The EU offered incentives to Iran this week in an effort to convince it to stop enriching uranium. Iran responded by once again declaring that it had no intention of stopping enrichment and that its right to do so for nuclear power was guaranteed as a member of the NPT (non-proliferation treaty).
Gholamhossein Elham, an Iranian government spokesman, said, “If the package includes suspension it is not debatable at all. The stance of the Islamic Republic is clear. Any precondition regarding suspension would be out of the question.”
President Bush responded by saying, “I am disappointed that the leaders rejected this generous offer out of hand. It is an indication to the Iranian people that their leadership is willing to isolate them further.”
The Bush administration has long issued an ultimatum to Iran that it must halt uranium enrichment before it will be willing to engage Iran diplomatically. Yet, when Iran voluntarily halted its enrichment activities in 2003, and then again from November 2004 to August 2005, the Bush administration refused to talk to the country.
In other words, before entering into “negotiations” with Iran, the US is demanding that Iran succumb to its demands on one of the major points to be negotiated, which is to say that the US effectively refuses to engage Iran diplomatically whatsoever.
The Bush administration has repeatedly said that it prefers a “diplomatic” approach to dealing with Iran, while refusing to deal with Iran diplomatically and repeatedly reiterating that “all options are on the table” with regard to using military force against the country.
Both US and Israeli governments have threatened the use of force against Iran if it does not submit to US demands to halt uranium enrichment.
The UN has passed several resolutions calling on Iran to halt enrichment. Iran has called the resolutions “illegal” and refuses to recognize them. Indeed, the NPT states that nothing may prejudice the rights of member nations to continue research and development, including enrichment activities, while IAEA inspections, monitoring, and verification activities are ongoing.
Iran has offered to engage in talks of strengthening IAEA safeguards, including in Iran, and working towards the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, proposals which have been dismissed by the US.
Israel is the only nation in the Middle East known to possess nuclear weapons, although Israel has never officially acknowledged this.
Under the new proposal, Iran would be given uranium for its nuclear program. Iran insists on its right to enrich its own uranium, arguing that it is seeking energy independence. The proposal states, “We are ready to fully recognize Iran’s right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes” while at the same time demanding that Israel surrender its rights under the NPT to enrich uranium for nuclear energy.
At the same time the proposal was announced, the EU also announced that it would implement stricter sanctions against Iran. Iran responded by withdrawing foreign exchange reserves from European banks.
The New York Times reports that “Tehran did not formally reject the offer, meaning that it may be able, as Western officials fear, to play for time, saying that it is in an ongoing dialogue with the West while continuing to enrich uranium to secure the amounts necessary to build a nuclear bomb.”
In stating so, the Times declines to inform its readers that the latest report from the IAEA said that Iran has produced only “low enriched uranium”, not the highly-enriched uranium necessary to produce a bomb, and that it “remains under Agency containment and surveillance.”