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Probing US intentions in nuclear agreement with Iran

By Kaveh Afrasiabi | Press TV | November 27, 2013

Last Saturday, the ink on the historic “interim agreement” signed in Geneva had not dried yet when the early signs of trouble with the deal and its roadmap for a comprehensive final agreement emerged in the form of US Secretary of State’s explicit denial that the deal had recognized Iran’s right to enrich uranium.

Since then, John Kerry has repeated this claim, flatly contradicted by his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a half dozen occasions, thus raising questions regarding US’s sincerity.

Not only that, within hours of the late night breakthrough in Geneva, the White House published a “fact sheet” about the content of the agreement, which has now been contested by Iran’s Foreign Ministry as inaccurate, misleading and “one-sided interpretation.” As expected, there is absolutely no reference in this “fact-sheet” to Iran’s nuclear rights, including the right to enrich uranium, an important step in manufacturing fuel for the country’s reactors, which is enshrined in the articles of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Indeed, one of the main problems with the US’s approach toward the Iran nuclear issue is, and always has been, its complete obliviousness toward and lack of respect for Iran’s inalienable nuclear rights, which are the centerpieces of Iran’s negotiation strategy.

Little wonder, then, that US President Barack Obama in his post-Geneva outreach to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly emphasized the “shared goals” vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program, namely, the dismantling of Iran’s “nuclear weapons capability” that stems from its uranium enrichment program.

Israel has now dispatched a technical team to Washington to coordinate the US’s effort with respect to the final status agreement with Iran. This will probably mean even less of a “tactical difference” between US and Israel in the coming months with respect to Iran.

There is now even a shared US and Israeli linguistic (and policy) emphasis on “dismantling” the Iranian nuclear program. The word “dismantle” has seeped in the public statements of John Kerry, in contrast to his earlier hints at respecting Iran’s right to enrich uranium, e.g. in Financial Times in 2009.

Case in point, in his interview with ABC network on November 24th, Kerry stated, “While we are negotiating for the dismantling, they will not grow their program.” This echoed Kerry’s earlier admission, on November 10, 2013, that the US “is aiming to get Tehran to halt further nuclear development as a first step toward a complete dismantling of the program.”

By all indications, the US is pursuing this objective through a phased “roll back strategy,” whereby the Iranian nuclear energy program would be targeted for a gradual dismantling, in light of the statement by Tony Blinken, the US Deputy National Security Adviser, that “if we could have gotten an entire freeze of their program right away in one fell swoop, we would have done that.” This recalls Kerry’s other interview, with CBS’s Face the Nation on November 24, when he responded to the question of whether the agreement calls for the dismantling of some of Iran’s programs by saying “Not yet. That’s correct. Not yet. But you don’t get everything at first step. You have to go down the process here.”

The interim agreement is thus viewed by the US as a milestone in achieving the initial objectives of this “roll-back” strategy – by destroying Iran’s 20-percent enriched uranium, halting the completion of Arak heavy water reactor and the installation of new centrifuges, freezing the number of centrifuges and imposing a low-ceiling on enrichment – according to Kerry “3.5 percent,” even though the agreement specifically says 5 percent, and subjecting Iran’s program to unprecedented intrusive inspection, including “a number of facilities we have never been in before,” to paraphrase Kerry.

Since collecting information on Iran’s nuclear energy program is a must for the “roll-back” strategy, the US hopes that the implementation of the interim agreement will prove vital, given the American persistence on keeping the “military option on the table.” Equally important is “reversing key aspects of the Iranian program” via this deal, which Kerry has been fond of repeating since co-signing the deal in Geneva.

As for the agreement’s concluding statements that refer to Iran’s enrichment program in a final agreement, Kerry has put the emphasis on the sentence that subjects this to “mutual agreement.” In other words, Iran’s NPT right is now threatened with a contractual atrophy that subjects this right to the prerogatives of a select few governments and thus shrinks and compromises it.

The full text of that important paragraph is as follows: “Involve a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon.”

In addition, Kerry has repeatedly turned attention to the agreement’s reference to the UN sanctions resolutions on Iran, which call for the suspension of Iran’s enrichment and reprocessing activities. In other words, as far as the US is concerned, the inclusion of the passage on UN resolutions is yet another stab at Iran’s defense of its right to enrich.

Notwithstanding the above-said, there is very little doubt that the US’s intention of the “first step” interim agreement is to downgrade the Iranian nuclear energy program and move steadily along the path of complete dismantling and dispossession of Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle.

Another point: the agreement places some of Iran’s centrifuges in standby, i.e. spinning without enriching, which can be hazardous to the equipment after a while, causing equipment decay and failure. Both the standby and shut down options have clear consequences for the physical condition of the centrifuges, which is why it is important not to extend this agreement beyond the six months. On this account alone, the US will likely drag its feet on a final deal, hoping that Iranian centrifuge program will increasingly suffer as a result of a lengthy state of ‘limbo.’

Consequently, it is important from Iran’s vantage to correctly tabulate what a “win” for the other side entails, and whether or not the “win-win” is balanced and evenly distributed, rather than triggering a process whereby the other side’s “win” would accumulate over time at Iran’s expense. In that case, it would simply culminate in a “lose-win,” to the detriment of Iran’s interests.

Of course, this is not even to mention the “psychological warfare” behind the White House “fact-sheets” hoopla about allowing the release of measly 4.2 billion of Iran’s oil proceeds in the next six months, while keeping the rest in an escrow. Clearly, the US’s intention is to weaken not only Iran’s resolve but also the spirit of resistance and national dignity, as part and parcel of its nuclear “roll-back.”

Yet, despite all the US’s clever “smart power” maneuvers mentioned above, what is rather remarkable about Iran’s counter-strategy, based on deft, skillful negotiation strategy, is how those maneuvers are neutralized and a broader anti-sanctions, pro-Iran momentum has been generated that is bound to grow stronger and introduce greater fissures between US and its Western partners, who happen to have greater vested economic interests with Iran. And this is precisely why Iran’s “win” in this stage of the nuclear game is irrefutable.

November 27, 2013 - Posted by | Deception, Economics, Wars for Israel | , , ,

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