Friday, November 25, 2005

US winning card: Russia's compromise proposal

Kash Kheirkhah

Although I share Ilan Berman's frustration over the US and Europeans dilly-dallying over Iran's referral to the UN's Security Council, I do believe this reprieve will definitely be mullahs' last chance to comply with the IAEA's demands.

Involving Russia in talks with the Islamic Republic, as I recommended few months ago, was a very intelligent policy recommended by Dr. Condoleezza Rice and wisely adopted by the Bush administration.

Until recently, Russia had shrewdly managed to stay above the nuclear fray, playing both sides. But the new US policy in backing the Russian compromise proposal under which Iran can still maintain a civilian nuclear program but transfer enrichment to Russia, will effectively pull out the rug from under the Russians' feet and remove the only remaining obstacle on the way of referring Iran to the Security Council.

How?

It is highly unlikely that Russians will be able to reach an enrichment compromise with Tehran. Earlier today, only one day after the IAEA Board of Governers decided to to give Tehran one more chance through Russia's proposal, Reuters reported that "diplomats and intelligence officials, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week, said Iran was preparing to start enrichment at its underground plant in Natanz."

The report also refers to "a 4-page confidential intelligence report citing a 'senior Iranian foreign ministry source' as saying that on October 24 the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, called an emergency meeting of current and former members of Iran's nuclear negotiating team to weigh the various options for the timing of the Natanz operation."

America and the Eu-3 are fully aware of Iran's nuclear intentions. Given Tehran's past violations of IAEA resolutions and the recent revelations of a document in Iran's possession on casting uranium into hemispheres--a process whose primary use is for engineering nuclear explosions--they have no doubt that Iran is seeking purposes far beyond its alleged civilian ones with its nuclear program.

So why did they let the IAEA board give Russia's proposal a chance after all?

To quote a senior European diplomat at the end of the Reuters report:

"The US is just waiting for the Russian proposal to fail and then they'll go to the Security Council."