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Iran Report: November 8, 2004

8 November 2004, Volume 7, Number 39

'THE YELLOW DOG IS THE BROTHER OF THE JACKAL.' Both before and after the U.S. presidential election on 2 November, official Tehran indicated a surprising preference for the incumbent, President George W. Bush. In contrast, the Iranian media tended to say there is little difference as far as Iranian interests are concerned between Bush and the challenger, Senator John Kerry, and their respective parties.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said at a 6 November news conference that he is optimistic about President Bush's second term in office, state television reported. "I hope in the second round of the Bush administration there will be some positive changes in this area," Kharrazi said. "America cannot ignore Iran's role in maintaining stability and security in the Middle East."

Presidential adviser and former Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi said on 3 November that the U.S. elections will have a profound impact on the Middle East, Fars News Agency reported. "If you want my true opinion, Bush is better for the Middle East," Abtahi said. He explained that the United States is unaware of public sentiments in the region and has therefore always made mistakes there. U.S. understanding is improving with experience, but "if Kerry had won instead of Bush, everything would have to start all over again."

Tehran parliamentary representative Gholam Reza Mesbahi-Moqaddam said on 6 November that Iran's "Down with the U.S.A." slogan will continue as long as hostile U.S. policies toward Iran persist, Mehr News Agency reported. He added that the outcome of the U.S. presidential election is irrelevant because it is unlikely that U.S. policies will change. He explained that the Zionist lobby determines U.S. policy, and the Zionist lobby vetted and approved the presidential candidates. Mesbahi-Moqaddam said Iran will not alter its position on the nuclear issue because of the U.S. election.

The deputy speaker of parliament, Mohammad Hassan Abutorabi, also said the election will not affect Iran's stance toward the United States, "Mardom Salari" reported on 6 November. "The position of the regime of the Islamic Republic and its leadership toward the United States has been one single policy during the last quarter of a century," Abutorabi said. "A victory for either the Republicans or the Democrats will not make a difference to Iran's singular policy." His stance on who pulls the strings in American politics echoed his colleague's. "The experience of America's political life proves this reality that with changes in the U.S. presidency we do not see a change in American policies, especially on the international scene. The reason for this is that the American system is based on capitalism, most of it controlled by Zionists, who run and manage the United States."

"Kerry's victory would not have brought us any joy; Bush's victory is no source of fear for us," Tehran parliamentary representative Manuchehr Mottaki said as he paraphrased a colleague, state television reported on 3 November. Mottaki, who serves on the National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, said U.S. policy toward Iran has always been unreasonable and aggressive. "In the field of foreign policy there are no differences between the Republicans and the Democrats," he said. Turning to regional issues, Mottaki said, "Both parties have similar policies in the Middle East." He allowed that the parties have different methods of operating but said their interaction with Iran has always been unacceptable.

Bush's reelection might be good news for his supporters, "particularly the Zionists," but it will not serve U.S. interests, Iranian state radio commented on 3 November. The commentary asserted that the gap between the United States and the international community will widen if the White House continues with its "unilateral policies," and it accused the Bush administration of warmongering and hegemony. It advised the White House to work on confidence building. The commentary also said that approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population opposes President Bush's domestic and foreign policies.

A "political expert" identified as "Sheikh Attar" said on state television on 3 November that, by reelecting Bush, the American people have given him a mandate to finish what he started. "This puts Bush in a more difficult situation, and for us, who are an enemy to the American government, this is better," Attar said. The Republican victory offers threats and opportunities, he said. On the one hand, he said, Republican aggression "allows the Iranian people to see the enemy clearly and openly." On the other hand, the Republicans' ideological drive makes them unpredictable.

Most Iranian officials had not indicated any clear preference in the run-up to the election. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami told reporters on 2 November that he is not very optimistic about the course of Iranian-U.S. relations, IRNA reported. While refusing to indicate a preference in the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, Khatami said he hoped "either Bush or Kerry will act realistically and rationally in the long-term interest of the United States to reduce tension by not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries," reported.

Hamedan parliamentary representative Hamid-Reza Haji-Babai said on 2 November that the outcome of the U.S. presidential election will not have an impact on Iran, IRNA reported. The two major U.S. parties' basic objectives are identical, he said, but the Republicans ignore international organizations and rely on force, whereas the Democrats use diplomacy. The electoral system is capitalistic, Haji-Babai went on to say, "And the Zionists are the main investors."

Not surprisingly, such comments elicited little reaction from outside observers. Prompting a greater response was Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani's late-October assertion that "We haven't seen anything good from the Democrats." Rohani added that most sanctions against Iran were imposed by the Clinton administration, and although the current administration utilizes hard-line rhetoric against Iran, it has not taken any practical steps against the Islamic Republic. This led "The Sunday Times" of London to report on 24 October, "Bush has secured the endorsement of a surprising ally -- Iran -- in his bid for reelection."

Iranian media reactions, meanwhile, generally stuck to an anti-American theme that denounced both candidates.

Tehran dailies' 4 November comments on the election ranged from the insulting to the subdued. The reformist "Etemad" said President Bush's victory proves that the American people are "interested in unilateralism, aggression, and violation," and it added that "the effigy of bin Laden is made by the U.S. itself." Rather than regretting Bush's victory, "Siyasat-i Ruz" advised, the Islamic community should solve its own problems and not depend on the West. The conservative English-language "Kayhan International" said the world must learn to live with President Bush having another term in the White House. It advised the United States to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to stop leading "reckless military adventures in the Arab and Islamic world."

A commentary in the 3 November "Jomhuri-yi Islami" said the point of the election is to deceive the American people into thinking that there is a difference between candidates' impact on humanitarianism and democracy. The only difference between the Republicans the Democrats, the daily added, is in their tactics. Their overall strategy is the same.

The U.S. election is taking place under circumstances different from the last two decades, the "Farhang-i Ashti" newspaper reported on 2 November. Whoever wins the election will have to continue past policies connected with the war on terrorism. The security issue now dominates other American concerns, such as unemployment, the budget deficit, welfare, abortion, and so on. Under a Republican administration the United States will try mightily to have the Iranian nuclear case brought before the UN Security Council, "Farhang-i Ashti" commented, and it would then be able to pressure Iran or even attack it militarily.

The Islamic world does not foresee a change in U.S. policies regardless of who wins in the presidential election, the Mehr News Agency commented on 1 November. It accused both candidates of being pro-Zionist, making Muslims pessimistic; and it noted that they are capitalists, so the masses of the Third World will not benefit. The commentary added that many U.S. voters no longer think they have a real choice in elections, and they are likely to opt out of the process due to their unhappiness with the Democratic and Republican parties. Nor is there much difference between the parties, according to the commentary, and third parties do not play a serious role.

The U.S. presidential election is "not without significance for Iran," according to a commentary in the 1 November "Etemad" newspaper, and Iranian nuclear activities have been addressed during the presidential debates. The commentary said the Republicans and the Democrats both want to deny Iran access to nuclear technology. Where they diverge, according to "Etemad," is that the Republicans favor a unilateral approach to dealing with Iran, whereas the Democrats would take a multilateral approach and build an international coalition against Iran. Whoever wins, therefore, there will be no change in the policy of pressuring Iran. The commentary noted that, since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, security has become the most important issue for Americans, and both candidates portray themselves as the most able to deal with the terrorism threat. The election, the commentary concluded, marks the beginning of a new phase in Iranian-U.S. relations.

"It is not important whether Bush or Kerry wins the election, because the Republican and Democratic parties are the same, and as the saying goes, the yellow dog is the brother of the jackal, and they are both after pillaging the other nations and fooling the people of America," the hard-line "Jomhuri-yi Islami" newspaper editorialized on 1 November. Nevertheless, according to the daily, this is the most sensitive U.S. election ever for Eastern and Islamic people. The daily accused the Republicans of being hawkish warmongers, and it cited the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the reference to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an "axis of evil"; and support for Israel as examples of President Bush's "aggressive and warmongering performance." The Democrats are just as bad, it continued, citing the Vietnam War and support for Israel.

International affairs expert Hussein Mohammadi predicted that the U.S. election will be "sensational and fraudulent," the hard-line "Resalat" reported on 1 November. He went on to claim that most Republican Party support comes from neoconservatives, Zionists, multinational corporations, and arms manufacturers, whereas Democratic Party support comes from the middle class, academics, intellectuals, and environmentalists. Whoever wins, Mohammadi said, the president must serve the interests of the Zionists, rather than those of the American people. (Bill Samii)

IRAN CELEBRATES HOSTAGE CRISIS. Twenty-five years ago, a group calling itself the Students Following the Imam's Line stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 53 American citizens hostage for 444 days. That event was commemorated in Iran on 3 November (13 Aban) this year, with the Islamic Propagation Organization inviting Iranians to participate in nationwide rallies, IRNA reported on 2 November. State radio reported on 1 November that there would be a rally in front of the former U.S. Embassy and similar events in other cities. Speaker of parliament Gholam Ali Haddad Adel praised the seizure of the embassy on 2 November, IRNA reported. The General Headquarters of the Armed Forces congratulated the nation on 1 November, IRNA reported. 13 Aban also marks the day Father of the Revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was exiled to Turkey in 1964 and university students were killed by the shah's troops in 1978.

The annual event is now little more than a "hollow ritual of rote and rant, attended by a few thousand schoolchildren," according to a commentary in the 3 November "Los Angeles Times" by David Harris, author of the forthcoming book "The Crisis: The President, the Prophet, and the Shah -- 1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam."

This year's rally, apparently, was a bit more than that. "A large group of people from different walks of life" gathered in front of the former embassy, IRNA reported on 3 November. Providing greater detail, BBC reported that the thousands of participants in the rally were chanting anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli slogans ( The demonstrators burned an effigy of Uncle Sam, burned the Stars and Stripes, and beat an effigy of President George W. Bush. Reuters described rally participants as a "crowd of mostly young students given a day off school."

"America is the most infamous and untrustworthy country in the political arena right now," legislator Ali Reza Zakani told the 3 November rally, state television reported. "America is nearing its collapse and devastation in the economic field and in the cultural field, according to its own thinkers, is on the way to breakdown," he added. (Bill Samii)

HARDLINE DAILY DECRIES U.S. OFFICIAL'S IRANIAN VISIT. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington is visiting Iran, Radio Farda reported on 4 November. According to the Library of Congress, this is a cultural trip and Billington is in Iran at the invitation of the director of Iran's National Library, Mohammad Kazem Bojnurdi. The U.S. State Department and the National Security Council gave their approval for the trip, "The New York Times" reported on 4 November, and an anonymous administration official described Billington's visit as an example of "people-to-people outreach." The two sides are expected to conclude an agreement on library exchange.

The hard-line "Kayhan" newspaper suggested in its 4 November edition that there is something suspicious about Billington's visit. Billington served as director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1973 to 1987, and "Kayhan" claimed that the Wilson Center is close the Republican Party (President Wilson was a Democrat). Moreover, "Kayhan" claimed, the Wilson Center has hosted a number of anti-Iran events lately. (Bill Samii)

ALLEGED WEBSITE CLOSURE DISPUTED. The Iranian judiciary has ordered the closure of the Baztab website (, Radio Farda reported on 1 November, citing ISNA. The conservative website is associated with Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai. According to Radio Farda, the website was closed due to alleged security violations. In reality, Radio Farda continued, the closure could be connected with Baztab's reporting on the involvement of a former "Hamshahri" newspaper director in a cement contract. The cement reportedly was sold at highly inflated prices due to the involvement of the newspaper official (see

The secretariat of the Supreme National Security Council announced in the 2 November "Etemad" that it has not issued orders for the closure of the "Baztab" website, nor does it know anything about this matter.

In a 3 November fax to ISNA and Mehr News Agencies, Baztab asserted that the court lifted the ban on the website in a response to an appeal from its managing director to Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, ISNA reported. (Bill Samii)

TEHRAN REJECTS NEW ACCUSATIONS OF BIN LADEN LINKS. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi told reporters during a 31 October news conference that neither Osama Bin Laden nor any other high-ranking member of Al-Qaeda is in Iran, IRNA reported, although lower-level Al-Qaeda personnel are confined in Iranian prisons.

On 27 October, "The Washington Times" had published an excerpt from Richard Miniter's recent book, "Shadow War -- The Untold Story of How Bush Is Winning the War on Terror." Miniter writes that bin Laden asked for Iran's help in an audiotape to "Ali Khomeini, the grand ayatollah of Iran's Supreme Council." Bin Laden reportedly promised that, in exchange for safe haven and money, his organization would serve at Iranian behest against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He entered Iran on 26 July 2002, Miniter claims, traveling with Ayman al-Zawahiri. Other Al-Qaeda leaders in Iran reportedly are Saad bin Laden and Saif al-Adel.

Miniter cites an anonymous "former Iranian intelligence officer" -- although one might assume that such a source would be able to correctly identify Iran's top official, Ali Khamenei, who is not a "grand ayatollah." It is also unclear what the aforementioned "Supreme Council" is. (Bill Samii)

FOREIGN MINISTRY REJECTS EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT'S REBUKE ON HUMAN RIGHTS. Tehran has rejected the European Parliament's stand on human rights issues in Iran. The European Parliament condemned human rights violations in Iran in a resolution issued on 28 October ( /TEXT+TA+P6-TA-2004-0049+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&LEVEL=3&NAV=X) and urged the Netherlands, the current rotating EU president, to push for a UN resolution against such violations, Radio Farda reported, citing Farah Karimi, a European parliamentarian from the Netherlands. Karimi said the EU and its parliament must increase diplomatic pressure on Iran, where "the human rights situation [is] far worse than last year." She added that Iran must be reminded that, "if you wish to be a member of the international community, you must respect human rights."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi rejected the resolution and said "there is no need for [that] tell Iran what to do and what not to do," IRNA reported on 31 October. Iran, he said, "considers itself bound to respect human rights...and has sought, where there are...shortcomings, to resolve them," IRNA stated. He advised the European Parliament to focus instead "on the problems of religious minorities, Muslims, and others" in Europe.

Separately, Rajab Ali Mazrui, a former reformist lawmaker, has written a third open letter to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi to protest the nearly two-month detention of his son, Hanif Mazrui, Radio Farda reported on 31 October. There has been no reply to his first two letters. Hanif Mazrui is one of several journalists arrested for working with websites that Iran's hard-line judiciary has ordered blocked (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 20, 27 September and 4 October 2004). The elder Mazrui knows nothing about the condition or whereabouts of his son, Radio Farda reported.

On 3 November, Shahrudi told a public gathering that the West has a "deceitful and dubious" approach to human rights, IRNA reported. In an apparent reference to the nuclear issue, Shahrudi said the West is violating a nation's most fundamental right, to benefit from its scientific achievements. (Vahid Sepehri and Bill Samii)

PARLIAMENT VOTES TO MOVE FORWARD ON NUCLEAR PROGRAM. Iran's conservative-dominated parliament ratified the outline of a bill on 31 October that urges the government to pursue its quest "to access peaceful nuclear technology," including mastering the nuclear fuel cycle, news agencies reported the same day. The bill states that Iran would endanger "national interests" by making its program dependent on imported fuel, Radio Farda reported. Western states want Iran to import fuel for any future reactors instead of enriching uranium itself and to return all spent fuel to prevent any diversion of it to military ends. Iran says it has a right to make fuel for what it insists is a civilian program.

Parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel said in Tehran that the bill, which was approved by all 247 lawmakers in parliament, shows that the legislature supports Iran's determination "to use peaceful nuclear energy within the framework of [International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)] rules," Mehr News Agency reported on 31 October. He added that the bill obligates the government, when negotiating with foreign powers, not to "overlook the right of [Iranians] to use peaceful nuclear energy." Parliament will vote later on details of the bill, AP reported on 31 October.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said in Tehran on 31 October that the bill does not contradict Iran's current talks with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom over the possibility of suspending uranium enrichment in return for trade and other concessions (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 November 2004), IRNA reported the same day. He said the European offer to supply fuel is "a positive step...that does not negate the natural right" to have "peaceful nuclear technology," IRNA reported. "These are two separate issues," he said, and "we will not forego our natural right." To reach an agreement, he said, Iran wishes to see "definite...precise, and clear" commitments from Europe, IRNA reported.

Separately, Supreme National Security Council official Hussein Musavian told AP on 31 October that there is a "50 percent chance of a nuclear compromise" with the European states. He ruled out a definite end to enrichment-related activities, but said Iran may agree not to build additional fuel-producing installations to join those in Natanz and Isfahan, which are to supply fuel for the plant being built at Bushehr in southern Iran, AP added. "If they guarantee nuclear will be the best guarantee [against] expansion," Musavian said, according to the AP report. (Vahid Sepehri)

IAEA CHIEF URGES IRANIAN SUSPENSION OF URANIUM ENRICHMENT. During a 1 November speech to the UN General Assembly, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog called on Iran to suspend uranium-enrichment activities in order to allay international concerns about its nuclear program. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei cited some progress in understanding Iran's nuclear aims but said it is important for Tehran to commit to confidence-building measures. El-Baradei's speech came just weeks ahead of his key report on Iran's nuclear program (scheduled for 25 November). During the speech, el-Baradei also raised concerns about what he called an extensive illicit market for the supply of nuclear items.

El-Baradei's annual report to the UN General Assembly on 1 November ( noted progress in understanding the nature of Iran's program, after the government had initially provided "changing and contradictory" information. He did, however, cite some reversals in Iran's pledge to suspend uranium-enrichment activities: "I have continued to stress to Iran that in light of serious international concerns surrounding its nuclear program, it should do its utmost to build confidence through these voluntary measures. I have also asked Iran to pursue a policy of maximum transparency so that we can bring outstanding issues to resolution and over time provide the required assurance to the international community."

One day earlier, Iranian lawmakers unanimously approved the outline of a bill that would force the government to resume the process of uranium enrichment. Iranian Supreme National Security Council member Hussein Musavian said a compromise is still possible in negotiations with three European states offering to provide fuel for Iran's planned power plants (see above).

The IAEA's board of governors meets on 25 November to discuss Iran's program and could refer the matter to the UN Security Council for action.

The same process used in producing fuel for atomic power plants can be used to make nuclear weapons. IAEA inspectors have not found clear evidence that Iran is trying to make atomic bombs, but have come across research potentially linked to weapons-related activities.

Iran's deputy UN ambassador, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, told the General Assembly that his government has an inalienable right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful uses. But he said Iran is committed to its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In his words, "Nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's defense doctrine, not only because of our religious convictions and obligations under the NPT and other relevant conventions, but in fact because of sovereign strategic calculations."

The disturbing lesson to emerge from the IAEA's work in Iran and Libya, el-Baradei said, is the existence of an extensive illicit market for the supply of nuclear items -- a market driven by heavy demand. He said present export-control systems are clearly inadequate to counter the spread of nuclear technology, which is increasingly accessible. "The technical barriers to mastering the essential steps of uranium enrichment and to designing weapons for that matter have eroded over time, which inevitably leads to the conclusion that the control of technology in and of itself is not a sufficient barrier against further proliferation. This also leads to the important conclusion that ways and means should be found to better control the sensitive part of the fuel cycle -- namely the production of enriched uranium and the reprocessing of plutonium."

Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of Pakistan's nuclear-weapons program, admitted earlier this year to sharing nuclear technology with Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Islamabad, however, has refused to let the IAEA interview Khan.

Nevertheless, Pakistan is trying to calm fears about proliferation from its territory. Pakistan's UN ambassador, Munir Akram, told the General Assembly its seriousness is underlined by the recent move by parliament to toughen export controls dealing with nuclear and biological weapons. "Salient elements of our new law include prohibition of diversion of controlled goods and technologies, including re-export, trans-shipment and transit, licensing and record-keeping, export-control lists, and penal provisions of up to 14 years' imprisonment and a fine of at least 5 million [rupees, about 65,000 euros]," the diplomat said. "We are confident there will be no proliferation of WMD from Pakistan." (Robert McMahon)

IAEA AND EU MIGHT GIVE IRAN A PASS. The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) summary report on its two-year investigation of the Iranian nuclear program, which is to be presented next week, could say that the agency has found no evidence of a weaponization program, Reuters reported on 3 November, citing anonymous diplomats. This wording would weaken the U.S. case for referring Iran to the UN Security Council -- but, according to an anonymous diplomat, IAEA Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei will balance this by saying that the Iranian uranium-enrichment program is out of proportion with the rest of its nuclear program. El-Baradei reportedly told Tehran that the nature of his report depends on the outcome of Iranian-EU talks scheduled for 5 November.

EU demands have been watered down ahead of the meeting, anonymous diplomats said on 2 November, AFP reported. The ambassadors from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in Tehran will submit the EU offer, which no longer calls for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment indefinitely. Also on 2 November, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami decried, in a telephone conversation with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, what he described as the double standards of major powers on the nuclear issue, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)

EU 'BIG THREE' MEETS WITH IRAN... Officials from Britain, France, and Germany met with Iranian representatives in Paris on 5 November to discuss European incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to end activities that could lead to developing nuclear weapons. The efforts by the three EU powers are being closely watched by Washington. No breakthroughs are expected, however, and it is far from clear whether any "grand bargain" to end the Iran nuclear crisis can be reached. That is because all sides have stated their positions ahead of today's talks and their remarks suggest little room for compromise.

The three major EU powers have underlined they want Iran to commit to a sustained -- that is permanent -- suspension of its efforts to master uranium enrichment because it is a "dual-use" process. The process can produce nuclear reactor fuel or, at high levels of enrichment, material for nuclear bombs.

But Iranian officials say Iran will not give up its right under international treaties to produce its own reactor fuel. They also say Iran has no interest in nuclear weapons. Iranian President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami put Tehran's position this way in late-October, as he vowed Iran's full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog: "We are ready for complete cooperation and [to reach an] understanding with world and also with IAEA to make sure that Iran's [nuclear] activities would not move toward nuclear weapons."

Still, the Europeans and Iranians are talking, because the stakes are high. If the Europeans cannot persuade Iran to commit to a significant suspension of its uranium-enrichment related work, the EU is expected to support Washington's demand that the UN take a tougher stand against Tehran.

The United States is widely expected to call for the governing board of the IAEA to determine that Iran is not cooperating fully in opening its nuclear program to international inspectors when it meets in Vienna on 25 November.Washington is expected to also press the IAEA to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for discussion of possible punitive sanctions.

The Europeans see a deal with Iran as the best way to defuse the crisis and are offering significant incentives to get one. These include offering Iran access to foreign commercial reactor fuel at concessionary prices, as well as Western nuclear technical assistance. Trade incentives are also being discussed.

But analysts say it is highly uncertain whether these incentives are enough for Tehran. Equally uncertain is whether the United States -- which is watching the negotiations but has stopped short of backing them -- would consider such a deal enough to satisfy its own concern over Iran's activities.

Neil Partrick of the Economist Intelligence Unit characterized Washington's attitude as interested but skeptical. "An awful lot will depend on the ability of IAEA and the Europeans to actually deliver at least a suspension of uranium enrichment by the Iranians," Partrick said. "The impression I have is that the Americans are extremely skeptical about the ability of the Europeans to deliver on this, not least of course because of the seeming failure of the previous understanding that was put into place earlier this year."

The foreign ministers of Britain, Germany, and France won Tehran's agreement in October 2003 to indefinitely suspend activities connected with uranium enrichment in exchange for promises of technical assistance with its commercial nuclear program. In early 2004, however, Iran accused the three European states of siding with Washington in backing an IAEA resolution "deploring" Iran's lack of cooperation with UN nuclear inspectors. Tehran subsequently said it is producing large amounts of gaseous uranium and is resuming manufacture of components for high-speed centrifuges, which can transform the gas into enriched uranium.

Nevertheless, the United States cannot afford to ignore the European effort to strike a "grand bargain" with Tehran. That is because there is no certainty that the 35 member-states on the IAEA's Governing Board can be persuaded to refer Iran to the Security Council. IAEA board members such as Brazil, China, South Africa, and Sweden -- which have extensive civilian nuclear-energy programs -- might not want to set any precedents that could later be used to curb any programs of their own to manufacture nuclear fuel. That means there might be more talks aimed at striking a "grand bargain" in the future, no matter what happens now in Paris.

Analyst Partrick said that, in the end, the deal the Europeans are trying to reach has to be struck between Tehran and Washington if it is to end the Iranian nuclear crisis. But, he said, such a deal could be hard to reach. "The Iranian version of a grand bargain, as far as it's possible to divine a clear line on this, would be one that involves a significant degree of engagement by the U.S. and the Europeans must be seen as really rather secondary players on this issue, ultimately," Partrick said. "And along with that engagement would come some [demands for] clear guarantees about [Iran's] own security. But it's very hard to imagine a U.S. administration of any kind being prepared to make those kinds of guarantees to an Iranian regime that remains extremely controversial [in America]."

The British government said this week that it is convinced Washington wants a peaceful solution to the crisis and has no plans for using military force to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC on 3 November: "The prospect of [military action] happening is inconceivable." (Charles Recknagel)

...AND AGREEMENT COULD BE CLOSE. Iranian and European officials said on 7 November that two days of talks in Paris resulted in a tentative agreement that is dependent on the approval of the Iranian leadership, Reuters reported. Under the agreement, Iran would suspend nuclear fuel enrichment and reprocessing until it has finalized an agreement with the Europeans that includes economic and technological incentives. Supreme National Security Council secretary Hassan Rohani said on 6 November that the negotiations are complex, state television reported. He added that the suspension of uranium enrichment is just a confidence-building measure. Rohani added, "We have not enunciated a particular timetable. Basically, we are not prepared to provide any kind of time-table regarding the issue of suspension." (Bill Samii)