Iran opens door to peace But US/EU undermine UN inspectors

IssueOctober 2007
Feature by Milan Rai , Emily Johns

After four years of mounting tension, Iran has finally agreed to answer by December all questions about its nuclear programme posed by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The United States, however, seems to want to undermine the Iran-IAEA agreement reached on 21 August, arguing that it does not halt Iran's uranium enrichment capability immediately.

    According to IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, the purpose of the new “work plan” is to clarify whether Iran has been attempting to develop a nuclear bomb, and enable the IAEA to “provide assurances about (the peaceful nature) of Iran's nuclear programme”. However, he added, if the IAEA concludes by November that Iran is not cooperating, “then it is a completely different situation.”

US anger

    The 21 August agreement, supported by the 115-member Non-Aligned Movement, has been greeted by the US with barely concealed fury.
    Because of pressure from the US and the EU3 (UK, Germany and France), an EU statement on 11 September “took note” of, but did not support, the IAEA-Iran agreement - leading ElBaradei to walk out of the session.
    Iran's chief delegate, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, warned that further sanctions and interference could lead to a breakdown of cooperation with the IAEA.
    This is precisely what the US is now hoping for. Moves to accelerate sanctions at the international level, and recent provocative US/UK moves in Iraq (kidnapping Iranian officials, setting up a border post and conducting US/UK border patrols to “stop arms coming in from Iran”) seem designed to help undermine the new mood of cooperation in Tehran.
    On 12 September, ElBaradei, who said in January that war on Iran would be “absolutely counterproductive” and “catastrophic”, called once again for a “double time-out” - a suspension of uranium enrichment activities by Iran, and a suspension of sanctions by the Security Council. This would, he said, provide a breathing space for negotiations to resume. Instead, the US is seeking new sanctions, and Iran, while willing to cooperate on the work plan, is not willing to suspend enrichment.