Today is the anniversary of the 1979 “Islamic Revolution” in Iran.
International tensions are running high about Iranian “intentions” as it continues its program to enrich uranium — for completely legal civilian purposes, Iranian officials continue to insist, while the U.S. says “prove it”.
[Ahmedinejad gives his answer below…]
A protracted Iranian negotiation is still continuing about whether or not it will agree to send some of its approximately 3.5 to 5 percent enriched uranium (used to operate nuclear reactors which produce energy) outside Iran for further enrichment up to nearly 20 percent level, which is apparently what is needed for medical purposes.
International nerves are beginning to crack, and the U.S. imposed further financial sanctions on Wednesday, while diplomats are speculating about (and apparently trying to find out) whether or not China is becoming less opposed to further UN Security Council measures.
China Hand (Peter Lee) wrote on his fascinating China Matters blog yesterday that “Iran may have hoped that China would step into the nuclear dispute on its side, perhaps by agreeing to serve as middleman for the fuel exchange. It looks like they’ll be disappointed. But today Beijing also sent the message that U.S.-Chinese relations would suffer another blow from an aggressive Western push on Iran coupled with a demand that China knuckle under and support sanctions. The lead editorial in Global Times–the international affairs organ of People’s Daily and therefore an indication of the attitude of the Chinese leadership– made the point that China resents being ‘taken hostage’ by either side in the Iran crisis. It sends some heat Iran’s way (though it will be clear from the remarks of China’s ex-ambassador to Iran quoted below, China believes that Iran is open to concessions), but the main object of criticism is the United States. It is clear that China has decided to take the whole American ‘you gotta sanction Iran’ approach as another episode (following the disastrous falling-out at Copenhagen) in which the United States is happy to employ wedge issues against China, not only to advance its immediate goals, but to isolate China and reduce its standing as a global power. If the United States continues to take a hard line on China joining Iran sanctions, instead of backing off and continuing negotiations, China will take it as a conscious, hostile act against China”. Further on in this post, China Hand reports that the People’s Daily interviewed China’s ex-ambassador to Iran, Hua Liming, and “Ambassador Hua told the paper that the main purpose of Iran’s declaration of its intention to purify its uranium to near 20% was to put pressure on the West and particularly the United States. Only a week before, Ahmedinejad had…stated that Iran was prepared to accept the UN nuclear fuel exchange agreement…indicating that Iran still hoped to reach an agreement with the IAEA, but that the exchange terms had to be beneficial to Iran. Previously, the IAEA proposal called for Iran to ship its fuel to Russia, where it would be refined to 20%. Afterwards, the fuel would be shipped to France and fabricated into fuel rods. This span of time would be 12 months. Iran clearly was worried about the 12-month limit and had expressed a hope that the time be reduced to four to five months. However, the Western countries refused. Under these circumstances, Iran adopted a relatively unyielding attitude … Ambassador Hua stated, ‘Unyielding’ only is one side of the coin…the other side, ‘Concessions’, still exists. Iran has already indicated its attitude that it will accept the IAEA plan. In general, Iran still hopes for nuclear negotiations and would not lightly close the door to negotiations”. This post can be read in full here.
China Hand explained in a previous post the day before that “According to Haaretz: Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday Iran was now prepared to send low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad before getting reactor fuel back. Before, Tehran insisted on small swaps on its own soil. That would defeat the draft plan’s purpose of reducing Iran’s total LEU reserve below the quantity required to set off an atomic bomb, if it were refined to high purity. As noted below, China is perhaps the only major power that Iran could rely upon to conduct an offshore swap. Wonder if China will rise to the bait … During a February 9, 2009 press briefing, a spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised China’s ever more important role on the world stage. He also stated, according to Phoenix TV’s correspondent on the scene: If China was willing, Iran could consider conducting the nuclear fuel exchange through China. The nuclear fuel exchange refers to a proposed confidence-building deal between Iran and the West that has basically turned into a confidence-demolition deal. The IAEA proposed that Iran ship most of its declared low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia for enrichment to 20%; then the Russians would ship the fuel to France for fabrication into rods and return the rods to Iran so it could make medical isotopes in its Tehran Research Reactor. Theory was that Iran would get out of the uranium enrichment business and the world could find something else to worry about. However, U.S. engagement with Iran, like so many other nice things the Obama administration had planned, went off the tracks, thanks in part to the large anti-government demonstrations following last year’s dubious presidential election in Iran. Understandably, the Iranians worried that, if they sent their uranium overseas to Russia (which has started to side with the U.S. on Iran issues) and France, they might never get it back, and they reportedly proposed some deal that would involve incremental exchanges of enriched material for their LEU. The result was a lot of huffing and puffing from the West about Iranian bad faith and a concerted drive for new Iran sanctions. China is the only member of the P5 (Security Council + Germany) clearly resistant to new sanctions. The Iran offer can be seen as 1) an effort to get China involved on its side 2) a recognition that China is the one party that would reliably return their uranium. The offer didn’t come up in China’s MOFA Feb. 9 presser. On the Iran issue, the Chinese spokesperson stated: We hope and support that the concerned parties can achieve a unanimity of views on the IAEA’s draft agreement for supply of fuel to the Teheran Research Reactor. This would contribute to the favorable resolution of the Iran nuclear question. The Chinese, like the rest of the world, are probably waiting to see if the Iranian government can keep the lid on the demonstrations everybody’s hyping for February 11. If the Iranian government works its authoritarian magic on the demonstrators, I believe China will maintain its current position of negotiations and no sanctions. If the wheels come off and Iran heads for a period of serious political instability, China will simply keep its head down until the clear winner emerges”. This earlier posting can be read in full here.
In any case, a big celebration is underway in Tehran today. Al-Jazeera International TV is now broadcasting live a speech from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.
He began in a touching, reconciliatory way: “Human beings are connected to each other all around the world”.
Continue reading Ahmedinejad: "Human beings are connected to each other all around the world"