Following up on “yesterday’s”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/1197/iran-suspension-offer post, “this AP story”:http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/iran_nuclear indicates that Iran’s proposal may not have been all that:
Tehran said over the weekend that it was considering suspending enrichment, which can produce fissile material for nuclear warheads, for up to two months. The willingness to consider such a halt was seen as an important opening.
But officials from delegations familiar with the outcome of the weekend’s negotiations between Iranian and European negotiators said Tuesday that Iran had also made clear it would not halt enrichment before broader, six-power talks aimed at persuading Iran to agree to a long-term moratorium. They demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging confidential information.
Iran faces the threat of U.N. sanctions if those talks fail.
The officials spoke to The Associated Press as the
International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board reconvened at a session that would focus on Iran, likely on Wednesday.
In other news, I am having trouble figuring out what’s new about “Rice’s comments from yesterday.”:http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/72040.htm “Several”:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/12/world/middleeast/12diplo.html news “reports”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/11/AR2006091100766.html have suggested that she was articulating a new policy, but I don’t see it.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, there’s a report that the Iranians have floated the idea of a two-month suspension of their enrichment activities after talks begin. Does that idea have any interest at all — hold any interest at all for you?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have had a chance to talk with Javier Solana after his talks with the Iranians, and the issue is are the Iranians prepared to suspend so that negotiations can begin. And I think they thought that the atmosphere was good for the talks, but I donâ€™t have any — I don’t think there is an outcome yet that would permit negotiations to begin because the condition for negotiations to begin is that there has to be a suspension of the Iranian enrichment and reprocessing activities.
And that is the condition set not by the United States but by the IAEA Board of Governors and now by the Security Council. I should just note that work is continuing among the members of the Security Council coming out of the political directors meeting that took place that Nick Burns attended a couple of days ago, and that work is going to continue. But we’ve always said we would keep open the path for discussions, and if the Iranians wish to suspend so that we can begin negotiations, that would be a good thing.
QUESTION: So just to clarify, this offer, which seems to be an offer to suspend for a month or two, is not sufficient?
SECRETARY RICE: I don’t think there is an offer, Jonathan, at this point. And the point is there would have to be a suspension. If there is a suspension, then we can have discussions, but there has to be a suspension. And as far as I know, the Iranians have not yet said that they would suspend prior to negotiations, which is what the issue has been.
QUESTION: Sorry. One more clarification on this. If the Iranians said — if they were in fact willing to suspend, negotiations could begin? Their offer, as we understand it, has to do with what happens next, that there could then be two months worth of negotiations but they wouldn’t — their suspension would be time-limited.
SECRETARY RICE: First of all, it’s suspension. Verified suspension. That’s the condition. Secondly, it’s suspension for suspension. We’ve said that if the Iranians are in a state of suspension, then we will be prepared not to have activity in the Security Council, but there has to be a suspension if there are going to be any negotiations. As for time limitations, I don’t — I haven’t heard any Iranian offer so I don’t know what to make of that. But the question is: Are they prepared to suspend verifiably so that negotiations can begin? That’s the issue.
SECRETARY RICE: Our clock would be running, too.
“This Reuters piece”:http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/nuclear_iran_usa_dc has the State Dept. throwing some cold water on the reported Iranian offer.
Anyway, I think it’s a little interesting that Rice didn’t directly criticize the limited-duration suspension. But it’s not _that_ interesting, because the “P5+1 are only asking”:http://www.armscontrol.org/pdf/20060606_Iran_P5+1_Proposal.pdf Iran to agree to suspend its enrichment activities for the duration of the talks.
I did some reporting about that “here”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2006_07-08/IranResponse.asp. You should also check out “this 7 June _ACT_ interview”:http://www.armscontrol.org/interviews/20060607_schulte.asp with Amb. Greg Schulte where he addressed the suspension issue:
ACT: What do you think of their responses so far?
Schulte: … As the president [George W. Bush] said, the initial response after the package was presented to Iran sounded positive, but weâ€™re giving them the opportunity to respond. We want them to make the positive decision, but they need to manifest this by a willingness to negotiate seriously, and they need to manifest this by verifiably and fully suspending their enrichment-related activities.
ACT: Does this suspension have to be permanent?
Schulte: Weâ€™re just asking for a suspension.
I think it’s clear from Rice’s statements that the US wants Iran to suspend before negotiations begin/the UNSC stops pushing for sanctions, which is really the sticking point.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, we seem to be moving, if the suspension does not go forward, toward sanctions. Do you think that the menu of sanctions that the UN Security Council is considering are strong enough to get Iran to suspend? And if they don’t, what are our options after that? Should Americans start getting used to living with a nuclear-armed Iran?
SECRETARY RICE: Nobody is going to become accustomed to the idea of a nuclear-armed Iran. That’s why we’re on this course. I do think you will see that there will be a series of sanctions that are commensurate with Iranian behavior and with what the Iranians do in response to the Security Council resolution. The international community can bring a lot of isolation on Iran, both formally and informally, both through the Security Council and through likeminded states taking action even if the Security Council does not.
And so this is the beginning of a road. I continue to hope that the Iranians are going to take the opportunity put before them, which is to suspend and to begin negotiations. It’s only in that way that we can explore whether there really is an answer to this problem through negotiation. But I’m quite certain that you’re going to see, if this does not work out, that you’re going to see sanctions and that those will be commensurate with Iranian behavior.
It may well be, Helene, that it will be several resolutions. I wouldn’t suspect that everything is going to be in resolution number one, but I do think you’ll see in resolution number one an important signal to the Iranians that they are now under international not just scrutiny but international pressure and indeed international isolation. And as I’ve said, that can have effects both formally and informally.
But we’ll see what comes out of these talks. From our point of view, we have nothing to lose by – as we work towards the sanctions resolution – having Javier Solana explore with the Iranians whether there’s a way to get to negotiations. That’s just fine. But the time is coming very soon when we’re going to have to vote a Security Council resolution, when it’s ready, when it’s been consulted and prepared.
Regrettably, no package jokes. Instead, I give you “Devvo”:http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8212038174455494428 [warning, profanity included].