Experts: New talks on Iranian nuclear program will fail

Experts: New talks on Iranian nuclear program will fail

Azerbaijan, Baku, Sept.16 / Trend, T. Konyayeva /

New talks on Iran's nuclear program are bound to fail regardless of their format and whether or not Turkey and Brazil are participating, experts say.

"The chances for successful talks with Iran on the nuclear issue in any format are equal to zero," Russian Institute for Middle Eastern Studies President Yevgeny Satanovsky told Trend via e-mail. "Ahmadinejad and Mottaki have decided to change the format due to some of their concerns, perhaps making sure that Turkey and Brazil are not strong allies."

An agreement on the exchange of nuclear fuel will only be discussed within the Vienna Group (IAEA, Russia, the United States and France), Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Monday, adding that there is no need to involve other countries in the discussion. Thus, Turkey and Brazil will not participate in the talks on nuclear fuel.

U.S. Professor Barry Rubin agrees that the new talksare doomed to failure.

"The talks will fail," he said. "Iran is only interested in getting nuclear weapons and any proposals they throw out now are meant to buy time and are basically the same as what they first proposed and then rejected more than a year ago."

According to ethnic Iranian British analyst and University of Glasgow Professor Reza Taghizadeh, in the current circumstances Iran is not prepared to change its position, and the FM's statements are focused only on buying time and continuing the nuclear program in the same vein.

"Iran's principles regarding its nuclear program are unchanged, in fact the changes are not expected," Taghizadeh told Trend over telephone. "No changes are observed in Iranian politics, and Mottaki's address is not an indication of any changes in this matter."

He added that Brazil and Turkey thought that they could make Iran change its position by joining the mediation and resolving the nuclear issue.

"But since the adoption of the resolution in 1929, Turkey and Brazil have realized that Iran will not turn off its own ways and their efforts were unsuccessful," Taghizadeh said. "These two countries' interests in mediation decreased, so Iran does not insist on the participation of these countries in the negotiations."

A tripartite agreement on the exchange of uranium was reached on May 17 between Iran, Turkey and Brazil. The foreign ministers of these countries signed a draft agreement for the exchange of Tehran's low-enriched uranium (up to 3.5 percent) for highly enriched uranium (up to 20 percent) for the Tehran research reactor. According to the document, the exchange will be made on Turkish territory.

Taghizadeh said if they achieve the main goals of the Vienna Group's proposal, one of which is to deprive Iran of the possibility to enrich its 3.5 percent uranium and subsequently produce a nuclear bomb, the Security Council, U.N., International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the international community will be able to accept Iran's nuclear program.

In October 2009, the IAEA and "six international mediators on Iran" (Russia, the United States, China, Britain, France and Germany) offered Tehran to exchange low-enriched uranium (3.5-percent) to high-enriched uranium (20-percent). According to this plan, Iran was proposed to export its LEU to Russia where it would be further enriched and then sent to France for processing it into fuel assemblies for the Tehran reactor.

According to the IAEA, 1.2 tons of the input material for the foreign nuclear fuel to be supplied to Iran was supposed to come from the Natanz Plant, which holds 80 percent of all of Iran's reserves (1,500 kilograms).

IAEA General Director Yukiya Amano issued a report in May noting that Iran has already amassed 2,427 kilograms of uranium enriched to 4.8 percent. However, the last report puts the figure at 2,800 kilograms, which means that the initially agreed upon 1,200 kilograms comprises only 45 percent of the total uranium produced in Iran.

European expert and Research Fellow at EU Institute for Security Studies Jean Pascal Zanders told Trend that the effectiveness of the new talks is a complex issue.

"First of all there is the matter of the sanctions voted to be by the Security Council in summer," he said by phone. "A number of countries have imposed sanctions against Iran. This is one aspect. The second aspect is the fact that Iran is still not forthcoming with information concerning its program; it is hampering the work of the IAEA."

"There are no indications that Iran has a military program," he said. "But Iran does not project confidence to the international community in terms of its program. More people have become very skeptical of Iran."

Zanders added that there is also the question of inspectors as so far Iran has refused nearly 40 IAEA inspectors since 2006.

"It is becoming a matter of principle," he said. "Legally, Iran has that right (to refuse the inspectors), but again motivation is the question here."

France, Germany and the UK accused Iran on Wednesday of trying to undermine the ability to effectively monitor the Iranian nuclear program. A joint statement issued by the most influential European countries was read at a closed meeting of the IAEA Council of Governors by the French representative. The document expressed concern about "the growing number of cases of Iran refusing to cooperate with the U.N. atomic agency."

The international community and the Vienna Group in particular want clarity on the issue and at the same time demand that Iran cease its enrichment activities, Zanders said.

"The Vienna Group is not really looking at specific solutions right now," he said. "They basically require Iran to comply with the IAEA's decisions and the Security Council's resolutions."

As regards the initiative by Turkey and Brazil, he said it came into the picture earlier this year as they sought to come up with some sort of compromise solution.

"Turkey, while probably being honest in its intentions, made a strategic mistake in the sense that it did not coordinate the ideas with the United States," he said. "In other words, there is the impression that some countries in the Vienna Group, particularly France and the United States, thought that this was an effort to short circuit what they were trying to do regarding their core principles - halting enrichment without international supervision."

According to Zanders, the other difficulty for Turkey today in mediating the issue is its soured relations with Israel, particularly after the incident with the "Flotilla of Freedom."

The Israeli military clashed with passengers on board the flotilla on May 31 in the Mediterranean Sea. The fleet of ships were allegedly carrying thousands of tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Nine people were killed and dozens more were wounded.

Turkish leaders have made statements concerning Israel which were of the wrong nature in terms of turning Turkey into an honest broker in the region in light of Israel's genuine concerns about Iran's nuclear activities, Zanders said.

He added that the Turkish initiative is positive particularly because Turkey is Iran's neighbors and Turkey does not really have a stake in seeing Iran involved in a major conflict in the region.

"Turkey can contribute something," Zanders said. "But its efforts should acquire a higher level of maturity in terms of consulting with all of the parties concerned."

"In other words, what happened in May when the proposal with Brazil came to the fore - it very much has the impression of a solo initiative, something that was done with Iran," he said. "However, it did not really demonstrate that any of the concerns in the United States and in Europe had been taken into consideration."

"Before coming to the fore with an initiative, all-round consultations should take place," Zanders noted. "And if Turkey has privileged relations within the Middle East, be it Iran, be it Israel, be it Syria, or some other country, I think that it should maximize on these types of contacts and consult with the other parties concerned before coming to the fore with solutions."

T.Jafarov contributed to the article.

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