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Iran Reformists Urge Nuclear Freeze

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Mar 20, 2006
Iran's largest reformist party called on Sunday for dialogue with the United States and a freeze on sensitive nuclear work to head off an escalating crisis with the international community.

"In order to break the international consensus, we are proposing a return to previous policies and the voluntary suspension of all nuclear fuel cycle work to resolve this crisis and reestablish confidence," said the Participation Front, which is headed by Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of Iran's former reformist president Mohammad Khatami.

The UN Security Council is currently considering what action to take against Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process that creates fuel for nuclear power stations but can also be the core of an atomic weapon.

Top foreign ministry officials from the five veto-wielding members of the council plus Germany are due to meet in New York on Monday to plot a long-term strategy on the crisis.

The United States suspects that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons, charges denied by the clerical regime in Tehran, which has become increasingly isolated since hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in August.

Monday's meeting is being held amid signs on progress in the 15-member Security Council in efforts to agree a revised Franco-British draft urging Iran to comply with demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of its atomic programme.

The text aims to reinforce the IAEA demands, including immediate suspension of all uranium enrichment activities and resumption of implementation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's additional protocol that allows for wider inspections of nuclear facilities.

France and Britain hope the draft can be adopted by the full council next week.

"Dialogue with all the influential nations on the Security Council, including the United States, is a way of resolving this crisis that we cannot ignore," the Participation Front said in a statement published in Iranian newspapers.

Iran said Thursday it was willing to hold talks with its archfoe the United States on the worsening situation in neighbouring Iraq, but Washington has so far insisted there would be no negotiations on other issues.

"The nation's leaders apparently want dialogue with the United States not only on Iraq but on other issues," the Participation Front said, calling for "complete transparency" in any talks.

In recent weeks, former presidents Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani have criticised Ahmadinejad's foreign policies and warned against the increasing isolation of the Islamic republic, which remains a major player on the regional political scene.

Last week leading Iranian reformist cleric and former parliament speaker Mehdi Karrubi criticized Ahmadinejad's stance, warning that sanctions would lead to "great difficulties."

Source: Agence France-Presse

related report

Policy Watch: Ahmadinejad's Logic
by Mark N. Katz Washington (UPI) Mar 20 - With the Bush administration's increasing focus on the Iranian nuclear issue, it would seem prudent for Tehran to ratchet down its fiery rhetoric and act like it is willing to reach a compromise solution -- even if it is not. But this is not what Iranian President Ahmadinejad and his government are doing. They seem determined instead to escalate the crisis, even though this risks a military confrontation with the U.S. Why?

The answer appears to be that Ahmadinejad does not think that there is a serious risk of a confrontation, or that his regime will suffer unduly if there is one. Indeed, he seems to think that Iran will come out the winner if the crisis escalates.

This is because Ahmadinejad's thinking about the present crisis appears based on the following premises:

1) Although the Iranian nuclear issue has now reached the U.N. Security Council, Russia and China are likely to use their veto power to delay even minor sanctions against Iran and to prevent any major ones -- especially the use of force.

2) If the U.S. insists on using force against Iran without U.N. Security Council approval, no other important state -- not even America's most reliable ally, Britain--will go along with Washington.

3) Because the U.S. is so bogged down militarily in Iraq, it will not attempt to occupy Iran and thereby risk having to wage another endless counterinsurgency campaign.

4) An American military attack against Iran is likely to be focused on the atomic energy reactor which the Russians are building in Bushehr as well as other sites where the U.S. government believes nuclear activity is taking place. Any such attack, then, will leave the Islamic Republic intact -- and even free to eventually resume its nuclear program.

5) An American military attack against Iran, especially if it results in significant casualties, will transform the positive image of the U.S. that many Iranians now have into anti-American hatred -- thus benefiting the Islamic Republic.

6) Finally, strident Bush administration diplomacy on this issue -- especially if it leads to a unilateral American attack -- will serve to weaken America's relations with other countries even more than its intervention in Iraq has done. This will provide Iran with far more opportunities than it has now to isolate the U.S. instead of being isolated by it.

If these premises do indeed represent Ahmadinejad's logic, it is not surprising that he thinks he will not just be able to survive this crisis, but even to benefit from it. What is especially worrisome, though, is that each of these premises is probably valid.

In light of this, Ahmadinejad's effort to escalate the Iranian nuclear crisis is not an example of irrational behavior, but a deliberate attempt to bait a trap for the U.S. The Bush administration, unfortunately, does not seem to recognize this and so try to avoid the trap. Indeed, the Bush administration seems intent on rushing headlong into it.

Source: United Press International

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