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Radio Farda: What does this draft resolution mean?
Gregory Schulte: Well, before we begin, let me make just three basic points. And that is, first, the international community supports Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy. But there is concern by the international community that this program is not peaceful. And, secondly, by ignoring international concerns, the leadership in Tehran is harming and isolating Iran and its people. And, third, the leadership can still choose a positive path that would bring real benefit and long-term security to the Iranian people.
The resolution that is before the Security Council right now would effectively reaffirm Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy. But it would also make mandatory those requirements already established by the IAEA and by the Security Council -- namely, suspending those efforts that give the world community such a concern and that, frankly, don't make sense economically for Iran. So, the Security Council will be making very clear that the leadership of Iran is isolating Iran, but at the same time, it will also make clear that a negotiated path remains open.
Well, that's a choice for the leadership in Tehran. We have no desire for this crisis to escalate. Our goal is to achieve a diplomatic solution, but that means the leadership in Tehran needs to make a fundamental decision -- whether they want to continue to confront the international community, whether they want to continue to push their people toward greater isolation and sanctions, or are they prepared to negotiate seriously?
Radio Farda: You refer to the fact that the Security Council recognizes the right of Iran to a peaceful nuclear program. But in the draft, it also says that enrichment-related and processing activities -- including research and development -- should be stopped immediately.
Schulte: Well, it is the enrichment activities -- including so-called research and development -- that have actually contributed to the enormous concern of the international community. Iran has no need for these capabilities. Your leaders claim they need enriched uranium for nuclear power plants, but Iran doesn't have a nuclear power plant. And the one under construction at Bushehr will receive fuel from Russia. And, in fact, the limited amounts of natural uranium reserves in Iran are not sufficient for energy independence.
It is useful to look at the examples of Sweden and Finland. Both of these countries rely on nuclear power; neither enrich uranium. Indeed, both find it advantageous -- like 15 other nuclear-energy countries -- to procure their fuel on the world market. So these activities undertaken -- the enrichment activities -- the world is concerned that these aren't peaceful in nature but that they are, in fact, part of a military program. And that's why the Security Council will be making the suspension of these activities mandatory.
Radio Farda: Why should Iran take the draft resolution seriously? It says that the Security Council has the intention, if Iran does not comply, to adopt appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which in diplomatic language means economic and diplomatic sanctions and, of course, no use of force. But it is a well-known fact that the Security Council is not unified on the issue, with Russia and China rejecting any such measures in the past. How does the Security Council intend to bring Russia and China into the fold this time?
Schulte: I think the Security Council is remarkably unified on this, and I think we've found a remarkably unified approach by the international community on this. This Security Council resolution is going to do what six foreign ministers -- including the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers -- said, and that is to make mandatory the suspension of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and to make clear that if Iran refuses to comply with this, they'll work for the adoption of measures under the UN Charter that would impose, for example, economic sanctions.
So, I think the leadership in Iran thought they would be able to continue their enrichment activities at Natanz, not affected by the international community. But in fact what we are seeing and we've seen before is strong international concern about these activities, strong international suspicion about the intentions of the Iranian leadership, and a clear signal that these types of activities need to be suspended, otherwise the Security Council will need to take further action.
Radio Farda: And this further action would be a resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter -- Article 40 this time. Article 40 calls on those concerned to comply with any necessary provisional measures, but it excludes any sanctions or the use of force.
Schulte: But I think what is very clear, was very clear from the foreign ministers' meeting, is that Russia and China are prepared to work with Europe, the United States, and other countries on the Security Council more broadly to work to adapt measures that would move Iran deeper into isolation, deeper into sanctions.
In fact, I think that regardless of what is happening in the Security Council, we are already seeing that happen. Iran is becoming increasingly isolated because of the actions of its leadership. The Iranian economy is increasingly suffering because of the actions of its leadership, and we think it is important that the leadership takes advantage of the offer that is on the table rather than continuing down this course of confrontation. Take advantage of this offer that is on the table, which will allow Iran to reverse course and be able to engage politically with the international community and be able to integrate itself more into the international economy.
Radio Farda: But from what happened in the past, it is highly unlikely that Iran will agree with the terms of the draft, so it looks as if the crisis is set to escalate.
Schulte: Well, that's a choice for the leadership in Tehran. We have no desire for this crisis to escalate. Our goal is to achieve a diplomatic solution, but that means the leadership in Tehran needs to make a fundamental decision -- whether they want to continue to confront the international community, whether they want to continue to push their people toward greater isolation and sanctions, or are they prepared to negotiate seriously? If they are prepared to negotiate seriously and take advantage of the benefits that have been offered, then they need to suspend the activities that have given the international community such concern and they need to cooperate with the IAEA.
Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)
MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."
Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
CHRONOLOGY An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.