Opinion | Columnists

Iran is buying time on nuclear issue

By refusing to give a clear-cut reply to the incentives package, it is now clear that Iran will not halt its nuclear programme.

  • By Mohammad Akef Jamal, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 23:01 August 14, 2008
  • Gulf News

Iran has yet to clearly respond to the incentives package offered to it by the five permanent members of the UN and Germany to defuse the dispute over its nuclear programme. It was offered to Tehran in an attempt to gain more time and avoid additional sanctions.

While dilly-dallying on the issue, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, in a telephone conversation with Javier Solana, foreign policy chief of the European Union, expressed his country's willingness to pursue negotiations on his country's nuclear dossier.

Jalili and Solana had the conversation just days after European nations were about to impose new sanctions on Iran. It was an attempt by Tehran to buy time,

A few days before this call, Iran sent a memorandum to Solana without either mentioning its nuclear programme or expressing its willingness to halt its uranium enrichment activities.

The memo was rejected by the United States as unacceptable and thus asked for a clear response to the incentives offer.

Although the deadline set by the US and its allies for Iran to respond to the offer expired on August 2, Russia and China do not want to link the Iranian response to a timeline.

In fact, Iran did not conceal its desire to keep its nuclear dossier with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA's role in Iran's nuclear issue has weakened over the past two years because the dominant world powers took it upon themselves to settle the problem. For them, Iran's nuclear dossier is an important political issue whose consequences may create an imbalance in the strategically important Middle East.

The US is keen to get the Iranian response at the earliest, although its interests in Iran are much less than those of Russia and China. However, Washington has major interests in the Gulf.

Meeting

At the recent Geneva meeting between Jalili, Solana and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, Iran managed to handle it perfectly by combining many regional and international issues with the aim of gaining more time and making further progress in its nuclear activities.

During the waiting period, Iran's nuclear dossier has witnessed some developments that may have impacts upon the region. Among these is Israel's intensive pressure on the US administration to resort to the use of force against Iran.

The increase in the number of uranium centrifuges in the Nantaz nuclear facility, as stated by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad, is among these developments.

Iran also intends to develop nuclear fusion technology, which is used in making the most devastating hydrogen bombs.

Iran was clear in unveiling its intent to develop the nuclear fusion technology through Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Head of the Iranian Expediency Council.

Iran's active diplomacy, which was evident by holding the 14th conference of Non-Aligned Nations (NAM) in Tehran is another development. The NAM countries backed Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear power.

The French diplomatic move towards a greater role with Syria, and Iran's testing of missiles to target warships are also among these developments.

The announcement by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Gholamali Khosrow that the Middle East will remain a crisis centre as long as monarchies remain in the Gulf region is a grave development.

By refusing to give a clear-cut reply to the incentives package, it is now clear that Iran will not halt its nuclear programme. Tehran wants to send a message to the world powers that when it comes to its nuclear programme, they have drawn a line which no power can cross.

Describing the Iranian stance, a European diplomat said: "Iran wants to tell us, yes we will give you our reply, but when you give us your reply."

Western circles expressed their dissatisfaction at the Iranian response, considering it as a "no-reply".

As a result, the US and European Union are expected to take the case to the UN Security Council to expand sanctions on Iran.

Great strides

Iran has made great strides in its nuclear programme, and may soon reach the point of no return after it had paved the way to the development of its nuclear capabilities.

This will give the major world powers the following options -either accept Iran as a nuclear country or abort Iranian nuclear plans by the use of force.

Since all peaceful solutions have failed so far, and so have the UN-imposed sanctions on Iran, the US and its European allies have no other choice except the use of force. However, this option may not succeed in curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. The upcoming US elections also reduce the possibility of a war against Iran.

Dr Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.

Gulf News

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