NewsSpecial WireEU pessimistic about stopping Iran from going nuclear

EU pessimistic about stopping Iran from going nuclear

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Iran Focus: London, Feb. 14 – The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that an internal European Union document had concluded that Iran would be able to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb and there was little that could be done to prevent it. Iran Focus

London, Feb. 14 – The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that an internal European Union document had concluded that Iran would be able to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb and there was little that could be done to prevent it.

The memo, written by the staff of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, was circulated to the all 27 governments of the EU last week, the report said.

The following is the full text of the classified memo:

RESTRICTED

7 February 2007

Iran- reflection paper

EU and Iran: the two track approach

From the 1990s the EU has sought to persuade Iran to change its policies on the Middle East, support for terrorism, missiles and WMD, and human rights. Iranian policies have varied, making some progress vis-à-vis the worst times of the 1990s; but all these issues remain serious concerns today.

Engagement remains both the basis for solutions in these areas and the best way to develop common interests, for example in energy, drugs and trade and regional issues. A possible forum for this is the Comprehensive Dialogue, established in recognition of the opportunity represented by Khatami and never formerly [sic”> abolished, though Iran has shown little interest in reviving this format. But experience suggests that in all of the cases, engagement alone is not enough: the EU must be prepared to mix incentives with disincentives; i.e. a two track approach.

Human rights, Civil Society and Public Diplomacy

The human rights situation in Iran and the condition of civil society continue to deteriorate. Freedom of expression is widely suppressed, sometimes with violence, e.g. police broke up two peaceful women’s rights demonstrations in Tehran in 2006. Shirin Ebadi’s Centre of Human Rights Defenders has been declared illegal. In September, the Iranian Supervisory Board of the Press shut down four newspapers. Restrictions on the internet have increased. Iran executed more people, including minors, in 2006 than any other country except China. The government has ignored demarches from the EU, e.g. in the case of ten Ahwazi Arabs sentenced to death without access to lawyers or an open trial. Seven of them have since been executed.

The EU has attempted to engage via the Human Rights dialogue but the Iranians have cancelled meetings since 2004. There is no evidence that these meetings have made much impact; nor has public criticism, though the Iranians dislike it. An alternative approach is to engage with the people rather than the government. As well as direct support to human rights activists (where this does not endanger them or damage their cause) assistance in other less sensitive areas, e.g. drugs, environment, health, rescue services, can help build a real civil society. Iran’s inclusion in the ERASMUS MUNDUS programme offers an opportunity to strengthen academic exchanges. The EU could also explain its policies better to a wider Iranian public. Exposure of European political figures in Persian-speaking and Iranian media- TV radio and internet – would help. Some Member States are taking initiatives in this area. The EU also has successful media training programmes in other regions whioch could be replicated in Iran.

+How can the EU improve its impact on human rights in Iran?

+How can engagement with civil society best be put into practice? Can Community instruments play a bigger role?

Iran’s regional role

Recent political change in the Middle East has boosted Iran’s self-perception as a historical great power and the natural hegemon in the region. Iran feels strengthened by its energy resources, its nuclear programme and developments in the region. But it also feels vulnerable especially to the US, fears which build on a century of Western intervention in different form.

-Saddam Hussein’s overthrow removed Iran’s most powerful regional enemy. Iran has been able to exert influence though [sic”> its connections in the weak Shi’a dominated administration in Baghdad. Tehran attaches great importance to the unity of (a weakened) Iraq. The large-scale presence of US forces in Iraq is uncomfortable for Iran but they perceive the US as bogged down. One of Iran’s policy aims is to see US forces leave. Hence its support for groups opposing them.

-In Afghanistan, the fall of the Taliban also brought an end to a regime that Iran had opposed. Iran has since spent considerable sums on projects in infrastructure, agriculture, education and energy. Repatriation of the remaining almost one million Afghan refugees in Iran, and dealing with drug trafficking from Afghanistan remain important objectives. Iran is, at least, in contact with anti-Western groups.

-Iran is the primary political and financial supporter of Hizballah in Lebanon and sees Hizballah as a vital foreign and security policy tool .During the Lebanon conflict last summer, Iran maintained regular supplies of weapons to Hizballah. Many of the most lethal and sophisticated weapons that Hizballah used during the conflict were of Iranian manufacture or procured from Iran, such as the Fajr-3 missiles fired at Haifa.

-In Palestine- Iran plays a spoiling role as the only country in the region to reject the two-state solution. It is a major funder and supplier off arms for Palestinian militant groups; it has probably put its weight against a government of national unity. (An Iranian General was recently captured by Fatah during a clash with Hamas.)

All this has led to considerable unease about Iran among Arab countries (and Israel). The fact that Ahmadinejad is popular at street level does not help.

Iran feels strengthened by developments in the region but still feels it lacks recognition. Steps towards regional stabilisation, especially in the MEPP and Lebanon might help create a more productive climate for negotiation:

+What are the possibilities for the EU to reach out in areas of common interest, e.g. Afghanistan (drugs/border security), Iraq?

+Can the EU engage with Iran on regional issues, without legitimising disruptive policies and actions? And can it do so while the nuclear issue remains unresolved?

Security Issues

In the absence of guarantees of its exclusively peaceful nature, the Iranian nuclear programme- together with its missile programme- represents a security threat in the region as well as to the international non-proliferation system. Israel considers the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapons capability as an existential threat.

Iran’s size and its comparatively well-equipped armed forces mean that today it does not face any serious military threat from the region. Its principal security concern is an attack by the US. The Iranians will have noted a change in US language concerning Iran, including in the State of the Union message, and the more aggressive US approach to Iranian interference in Iraq.

Attempts to engage the Iranian administration in a negotiating process have so far not succeeded. The EU3/EU+3 ideas put to Iran in summer 2006 were remarkable in many respects- not least the US offer to begin dismantling their sanctions. Iran’s rejection makes it difficult to believe that, at least in the short run, they would be ready to establish the conditions for the resumption of negotiations. In practice, despite the suspension of sensitive nuclear activities following the Paris Agreement, the Iranians have pursued their programme at their own pace, the limiting factor being technical difficulties rather than resolutions by the UN or the IAEA. At some stage we must expect that Iran will acquire the capacity to enrich uranium on the scale required for a weapons programme.

UNSCR 1737- and the fact that it was adopted unanimously – has had an impact in Iran, which is not fully measurable at this stage. The sanctions contained in the Resolution have limited direct effect but they come at a moment when the economy is performing poorly, partly because of Iranian mismanagement. Ahmadinejad is under criticism because of rising inflation – officially at 12 per cent, in reality closer to 20 per cent; economic growth around 5 per cent per annum is not keeping up with the need for job creation. Foreign investment has all but dried up, partly because of the nuclear issue and associated action (e.g. restriction on Iranian banks, greater caution of export credit agencies). Without new investment, Iran risks being unable to maintain medium-term oil production, currently 50 per cent of government income.

The problems with Iran will not be resolved through economic sanctions alone. Iran has shown great resilience to outside pressure in the past, for example during the Iran/Iraq war. The government may also exploit the sanctions to benefit nationalism or to explain economic failure. Nevertheless, Iran must understand that the pursuit of policies which the international community rejects is not cost-free.

The EU has agreed to pursue sanctions through the United Nations if the Iranians continues [sic”> to reject the decisions of the IAEA Board and the UN Security Council. But it has also agreed to keep the door open to negotiations if Iran decides to meet the requirements in the UN Resolutions.

+How can Iran be persuaded to take the steps needed to start negotiations? How can we attract Iran to the negotiating table?

+Should we press for further UN sanctions if Iran fails to comply with resolution 1737? If so, in which areas?

+If we believe that the unity of the international community is important in handling Iran, how is this best maintained?

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