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Gareth Porter: If US demands Iran give up its right to enrich for peaceful purposes, no real agreement is possible

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GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: This is Gareth Porter reporting for The Real News Network from Washington, D.C.

Today the IAEA and Iran signaled that they are moving in the direction of an agreement on cooperation in Iran’s clarifying the allegations that it has been carrying out nuclear weapons related work for some years, particularly from 2001 to 2003. This is a big turning point, because up to now, the IAEA, particularly Director General Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has been taking the position that the agency would not agree to this draft agreement that they’ve been working on for the last couple of months, last three or four months, until Iran agrees first to let the IAEA go to visit a site at the Parchin military base, where the IAEA claims that there has been or they believe there has been a bomb chamber, a cylinder that has been used, supposedly, for work on nuclear weapons. But today it appears that Yukiya Amano, the director general of the IAEA, has taken back that threat or that position and has decided that he’s ready to go along with negotiating the agreement itself first. The agreement, of course, involves the allowance of IAEA to visit Parchin, and to go elsewhere as well, among the many features in terms of Iranian agreement to cooperate with the IAEA in this investigation.

The question, of course, remains as to whether the IAEA is going to insist on carrying out an investigation that really doesn’t have any defined endpoint. And this is one of the problems, this is the primary problem that the Iranians saw in the draft agreement that the IAEA advanced in February. So it still remains to be seen how they’re going to work out those last remaining difficulties.

But what is significant here, it appears, is that Yukiya Amano has in fact decided to go ahead with an agreement which it appeared originally that he was holding back on at the behest of the United States, so that going into these talks between Iran and the P5+1 this week, the Iranians would still stand clearly accused of refusing to cooperate with the IAEA. That clearly is no longer going to be the case. It’s no longer going to be the propaganda line that is being used against Iran going into these talks.

The talks that are to begin on Wednesday between Iran and the P5+1 are basically at risk because of the position being taken by the United States into those talks, which is, according to multiple reports which have continued consistently for the last few weeks, a position that says that the United States and the P5+1 will not rescind or take back any of the sanctions against Iran, nor will they call off the sanctions which are to go into effect at the beginning of July, unless and until the Iranians actually cease the enrichment of uranium. And this is, of course, a demand that the Iranians have made clear time and again, and still do to this day, that they will not carry out; they will not agree to end enrichment at a low level, because that is their right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. And indeed there is in international law nothing that allows the United States and the P5+1 to demand that Iran do so. So this is the single biggest obstacle to an agreement in these talks.

But there’s another obstacle is well, and that is that the United States appears to be continuing to take the position that Iran must agree to stop all activity at its enrichment facility at Qom, or what is called Fordo, which is a demand which is being made by the United States clearly at the behest of Israel, which is the primary power, the primary party which is insisting that they cannot live with the continuation of that enrichment facility, and explicitly for the reason that the Israelis say this is an invulnerable site that cannot be bombed by the Israeli Air Force effectively, and therefore they’re insisting that the Iranians cease and desist any activities at that site. And the United States now is going along. So because of both of these demands, the prospects for any agreement in these talks is very, very dim and, I would say, verging on the nonexistent.

So this is Gareth Porter reporting for The Real News Network.


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Gareth Porter is a historian and investigative journalist on US foreign and military policy analyst. He writes regularly for Inter Press Service on US policy towards Iraq and Iran. Author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.