Iran Nuclear NewsIran's cunning nuclear gamble

Iran’s cunning nuclear gamble


Iran Focus: Tehran, May 19 – The following is a translation of an editorial in the semi-official daily Kayhan regarding Iran’s trilateral agreement with Turkey and Brazil for a nuclear fuel “swap”. The editorial written by the paper’s editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari reflects the position of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran Focus

Tehran, May 19 – The following is a translation of an editorial in the semi-official daily Kayhan regarding Iran’s trilateral agreement with Turkey and Brazil for a nuclear fuel “swap”. The editorial written by the paper’s editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari reflects the position of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Shariatmadari, a former Revolutionary Guards commander, was appointed by Khamenei as his personal representative in the paper.


(Translated in English)

A Glance at the Tehran Declaration
By Hossein Shariatmadari (editor-in-chief)
State-run daily Kayhan
May 18, 2010


The joint 10-article declaration signed by Iran, Turkey and Brazil, which was released on Monday on the sidelines of the G-15 summit in Tehran, immediately received widespread attention from the world’s political circles and media. Such was to an extent that this – seemingly marginal – topic overshadowed the main headlines about the summit and turned them into periphery topics. The declaration engenders points that, regardless of the text and its legal and technical dimensions, would at first glance give the impression that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s acquiescence to a fuel swap in a third country – Turkey – indicates that it has retreated from its previous insistence on the swap being done on Iranian soil. Several points with regards to the declaration are in order:

1.    Contrary to the mistaken – and perhaps intentionally erroneous – interpretation in domestic and international media, what was signed by the leaders of Iran, Turkey and Brazil was a “declaration,” which in and of itself lacks any sort of legal obligation as opposed to an “agreement,” which would be legally binding. This is significant because in the said declaration, compliance with the articles contained therein is made contingent upon the Vienna group’s [US, France, Russia, IAEA] agreement. This is a calculated move … which has sadly not received the attention it deserves among domestic media outlets.

2.    Prior to this, in June 2009, the P5+1 and particularly the US and Russia had proposed during last year’s Vienna conference that the Islamic Republic of Iran hand over a 1,200 kg shipment of low enriched uranium to France in exchange for a tenth or 120 kg of uranium enriched up to 20 percent to be used at Tehran’s nuclear reactor. This reactor is dedicated to producing radio isotopes for medical purposes. The Islamic Republic of Iran agreed to the deal, but by virtue of its failure to trust any of the P5+1 countries, it did not consider as farfetched the possibility of not getting back the 1,200 kg shipment of the 3.5 percent enriched uranium from the countries involved. This is exactly why it requested an objective guarantee, which the International Atomic Energy Agency and the P5+1 countries had no inclination to commit to.

Article 5 of the Tehran declaration stipulates that “the Islamic Republic of Iran agrees to the safekeeping of 1,200 kg of low enriched uranium in Turkey,” adding, “The material will be under Iran’s ownership and kept in Turkey. Iran and the IAEA will monitor the safety of the material in Turkey.” Therefore, the 1,200 kg shipment of the 3.5 percent LEU will be transferred to Turkey in order to facilitate the swap and with the stipulation of its “safekeeping” there. This article – if accepted by the Vienna group – will serve as the same “objective guarantee” that the Islamic Republic of Iran had previously insisted upon.

As expressly noted in articles 5 and 8 of the declaration, the Islamic Republic of Iran has not retreated from its previous proposal for a fuel swap on Iranian soil. Rather, by changing the location of the swap from the P5+1 to Turkey, it has obtained the objective guarantee it had required before. In other words, this was the same demand that the P5+1 was not prepared to accept prompting the Islamic Republic of Iran, in an attempt to prevent the potential seizure of its 1,200 kg shipment, to seek an “objective guarantee” by swapping the fuel on Iranian soil. Now, that objective guarantee has been attained.

3.     One of the significant points in the trilateral Tehran declaration, which has been wisely incorporated by the Iranian side, is that the declaration will be implemented only after a positive response has been issued from the Vienna group. The Vienna group is comprised of the US, Russia, France and the IAEA. Article 6 of the declaration states, “Iran will announce its agreement with these provisions to the IAEA no later than seven days after the release of this declaration.” The article adds that the declaration’s change into an agreement as well as its implementation is contingent on the Vienna group’s recognition of its provisions. Iran would announce its final and executive decision about a deal with this group, and particularly about the commitment of the Vienna group with regards to handing over the 120 kg of necessary fuel for Iran’s research reactor, in view of the manner by which the Vienna group would embrace the declaration.

4.    It may be said that the US, France and Russia – the latter to a lesser extent – have repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for their own commitments as well as for international treaties. Therefore, assuming that the trilateral Tehran agreement is accepted, the probability of it being ignored by these three countries will not be farfetched. In response to this worry, it must be said that in case of their noncompliance:

First, we have not lost anything because the declaration is not legally binding, and as the declaration itself states this obligation would only arise out of an agreement among all the parties; Secondly, their noncompliance would mean that we have documented yet another example of wrongdoing by our challengers at the international level and for the world’s public opinion. …

5.    The Vienna group is not only made up of the US, France and Russia. It also includes the IAEA which is another one of the four dimensions of this group. The explicit condition stipulated in articles 6 and 7 of the declaration about the acceptance of its provisions by the Vienna group also implies the acquiescence of the IAEA. We can and must consider this as a clever point in the declaration because the main and official party that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been dealing with regarding the nuclear issue over the past several years has been the IAEA. So, the IAEA’s concurrence with the articles of the Tehran declaration would imply that many of its previous claims about our country’s nuclear dossier have been discarded. On the other hand, in accordance with the IAEA’s charter, this international institution’s decisions and favorable or unfavorable opinions would not carry any legal weight prior to ratification by the Board of Governors. Therefore, as one of the 4 sides of the Vienna group, the IAEA can only lend its agreement to the trilateral Tehran declaration after the decision has been discussed and adopted at the Board of Governors. Under that scenario – i.e. ratification by the Board of Governors – the provisions of the Tehran declaration would be accepted and ratified by the permanent and non-permanent members of the IAEA Board of Governors, which includes the US, Britain, France, China and Russia along with other prominent countries which occupy the rotating chairs of the Board of Governors. This evidence – the ratification of which is not a very probable outcome – would count as one of Tehran declaration’s biggest achievements over the nuclear standoff in the last several years.

6.    Article 9 of the declaration mentions the Islamic Republic of Iran’s readiness to engage in further negotiations with P5+1 countries, which is not a new development and has been announced for some time. However, the article goes on to define the boundaries of the talks, stating that these discussions will “revolve around shared concerns about the foundation of common commitments and on the basis of the common elements in the two incentive packages.” The declaration’s insistence on “the common elements of the two incentive packages” is worthy of some attention because the proposed incentive package of the Islamic Republic of Iran does not mention nuclear issues. Therefore, that part of the incentive package proposed by the P5+1 which includes nuclear issues obviously has no common threads with the Iranian proposed package and cannot be put on the agenda of subsequent discussions between Iran and the P5+1 countries. This is the same point that the Islamic Republic of Iran has on many occasions stressed, declaring that uranium enrichment activities and fuel production cannot count as topics for any deals or negotiations.

7.    In their initial reaction to the Tehran declaration, some of the media and political groups in the West interpreted the declaration as a signal that the Islamic Republic of Iran has backed down from its previous position regarding swapping the fuel on Iranian soil. However, many other circles and groups offered an analysis of the substance of the declaration while describing it as a victory for the Islamic Republic of Iran. These parties especially viewed the required acceptance of the provisions by the Vienna group as a sign of the political cunning of the Iranian side. …

8.    And, finally, it must also be noted that in view of what was said above, the probability that the Vienna group will sign onto the declaration is very low. But, either way, the Islamic Republic of Iran will be the winner, because the acceptance of the declaration would imply the dismissal of prior claims while opposition to it would mean that the Iranian nuclear program is only a pretext used by the challengers outside of the legal and technical realms – which is certainly the case. It shows that in reality it is the pure Islamic state and the prospect of it becoming a role model for other Muslim nations that has formed the crux of the West’s concerns and worries, and this in itself is not a minor accomplishment.

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