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2004-11-15

Iran Agrees to Temporarily Suspend Uranium Enrichment

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Iran has agreed to temporarily suspend all activities connected with uranium enrichment as part of a deal with the European Union to avert any U.N. Security Council sanctions. We speak with Iranian professor and former diplomat Mansour Farhang. [includes rush transcript]

Iran has announced it will temporarily suspend uranium enrichment. In a letter to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran said it would suspend all activities connected with uranium enrichment as part of a deal with the European Union to avert any U.N. Security Council sanctions.

On Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the suspension would be in force until a final settlement is reached but stressed that the freeze was only temporary. He said, "Accepting the suspension is a politically motivated move."

The European Union wants Tehran to give up activities like uranium enrichment permanently. In return the EU could offer Iran incentives including help with a civilian nuclear program and a possible trade deal. Iran has said it will never give up enrichment technology and has denied US accusations that its atomic energy program is a front for developing nuclear weapons capability.

If the enrichment freeze is verified by IAEA inspectors, diplomats said there was almost no chance that Washington could succeed in referring the Iran case to the Security Council when the IAEA board meets on Nov. 25.

The IAEA plans to circulate a crucial report today that summarizes its two-year probe of Iran’s atomic program. The report was held up for days while negotiators from Iran and the European Union struggled to break the deadlock in talks.

  • Mansour Farhang, Iranian-born author and former diplomat. He served as revolutionary Iran’s first ambassador to the United Nations and working as a mediator in the early months of the Iran-Iraq war. He left Iran as a dissident in 1981 and now teaches international relations and Middle Eastern politics at Bennington College, Vermont. He is the co-author of "U.S. Press and Iran: Foreign Policy and the Journalism of Deference" (Univ. of California, 1987) and the author of "U.S. Imperialism: From the Spanish-American War to the Iranian Revolution" (South End Press, 1981).

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by Mansour Farhang, an Iranian author and diplomat who served as revolutionary Iran’s first Ambassador to the United Nations and worked as a mediator in the early months of the Iran-Iraq war. He left Iran as a dissident in 1981 and now teaches international relations and Middle East politics at Bennington College in Vermont. He is author of the book, U.S. Press and Iran: Foreign Policy and the Journalism of Deference. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

MANSOUR FARHANG: Thank you very much, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to the latest news out of Iran.

MANSOUR FARHANG: It seems that Iran has agreed to a deal which gives it the vague enough language to continue to claim that the promise is temporary, that is to say, that the request of the united states for a permanent freeze of the Iranian enrichment activities and also John Bolton undersecretary of state goes around the world and claims that Iran has violated N.P.T. measures and it has to be referred to the security council moreover, Iran, a land rich with gas and oil does not need nuclear facilities, and therefore the ultimate aim of the international atomic energy agency, ought to be that — the dismantling of all Iran’s nuclear facilities. In this sense, I think Iran has agreed to satisfy the Europeans in order to contain American demand.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the difference between the demands of the European Union and the United States?

MANSOUR FARHANG: First of all, Iran has not violated any measure of — the N.P.T. The N.P.T. after intense investigation has concluded that there is no evidence that Iran is a violator. This is the fact regardless of what we think about the nature of the Iranian regime. Therefore, the Europeans are asking Iran to freeze enrichment of uranium for confidence building measures. That now because of the distrust in the world, particularly on the part of the United States towards Iran, it is in the interests of international peace and security, particularly in the middle east region, that Iran suspends its activities until such time when this distrust is sufficiently diminished then Iran would have the right to produce its own fuel for its nuclear facilities. While the United States is fundamentally opposed to Iran having nuclear energy facilities because it is true that any country capable of producing nuclear energy is potentially capable of producing enriched uranium for weapons. Since in the Middle East Israel is the only country with nuclear weapons, the United States does not want the power and position of Israel to be challenged for any regional state.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see an attack by the United States or Israel on Iran in the near future?

MANSOUR FARHANG: In the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, when the stories appeared like this in the media to be positive that as President Bush said the mission was "accomplished," threats against Iran such as sending the case to the United Nations, military invasion, economic sanctions, even the bombardment of Iranian nuclear facilities, and even at times invasion of Iran and regime change were the threats that many American officials used against Iran, and in the early days of the Iraqi invasion the Iranians were somewhat concerned. But as the time went on, and the neoconservative designs for Iraq turn into a quagmire and disaster, Iran regained its confidence and reached the position that the United States is in no position of using military force against Iran, and therefore it intensified its negotiations with the Europeans, and they reached an agreement about six months ago to suspend the uranium enrichment activities, but last September, but Iran claimed that Europe was not fulfilling its part of the bargain and it reneged on the promise and symbolically it started the enrichment activities. Now it is extremely difficult to assume that the United States would be able to send troops to Iran, or use the kind of threats that would make the Iranians bend in the way Washington wants them. Let’s remember that Iran is surrounded by American military presence, and therefore, it is the insecurity created by American invasion and military activities in the region, and also Israeli expansionist policy that has created the desire on the part of virtually every state in the region to seek nuclear weapons as the ultimate measure of protection against invasion or bombardment. Therefore, the Iranian regime could be persuaded to give up its nuclear ambition when the security situation in the Middle East is improved, but given the present policy, this agreement is simply one phase in a continuing process of confrontation and insecurity for which the United States is primarily responsible.

AMY GOODMAN: The reaction in Iran to the election of George Bush. I mean, we had heard the mullahs a few days before the election had endorsed Bush.

MANSOUR FARHANG: Well, I don’t — it was not really an endorsement. Many of — generally, the Iranian authorities used to say it doesn’t make any difference. This is the official line. But then within the ruling hierarchy, there was "we know George Bush." George Bush has been defeated in Iraq and the possibility that he would work with Europeans to put pressure on Iran is very minimal, while Kerry might renegotiate with the Europeans and solicit their support and create a united front against Iran. In other words, the prospect of the United States and Europe cooperating was not particularly pleasant for Iran. Therefore, the election of George Bush, a good number of them argued, would serve Iran’s interests because it has the potential to continue the division between the United States and Europe.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mansour Farhang, we saw you in the studios the Democracy Now! when you were translator for Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner. She is now suing the U.S. government for not allowing her memoirs to be published here because she is from Iran. Your response to that?

MANSOUR FARHANG: This is a law that the sanctions have been extended to the extent of becoming censorship, the presentation of ideas, scholarly material, articles for specialist journals have also been included. These are items against which the United States has sanctions. There are a good number of lawyers in the United States believe this is unconstitutional and it’s not only about this, but a number of other publishers have filed a collective suit against this law that based on what I hear from experts, it has a good chance of success, if it goes to court.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Mansour Farhang, I want to thank you very much for being with us, former Iranian diplomat, author and professor at Bennington College in Vermont. This is Democracy Now!. We’ll be back in a minute.

MANSOUR FARHANG: My pleasure.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you.

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