaggerating, we can say that if the world is pushed down the drain of a new global conflict, the international bureaucracy will be held responsible. It is not at all responsible to national electorates, the political systems of sovereign states, it receives its income from obscure and questionable resources, laundering this money into different foundations and international banking structures. Today it is the biggest threat to peace.
Vladimir Yevseyev, director of the Center for Public Political Research
The negotiation process is continuing and it is already good. Look at the recent development of the process. There were cases when there was only one meeting per year. Here there is a process and it not about empty talks. There are actual proposals from both sides. There is a meaningful talk about how we can connect one set of proposals with the other.
I would like to say that the lack of great success at the Moscow talks is the fault of the West. And if we talk about concrete countries, than the US, France and Great Britain are the ones to be blamed in particular. Why? Because at the meeting in Istanbul in April of this year Iran made half step, but a very clear half step. It said: we are ready to stop the uranium enrichment process.
What was Iran offered in return? It was offered something is does not need. For instance, it was told that they were going to deliver nuclear fuel to the Tehran's research nuclear reactor. Iran said: thank you, we can produce it ourselves. Iran was told: let us take the breed material away from the country. But Iran said: why would we do it, on what grounds? Virtually, if Iran was offered something serious, for instance if they reduced the volume of financial economic sanctions which were introduced against Iran by the EU. And I would like to say that these sanctions extended beyond the resolution of the UN Security Council. From this perspective, they could have said: if you reduce the enrichment of uranium, we, for instance, will restore normal relations with the Central Bank of Iran. It would be absolutely clear to Iran.
As you know, July 1 is a date which does not matter since everything comes to force on this date: the oil will not be purchased from Iran any longer, economic-financial sanctions are already introduced. Therefore, July 1 is a date which means nothing. If Iran was offered anything, we could about progress.
I think that we should not force the issue of nuclear fuel. The Tehran research reactor requires only 120 kg of nuclear fuel based on uranium and 177 kg based on hexafluoride of uranium. At the present moment, Iran already has 140 kg of this material. It means that in the end the issue is about 30 kg that Iran still needs to produce. It is not a very time-consuming process, since at the moment there are two uranium enrichment facilities: experimental facility in Natanz and another in Fardo. Here a question appears: can Iran in fact finish the process before the uranium enrichment. If we are talking about the Tehran research reactor, than I would like to stress that based on its operating life it requires only one load of nuclear fuel before it needs to be put out of operation, because it was launched too long ago.
However, in this respect the Iranian side can undertake certain steps that would justify the continuation of process until the uranium is enriched. For instance, they can imitate the construction of a nuclear power plant somewhere – this is the first solution. Second, they can say that they will build an atomic submarine which requires nuclear fuel. I would like to say that the second way is more dangerous, because atomic submarines of the first generation require the 21 % level of 235-uranium enrichment. The first and the second ones. The third one requires already 45 %. If Iran builds a propulsion system based on a metal coolant, it can be 90 % and it is already weapon-grade uranium.
These issues have clearly not been discussed at the talks but they could be discussed. If we do not agree on the actual threshold for enrichment, the situation I am describing might develop. At the same time, the process can not only be continued until the uranium is enriched, the enrichment threshold can be increased. Tehran in this situation will be in its own rights since in order to produce nuclear fuel for atomic submarines, it will need the enrichment levels I've already mentioned. Based on that we have to somehow reach an agreement. How much time do we have to find an agreement? In reality, we have time only until the end of this year because starting with the beginning of the next year an electoral campaign starts in Iran. As you know, in June of the next year there will be presidential elections. Mahmud Ahmadinejad will not be able to run for the third term according to the law, there will be another person. Therefore, negotiations will stall for at least 6 months or realistically for a year. That is why we have to find an agreement now.
It is very important for the West to realize that they should make a half step themselves. The proposal of Minister Lavrov based on stages and mutuality should be realized not based on the unnecessarily deliveries of some mythical nuclear fuel for the Iran's nuclear research reactor. Iran should be offered actual advantages so that Iran will be able to continue cooperation and introduce some restrictions on the enrichment of uranium process because it is a principal issue.
There is 6 tons of uranium enriched at the level of 3.5 %. There is 145 kg of uranium enriched at the level of 20 %. The process of enrichment is continuing. If this material is enriched further, it can produce 5 warheads. Certainly, the West is concerned, since it does not understand the motives. Why is the enrichment process ongoing? A lot of material is necessary only for energy reactors. But there is only one reactor of that kind – in Buscher. And Russia is willing to deliver atomic fuel there as long as it operates. The question is why the enrichment process is still ongoing, particularly the uranium enrichment? The economic baselessness of this process, to put it mildly, raises concerns in the West.
Moreover, Iran has a right not to allow experts on the Parchin plant. Why? Because the additional protocol adopted in 1997 by the IAEA on guarantees are not in use on the territory of Iran. If this protocol had effect in Iran, then IAEA experts would able to visit not only facilities declared by Iran (7:22?). But if this protocol has not effect, than Iran has a just cause not to allow experts on the military site in Parchin. This problem can be solved only if we have mutual trust.
In my opinion it is the main problem. It is not a situation when one side believes and another does not. There is a great mutual distrust. Moreover, the negotiations have been ongoing since 1993. Since successes were reached at the Prague talks in 2004, in principal we have not had any successes. We are talking about 8 years of unfruitful talks. This is the issue. Certainly, there is a great mutual distrust. It can be eliminated only when two parties are moving towards each other, when there is a gradual and mutual process. When Iran is ready to stop the enrichment process, it should be given a real stimulus.
At the moment, sanctions which have been introduced by the EU against Iran are serious. They have seriously affected Iranian economy. But it is absolutely wrong to conclude that we should push Iran harder so that it surrenders. It is impossible to suppress Iran. If you push Iran harder and in fact now we are talking about the economic blockade of the Islamic Republic of Iran, if you call a spade a spade, what do you want to achieve? To introduce a sea blockade? But it is already a military scenario. This destructive direction chosen by the West only draws nearer the military scenario. No one needs a military scenario, not even the West. One thing is not well understood: we cannot permanently toughen the sanctions against Iran; it is a dead end route that can bring terrible consequences in the whole region. It will not be war between Iran and the US or even between Iran and Israel. It will be a regional war which is going to involve the whole region. This is the problem. Is it possible that the West does not understand it! At the moment this problem can be solved. Iran needs to be given a real incentive. A real incentive so that it continues to negotiate. And then an agreement with it can be reached.