Richard North, 11/02/2005  

Well, two troublesome threesomes, really. On the one hand we have the United States, Iran and the European Union, with whom according to Secretary of State Rice, the US is now going to be best buddies except for intending to keep good bilateral relations with all the members as well.

On the other hand, there is the equally troublesome threesome of Britain, France and Germany, locked in an ever more hopeless pursuit of that elusive Holy Grail, objective guarantees that Iran will not acquire or construct a nuclear bomb.

In the wide-ranging press conference Secretary Rice gave in Luxembourg yesterday, where she shimmied skilfully round some difficult questions (even managing to catch out one hack, who seemed not to know the difference between Iraq and Iran), she was, naturally enough, asked about Iran.

The question was not a particularly difficult one, though it may have seemed that to the particular journo:
"Could I ask you about another topic on which there seems to be some difference,Madam Secretary? You have been asked at almost every stop of your trip about the nuclear issue and Iran. As far as I understood, you supported and support the initiative of the EU-3 and advised Iran to take the deal. My question is if there would be a deal between the Europeans and Iran, and there would be a strong guarantee that Iran cannot go the path to develop nuclear weapons, would the United States be prepared to support that deal? Would you be prepared to engage, as well, with Iran? Do you see the necessity to offer incentives, as well, as the Europeans are trying to do, because I think you have been a little bit unclear on that?"
Madam Secretary dealt with that one:
"Well, let’s do first things first: let’s get the Iranians to accept that they have an obligation to the international community not to develop nuclear weapons under cover of civilian nuclear power. The United States was the first state really to raise the alarm on this several years ago. And after some suspicious Iranian activities were uncovered, I think everybody began to realize that this actually was a very big problem.

The EU-3 are trying, in this way, to get the Iranians to live up to these obligations; as I said, the Iranians ought to do it. What we shouldn’t do is it allow the Iranians to start introducing new conditions, like what the United States might or might not do, in order to avoid the answer to the
question that is being asked of Iran, which is: are you prepared to live up to your international obligations? Let’s see if the Iranians can convince the international community that they are, in fact, able and willing to live up to their international obligations in a verifiable way.

The nuclear issue is urgent. It has to be seen in the context and Iran that is in other ways out of step with important trends in the Middle East - in terms of its support for terrorism, in terms of its treatment of its own people. When we’ve just talked about the need for reform in the Middle East, and we’ve just talked about the need for the Israelis and Palestinians to be able to move
forward and to resolve their conflict. The Iranians are on the wrong side of the divide on a number of issues."
And there we have the problem. Iran is most definitely on the wrong side of all human rights issues. Their support for the terrorist group Hizbollah has been well proven and, actually, is not denied by the Mullahs.

Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel, a democratic country and an ally of the West (though you would not believe it if you read some of the left-wing media in Europe).

Above all, Iran, though a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is refusing to give the required assurances. In fact, the much vaunted European policy of incentives through trade and investment, has achieved nothing as we have already pointed out.

Indeed, as Madam Secretary was speaking, top Iranian Mullah, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was proclaiming that Iran has no intention of giving up its fuel cycle technology.

This is, of course, permitted under the Non-Proliferation Treaty but once a country possesses the ability to make fuel for nuclear power plants, it could also have the strategic option to enrich uranium to higher levels and, hey presto, create a weapon.

The Europeans, having failed to get all sorts of guarantees from Iran, have now decided that Iran must surrender the fuel cycle and have tried to negotiate to that end, clearly unsuccessfully.

To add insult to injury, Rafsanjani has explained during a sermon at Tehran University (odd ideas some of these people have of suitable topics for sermons) that the problem does not lie with Iran but with the other troublesome threesome, though he, too, seems to have problems with working out the difference between Europe, the EU and individual European states.
We will guard this technology. You will see in the future that Iran will have all the achievements of nuclear science at its disposal. Iran has not hesitated for a moment about its decisions to continue enrichment.
He then said that Iran’s aim was "confidence building" but it is not clear whose confidence was being built by whom, as he also added:
This confidence must be obtained within a few months. Two to three months have already passed. We have given an opportunity, we expect the Europeans to use this opportunity. After the time limit is over we will continue the nuclear technology work using all our power and riches.
Madam Secretary seems justified in her scepticism about Iran’s intentions. One wonders what the three negotiating European countries will do next.

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