|Southwest Asia News Digest
U.S. Push for Iran Sanctions Hit Snags
While publicly, the Bush Administration said that it was studying the Iran reply to the June 6 offer by the Permanent Five Plus One (United States, Germany, France, Britain, China, and Russiathe five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), in New York Aug. 23, U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton was trying to organize the "Permanent Five" behind a sanctions resolution against Iran. But China and Russia, both of which have veto powers and oppose sanctions, were not participating in these discussions.
Russia, China, Europe Respond Rationally to Iran
Although the contents of Iran's response, delivered on Aug. 22, to the 5+1 offer for talks, have not been made public, it is clearly not a "No."
Ali Larijani, the chief nuclear negotiator, hinted at the contents in his statement: "Despite all the propaganda that Iran is trying to buy time, we urge the Five plus One countries to return to the negotiation tables as soon as possible to discuss all the issues in the package, including long-term nuclear cooperation, economic and technical cooperation, and also security cooperation in the region, so that we can reach a peaceful understanding in all three areas" (emphasis added). His reference to security in the region is obviously of great significance.
Javier Solana of the EU, who had presented the package to Iran, said, "The document is extensive" and requires "a detailed and careful analysis." He said he would "remain in open contact" with Larijani.
Both Russia and China appeared to back the Iranian call for talks. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said: "Russia will continue with its course of searching for a political solution ... and will continue to seek to preserve the role of the IAEA and prevent the erosion of the non-proliferation regimen." The reference to the IAEA signals Moscow's eagerness to avoid an escalation in the UN Security Council.
The Chinese reiterated their commitment to "constructive measures," and their opposition to sanctions. Chinese special envoy to the Middle East, Sun Bigan, stated: "We have all along stood for a peaceful settlement ... through negotiations, rather than resorting to force or threatening sanctions...."
A high-level Iranian delegation, led by the Executive Director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mahmoud Jannatian, is now in Moscow, discussing the Bushehr plant.
France, however, insisted again that Iran suspend its enrichment program, as a precondition for talks, a position which Germany reportedly endorsed.
Muted Initial Comments on Iranian Response
The U.S. State Department statement regarding the Aug. 22 Iranian response to the June 6 "Incentive Package" acknowledged that while Iran considered it to be a serious offer, it "falls short of the conditions set by the Security Council, which require the full and verifiable suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities."
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a one-paragraph statement, saying that, "It is very important to grasp nuances, find constructive elements, if any, and make up our mind whether it is possible to work further with Tehran on the basis of the well-known proposals of the six [5+1] powers. Russia will continue pursuing a line on searching for a negotiated political settlement to the situation around the Iranian nuclear program and strive to preserve the role of the IAEA and prevent an erosion of the non-proliferation regime. For this purpose, we are ready to use further our bilateral contacts with the Iranian side, as well as the mechanisms of multilateral talks and the potential of the United Nations Security Council."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated in a television interview that the Iranian response is unsatisfactory because it does not state whether Iran will suspend uranium enrichment. The same item says that French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy said Iran must suspend enrichment, if it wants to return to negotiations, and that China appealed for patience and more dialogue.
British RIIA Says Iran Has Been Strengthened
A Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) report on Iran and its neighbors concludes that Iran has been strengthened by the U.S. war on terrorism with the knocking out of two of its rivals, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In addition, the Israeli attack on Lebanon strengthened Iran's hand. According to the RIIA, Iran has now eclipsed the U.S. as the main power in Iraq with its ties to the Shi'ites, Kurds, and, if the occasion arises through an attack on Iran, the U.S. military in Iraq would become vulnerable. The report says that there is a need for diplomacy with Iran since Iran has built ties with its regional neighbors over the period since the Islamic Revolution.
The Chatham House report on Iran gives a detailed breakdown of Iran's relationships with its neighbors that includes China and Japan and most of the Central Asian countries. The report covers all of the countries in the region and their relationship to Iran in both the economic sphere and also in relation to the Iran nuclear crisis.
(For more on this, see InDepth: "Arabs Are Ready for Madrid II Summit," by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach.)
Post Synarchists Get It Wrong, Again, on AIPAC Trial
The Washington Post on Aug. 19, published an article by "national security" writer Walter Pincus, titled "Ruling Raises Bar in Lobbyists' Case; Government Now Must Prove Former AIPAC Workers Intended To Harm U.S." ButPincus should have read the judge's decision.
In the tradition of former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, the characterization is based primarily on assertions by the attorneys for the accused, that Judge T.S. Ellis's opinionwhich denied the AIPAC Two's motion to dismiss the chargesmakes it harder for the government to prove its case! According to Pincus, the government must show that AIPAC's Rosen and Weissman had a "bad faith purpose" in passing classified information to othersspecifically, that they knew the information "could be potentially damaging" to the U.S., or "useful to an enemy" of the U.S. The unspoken implication, is that since the indictment charges Rosen and Weissman with passing the information either to representatives of Israel, or to journalists for the benefit of Israel, and Israel is not an enemy of the United States, the AIPAC Two are in a terrific position.
The actual ruling says otherwise. On page 8, the portion of the criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. 793, under which they are charged, is quoted. The relevant subsection, concerning persons having unauthorized possession of national defense information, who pass it on to someone else, includes the relevant "intent" section, that the possessor has reason to believe "could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation...." All the quotations in Ellis's opinion about "an enemy of the United States" are from another espionage casenot the criminal statute. And, when Ellis summarized what the government must constitutionally prove, he states plainly on page 63, "the government must prove that the defendant had a reason to believe that the disclosure of the information could harm the United States or aid a foreign nation...."
Does espionage include passing national defense information, to help a nation not designated as an enemy of the U.S.? Sure. A foreign nation can use such information, not for the express purpose of harming the U.S., but for its own national purposes.