Monthly Archives: April 2006

Two points on Iran…

*1.* I have discovered the one good argument for the US not negotiating directly with the Iranians: they would hand us our ass.

I reached this conclusion after reading the Q&A after “Bush’s 10 April speech”: at SAIS.

He said:

One of the decisions I made early on was to have a multinational approach to sending messages — clear messages to the Iranians that — that if they want to be a part of the — an accepted nation in the world, that they must give up their nuclear weapons ambitions. And we’re making pretty good progress.

By the way, if you’re studying how to achieve diplomatic ends, it might be worthwhile noting — I think at least — with the United States being the sole interlocutor between Iran, it makes it more difficult to achieve the objective of having the Iranians give up their nuclear weapons ambitions.

It’s amazing that when we’re in a bilateral position, or kind of just negotiating one on one, somehow the world ends up turning the tables on us. And I’m not going to put my country in that position — our country in that position.

He has a point…I think “something like that”: actually happened recently.

*2.* I have also discovered the Iranian name for the former US embassy in Tehran. ISNA reported 21 April that Hassan Rowhani, former secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, called the embassy the” Den of Espionage” in a recent speech.

He said this while arguing that Iran should negotiate with countries like the United States.

The Iran hostage crisis was one of his examples:

While noting that there has always been substantial concern in the back of our minds with regards to foreigners, Rowhani highlighted the case of the Den of Espionage [the former US embassy in Tehran]. He said: In the case of the Den of Espionage, one way to have resolved the situation would have been to sit and talk with the Americans. But instead of talking to the other side, we brought emotions into it and procrastinated until we arrived at a juncture where, after the imposition of the war, we agreed to sit and talk with America. But by then it was too late.

The former SNSC secretary added: Perhaps had we agreed to such a conduct [resolving the hostage crisis through talks] we would have reached a consensus more easily and secured our country’s interests better. But unfortunately it should be said that in difficult junctures we always fail to take quick decisions and let our emotions enter into our decision-making.

Pointing to the [American] hostage crisis [November 1979], he added: With regards to that issue, no one dared resolve the crisis until Iraq launched an attack against our country. But after that, we became prepared. We even hurried in the later stages and moved to resolve the situation quickly since it had come to coincide with the [presidential] elections in America.

India Nuclear Deal Math

During a press conference last week, a reporter from _Dawn_ asked Richard Boucher about the US-India nuclear deal:

bq. … we would like to have your response on Pakistani concerns on this nuclear issue, which is also supported by many critics in the U.S. and other critics that it would trigger a nuclear arms race in Asia. And Pakistan talks of the deal undermining Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence and saying you know, it would do whatever is required to restore its deterrence, which I suppose would mean making more bombs.

Acknowledging that this issue “comes up in the States in our discussions with Congress, comes up in discussions of _arms control experts and others_[emphasis mine],” Boucher replied:

bq. This is not an arrangement that in any way helps or promotes the military side of whatever India may be doing with nuclear material. We still take our obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty very seriously. We would not have entered into this deal if we had thought it contravened Article I of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that says we will not help anyone in any way to build nuclear weapons.

Then rolled with:

…you have 19% of India’s nuclear capability under safeguards now. Implementation of the deal will put 65% under safeguards. As India builds more civilian factories, more plants, there will be an expansion of the nuclear power sector and an expansion of the amount of percentage of India’s plants under safeguards. That’s not an expansion of capability on the military side, that’s actually dedicating for sole civilian use a bigger and bigger portion of India’s nuclear industry.


And I just think, you know, it’s an argument that’s made. I acknowledge that. We hear it again and again. We also answer it again and again. But it just doesn’t make sense to me. If you’ve got a program this big, and it’s not under safeguards, it’s all available for military purposes, and you make it a program this big, it’s smaller.

Yeah, obviously we’re a bunch of idiots. Do I really need to explain what happens to that percentage if and when India builds more military facilities?

Anyway, I think Islamabad has a slight difference of opinion.

For example, “_AFP_ reported”: 13 April that President Musharaff chaired a meeting of Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority. According to the article, the NCA issued a statement saying:

bq. In view of the fact that the agreement would enable India to produce significant quantities of fissile material and nuclear weapons from un-safeguarded nuclear reactors, the NCA expressed firm resolve that our credible minimum deterrence requirements will be met…

And “according to _APP_,”: told Sen. Hagel that his government has “[C]oncerns on its [the agreement’s] implications for regional stability and security.”

On top of that, “a spokesperson”: for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry expressed “concern” about

…provisions in the agreement that could have serious implications for the strategic stability in the region. Also, we feel that it is discriminatory because both Pakistan and India are nuclear weapon States which are not part of the NPT. Instead of making exception for one, a package deal would have been preferable that would have taken care of energy requirements of the two countries, the strategic stability in this region and the global non-proliferation efforts.

And speaking of math, know that “snakes + plane”: = genius.

Have a good weekend.

Iran-US Talks

One claim I have frequently heard from opponents/skeptics of US engagement with Iran is that Tehran has frequently rejected Washington’s past overtures.

So I’d be interested to know if there is any truth to “this afternoon’s _FT_ article:”:

Iran has prepared a high-level delegation to hold wide-ranging talks with the US, but the Bush administration is resisting the agenda suggested by Tehran despite pressure from European allies to engage the Islamic republic, Iranian politicians have told the Financial Times.

A senior Iranian official, Mohammad Nahavandian, has flown to Washington to “lobby” over the issue, aaccording to a top Iranian adviser outside the US. However, the Iranian mission to the United Nations insisted he was in Washington on private business.

Iran’s willingness to engage the US on Iraq, regional security and the nuclear issue, is believed to have the approval of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It represents the most serious attempt by the Islamic republic to reach out to the US since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

But the White House insisted on Thursday that its own offer of talks with Iran, extended several months ago by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Baghdad, was limited to the subject of Iraq.
“There are none and none are scheduled,” Stephen Hadley, national security adviser, was quoted by a spokesman as saying about the prospect of talks with the Iranian delegation in Baghdad next week.

A senior Iranian adviser said the Iranian delegation was headed by Ali Hossein-Tash, the main deputy to Ali Larijani who is secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and the chief official dealing with the nuclear issue. Three other negotiators, all attached to the Council, include a deputy intelligence minister who was previously based in Baghdad, a former Revolutionary Guards member and Kurdish expert, and a political specialist.

Mr Nahavandian, a deputy for economic affairs to Mr Larijani, is in Washington, several Iranian sources told the FT, revealing the rare presence of a senior Iranian in the US capital. White House and State Department officials denied all knowledge of his presence.

The Bush administration is resisting pressure from its European allies to engage Iran directly over its alleged nuclear weapons programme rather than leave negotiations to the EU3 of France, Germany and the UK. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, raised this issue with Mr Hadley this week, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is understood to have spoken about it with President George W. Bush.

Anyone seen Mr. Nahavandian walking around?

DPRK FM Speaks

I just recalled that I found “this ITAR-TASS interview”: with DPRK Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sung last month. My impression is that Paek doesn’t give too many of these, at least that are available in English.

This portion well summarizes Pyongyang’s take on its diplomacy with Washington and Tokyo, at least as it stood in late February:

Q. – In your view, is there a possibility to resume the next round of the 6-partite talks in the near future? And if so, may they bring about a concrete outcome having in mind in the first place attainment of the agreement between DPRK and the USA?

A. – The denuclerization of the Korean peninsula is our final goal. Inalterable and consequent is our stand to observe the clauses of the Joint Statement agreed upon through such hard labor as a result of the Fourth Round of the 6-partite talks. However, after adopting the Joint Statement the USA openly transgress the spirit of the Statement and exert even more pressure against our Republic therefore creating serious obstacles on the way of moving the 6-partite talks forward.

The “illegal trade version” and the financial sanctions against the DPRK that followed are in essence a campaign of conspiracy aimed to “bring down the regime” in the DPRK and to achieve “first-order dismantling of the Nuclear Program”. There is no .justification for the financial sanctions by the USA that put a barrier across the road to fulfillment of the Joint Statement adopted as a result of the Fourth Round of the 6-partite talks.

Inalterable is our will to fulfill the Joint Statement of the 6-partitel talks. We are ready to have talks at any time provided the stumbling blocks on the road to the progress of the 6-partite talks and the fulfillment of the Joint Statement are removed.

Q. – Is there any chance for further consultations between Pyongyang and Tokyo relating to normalization of bilateral relations? Do you consider the possibility of establishing constant high level contacts with Japan prior to solving the problem of official reciprocal recognition?

A. – The normalization of relations between DPRK and Japan fully depends on the approach by Tokyo. The main obstacle for the normalization of bilateral relations is that Japan still does not in a proper way repent for its past crimes against our people and tries to avoid the question of drawing the line to the past under the guise of economic cooperation.

Japan ought to rationally assess the course of time, to repent in good faith and to draw the line under its past crimes, to abstain from hostile activities against DPRK including the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula. Only then it will be recognized as a “full member of the international community”, and the problem of normalizing relations between the DPRK and Japan will also be solved.

This is “my latest take”: on the situation.

Armitage on North Korea, etc.

Chris Nelson included “this interview”: with Richard Armitage from _The Oriental Economist_ in a report last week.

Read the whole thing, but here’s one of the more interesting portions:

TOE:Would you clarify a controversial episode regarding North
Korea policy? Early on, you testified to Congress that the
Bush administration would eventually hold bilateral talks
with North Korea. President Bush was said to be very angry
with you. Is that true?

RA:Some people in the administration were very angry. But
members of Congress were very happy. All of our allies in
Asia were delighted. And, what I said eventually became our
policy. But it is true that after I initially made my comments, I
knew that some people in some quarters of the administration
were very unhappy.

TOE:So, what is the relationship between the Six-Party Talks and
the bilateral talks with North Korea?

RA:I was very clear in that testimony that, in the context of
the Six-Party Talks, of course we would have bilateral talks
with the North Koreans. And that is exactly what has
happened. We’ve had bilateral talks with the North.
It took a while. Some people in the administration are
frightened that diplomacy is a signal of weakness. I disagreed.
I was convinced that if we knew who we are, and we know
what we are and what we are about, we can make diplomacy
work for us. In the end, diplomacy is the art of letting the other
guy have our way.

TOE:Will the Six-Party Talks work?

RA:They are a good exercise. We have five of the six parties
of a common mind, that North Korea should not have nuclear
weapons. That’s a good starting point. It provides a good
reason for us to get together a talk. I think the process is very
worthwhile. Having said that, it is not going very far, very
fast. The same splits that existed in the Bush administration
when I was in office still exist.

I give my highest compliments to Chris Hill, the State
Department’s new Asia chief. He is doing a tremendous job.
But he has the same problems that we faced when Jim Kelly
and I were there.

TOE:What problems did you face?

RA:There is a fundamental disagreement over how to
approach the North Korea problem. There is a fear in some
quarters, particularly the Pentagon and at times in the vice
president’s office, that if we were to engage in discussions
with the North Koreans, we might wind up with the bad end of
the deal. They believe that we should be able to pronounce our
view, and everyone else, including the North Koreans, should
simply accept it. This is not a reasonable approach.

Those of us at the State Department concluded: From the
North Korean point of view, the nuclear issue is the only
reason we Americans talk with them. Therefore, the North
Koreans would be very reluctant to let go of the nuclear
program. We knew it was going to be a very difficult process.
But you have to start somewhere. You start by finding out
what their needs and desires are, and seeing if there is a way of
meeting those needs and desires without giving away
something this [sic] is sacred to us.

Zarif UN Press Conference Webcast

This is the “webcast”: of Mohammad Javad Zarif (Iran’s PermRep to the UN) speaking after the UNSC adopted its presidential statement on 29 March.

The interesting part, IMO, starts ~ 17:00 in.

FYI, Zarif is also supposed to appear on the “Charlie Rose Show”: tonight.

On an entirely unrelated note, I am annoyed that Atrios thought of “this insult”: before I did…

Iran Miscellany

*1.* Bernard Gwertzman recently conducted “an interview”: with Flynt Leverett (former NSC, now Brookings) containing another description of Iran’s efforts to engage the United States.

Leverett has “previously discussed”: this particular Iran offer. Here he says:

bq. In the spring of 2003 we received through this Swiss channel a one-page document, which basically laid out an agenda for a diplomatic process that was intended to resolve on a comprehensive basis all of the bilateral differences between the United States and Iran.

But I think this bit of inside baseball is somewhat new:

BG: I see. So this document pops up on Secretary of State Colin Powell’s desk. It was a very top-secret document, I suppose.

FL:. It wasn’t a classified document. What’s so remarkable about it, it was sent over by the Swiss embassy as an unclassified fax.

BG: I see. That’s why you can talk about it so easily.

FL: Yes, the document was never classified.

BG: So the United States had to make a decision on what it wanted to do. Was there a big debate about this?

FL: By this point I am out of government and I don’t really know how this played out within the bowels of the administration. What I do know happened is that the formal response of the administration to this was to complain to the Swiss foreign ministry that the Swiss ambassador in Tehran was exceeding his brief by talking with Iranians about a paper like this and passing it on.

BG: Let’s then go to the essence. Is this one of these clichés that the neo-cons in the Bush administration wanted regime change and nothing else and didn’t want to talk to the Iranians?

FL: I think you’re right. That’s the basic motivation, that you had a bunch of neo-cons, and even the president himself [against dialogue], it’s not just the neo-cons who wanted regime change and nothing else. Ultimately the president is, on this issue, very, very resistant to the idea of doing a deal, even a deal that would solve the nuclear problem. You don’t do a deal that would effectively legitimate this regime that he considers fundamentally illegitimate. I think that’s the real issue.

BG: And he considers it illegitimate because of what? Because it overthrew the Shah in 1979?

FL: No, in the president’s view you have this unelected set of clerical authorities, epitomized by the supreme leader, who are thwarting the clearly expressed will of the Iranian people for a more open, participatory political system, for more political, social, intellectual, and cultural freedom†all this kind of thing. And so it’s a system that in Bush’s mind is fundamentally illegitimate. It’s a system that needs to change, and he is not going to do a deal that lets this regime off the hook, even if that deal would solve our problem with them over the nuclear issue.

*2.* “This _London Sunday Telegraph_ article”: details the IAEA’s investigative and monitoring techniques. It is frequently overlooked, I think, that the IAEA was able to discover that Iran had conducted secret centrifuge experiments with nuclear material – even after Tehran went to pretty serious lengths to cover its tracks.

Hassan Rowhani, former head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, described his reaction to the IAEA’s skills in the “speech Jeffrey posted”: the other day:

… we did not know precisely how accurate their sampling would be or how contaminated our centers truly were. Not only I or our politicians did not know, but even our technical people were not fully informed that our imported machines were contaminated. When the IAEA inspectors came to take their samples, we were happy. We thought that these inspections would show that our activities had been within the framework of the NPT.

When they took samples at Natanz and found out during the testing that there was a high level of contamination, we knew nothing about the source of that contamination. Our experts did not know that the pieces that we had bought from the outside had been contaminated, either. We did not even know from a technical point of view how such contamination was transferred or spread. We did not even know how such contamination is discovered at the lab with such precision. Our instruments are very old, while they use very modern labs. The IAEA uses labs in Europe, the United States, and Russia. Therefore, we were amazed by their remarks and conclusions. When they told us that there is 80% contamination, we were taken aback.

Rowhani, BTW, provided a description the IAEA’s environmental sampling techniques:

bq. They have special handkerchiefs [as published] that they
rub over suspect areas and then take to the lab and examine.
[_Brackets in the original._]

Note my display of self-restraint here…

Vanunu on Israeli Nuclear Arsenal

Jeffrey’s “post”: about the National Security Archives’ recently-released documents related to the South African and French nuclear arsenals reminded me that Mordechai Vanunu issued his estimate of the Israeli nuclear weapons arsenal this past December.

Vanunu, in a 21 December interview with _Voyenny Parad_, said:

Question: Do you know how many nuclear bombs Israel has?

Mordechai Vanunu: When I worked at Dimona, nuclear materials were already being produced there – plutonim, lithium, tritium, and others. Enough to make ten nuclear bombs per year. In other words, starting from 1985, Israel has over 200 nuclear warheads by now.

It’s a bit old, but “this paper”: from the USAF Counterproliferation Center contains a series of estimates of the Israeli arsenal (see Appendix A).

ACA uses an estimate of “75-200 nuclear weapons”: , FYI.