Various reactions on Friday in the aftermath of progress toward a diplomatic settlement of the Iran-P5+1 stand-off suggested that reactionary forces are determined to scuttle the agreement reached on Oct. 1 in Geneva.  --  France insisted that in "Tehran must also pledge by December to freeze expansions of uranium enrichment — otherwise new sanctions should be imposed," the Financial Times of London reported Friday.[1]  --  The Wall Street Journal observed that the Obama administration's embrace of the IAEA and its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, "marks a sharp reversal from the Bush administration's relationship with the IAEA, which was marked by public sparring over the Iraq war and allegations Syria was clandestinely pursuing nuclear work."[2]  --  Jay Solomon put the entire agreement in doubt, saying that "Iran's commitment to the deal was thrown into some question Friday, when an Iranian diplomat told the Associated Press that Tehran hadn't formally agreed to this proposal."  --  But the Iranian media outlet Press TV spoke of "agreements reached" and said that the Oct. 1 talks were "described as productive by all parties."[3]  --  Press TV also reported positive comments by Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.[4]  --  In an editorial in its Saturday edition, the New York Times blew hot and cold on the agreement, but skepticism dominated as the paper rehearsed its skewed, tired, and largely false us-good them-bad narrative of the dispute.[5]  --  And in an Op-Ed for Sunday's Washington Post, Jackson Diehl was intent on discouraging hopes of a diplomatic settlement.[6]  --  He claimed that "a deep and growing gloom" reigns in Western capitals, where leaders "in their heart of hearts" are convinced of "the hollowness of Western policy" because "[n]one of the steps the West is considering to stop the Iranian nuclear program is likely to work." ...



By James Blitz (London), Daniel Dombey (Washington), and Najmeh Bozorgmehr (Tehran)

Financial Times (London)
October 2, 2009

France is anxious about the Obama administration’s pursuit of a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, warning that the U.S. must not allow Tehran to expand its uranium enrichment without facing fresh sanctions.

As world powers await a critical meeting with Iran in Geneva this week, diplomatic attention is focused on a proposed deal under which Iran might put about 80 per cent of its low-enriched uranium out of potential military use.

Under the terms of the deal, which has been secretly drafted over the past month, Iran would transfer most of its 1,500kg of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France.

There, it would be processed into fuel that can provide medical isotopes, which Iran needs for cancer treatment.

However, French officials insist Tehran must also pledge by December to freeze expansions of uranium enrichment -- otherwise new sanctions should be imposed.

A French government official said: “Iran is looking for more time and a move which would give legitimacy to its program. Imposing the freeze is absolutely essential.”

A U.S. official acknowledged yesterday that the proposal was “not the solution to the ­Iranian nuclear program.”

In Tehran, Iranian officials on Friday welcomed the outcome of the Geneva talks as “win-win.”

The semi-official Fars news agency insisted Iran had secured “the upper hand” in the talks.



By Jay Solomon

Wall Street Journal
October 3, 2009

WASHINGTON -- International nuclear diplomacy shifted to the United Nations Friday, as the International Atomic Energy Agency's top official flew to Iran to firm up agreements Tehran struck with global powers in Geneva this week to better monitor Iran's nuclear facilities.

Senior U.S. officials said the Obama administration fully embraced Mohammed ElBaradei's mission, illustrating the central role the White House now seeks for the IAEA and its outgoing Egyptian leader in its Iran diplomacy.

The current U.S. position marks a sharp reversal from the Bush administration's relationship with the IAEA, which was marked by public sparring over the Iraq war and allegations Syria was clandestinely pursuing nuclear work.

"With respect to the IAEA . . . this is the appropriate body to go to," said a senior U.S. official involved in White House strategy toward Iran. "And this had been done quite consciously here to have maximum unity and to have maximum credibility and to move it as quickly as possible."

Mr. ElBaradei is initially scheduled to meet Iranian officials Saturday to formalize an agreement to allow IAEA monitors to inspect Iran's previously secret uranium-enrichment facility in Qom, which the U.S. and its allies feared could be used to produce nuclear weapons. Iran says the its nuclear program is intended for purely peaceful purposes.

The IAEA has also been tasked to firm up by the middle of October an agreement reached in principle Thursday that would see Tehran transfer the bulk of its low-enriched uranium for further processing in Russia and France. U.S. officials hailed this tentative pact as potentially bringing Tehran's nuclear fuel under international monitoring, while denying it the ability in the near-term to quickly assemble an atomic weapon.

Iran's commitment to the deal was thrown into some question Friday, when an Iranian diplomat told the Associated Press that Tehran hadn't formally agreed to this proposal. But U.S. officials stressed that they believed the agreement would be formalized by the IAEA in the coming weeks. "It is our understanding that they agreed in Geneva to accept this proposal to [send] this low-enriched uranium out of the country," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.

The White House's empowerment of the IAEA comes with significant risks for U.S. policy, said current and former American officials. Skepticism remains deep in Washington and Europe about Mr. ElBaradei's ability to serve as an effective broker between the international community and Tehran.

Mr. ElBaradei and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 2005 for their work to prevent nuclear proliferation for military uses. But American and European diplomats have recently accused the IAEA chief of playing down evidence pointing toward Iranian attempts to advance its nuclear program.

European and U.S. officials said in interviews in recent weeks that they were hearing much more alarming assessments from IAEA technical experts on the status of Iran's nuclear weapons works than what Mr. ElBaradei was publishing or stating publicly.

On Friday, David Albright, founder of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington and a former nuclear inspector, said he had viewed excerpts from an "in-house" IAEA study that raised concerns about evidence indicating Iran had conducted studies on ways to build a nuclear warhead. The study documented what it said was growing evidence that Tehran was studying how to place a miniaturized nuclear device atop a long-range missile, he said. The IAEA study was reported by the AP last month.

Mr. ElBaradei and other IAEA officials said that they can only publicize information that they have independently vetted and confirmed. IAEA officials say the agency has presented concerns about potential military applications of Iran's nuclear program in past IAEA reports. Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano will take up the directorship of the in December and is expected to focus on technical issues. In a March interview, he said the agency "should not be a venue for negotiating disarmament."

--David Crawford contributed to this article.

Write to Jay Solomon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Nuclear energy


Press TV (Iran)
October 3, 2009

Russia expressed 'cautious optimism" on Iran's wide-ranging talks with group P5+1 that included the country's nuclear program talks, calling on all sides to keep to the agreed schedule.

"The agreements reached inspire cautious optimism. The most important thing now is to make sure these agreements are fully and timely met," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a visit to Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, on October 2.

Earlier on in the day, France and Germany hailed the talks with Iran and called it a first step which should be followed by further steps.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said that the Geneva meeting was "a step in the right direction and its results will be judged on the basis of facts.”

During the October 1 Geneva talks, described as productive by all parties, Iran and the P5+1 group consisting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Russia, China, USA, France, and the U.K. plus Germany -- discussed ways of resolving their differences on a number of issues and agreed to hold another round of talks by the end of October.



Nuclear energy


Press TV (Iran)
October 3, 2009

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili says the Fordu nuclear facility is open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"Within the framework of the IAEA and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the nuclear watchdog will be allowed to inspect the nuclear site (Fordu -- the second nuclear facility that is under construction) as it has been the case with the Natanz nuclear facility," the secretary of Iran's National Security Council, Saeed Jalili said late on Friday in Tehran among reporters upon his arrival from Geneva, where negotiations between Iran and P5+1 were held.

"Iran believes the talks were constructive because they were based on cooperation and common interests," Jalili added.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator regretted the harsh rhetoric used by some nations in the past, calling on world powers to avoid pervious mistakes if any achievement is meant to be reached in the nuclear talks.

Pointing to Iran's recent achievements at the national, regional, and international level, Jalili said Tehran entered the talks with a positive approach, adding that the country's package of proposals were high on the agenda during the talks.

Jalili also noted that the nation's right to have access to peaceful nuclear energy was "decisively defended" at the talks. He said that no such issue as halting uranium enrichment was brought up at the negotiations.

During the Geneva talks -- which were described as productive by all parties -- Iran and the P5+1 group consisting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Russia, China, the US, France and the U.K. plus Germany -- agreed to hold another round of talks before the end of October.

Iran also agreed in principal to ship some of its low-enriched uranium abroad for reprocessing. Jalili said Iran needs 20 percent enriched uranium for a Tehran nuclear reactor which produces medical isotopes.




New York Times
October 3, 2009

Buyer beware has to be the rule when dealing with Iran and its nuclear ambitions. For years, Iran has cheated and lied and made just-in-time concessions to sidestep any real punishment.

So we are skeptical about Tehran’s offer this week to send most of its stock of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France to be turned into reactor fuel. It could be good news -- delaying the day when Iran would be able to build a nuclear weapon and, we hope, quieting calls in Israel for military action.

But that would only be true if Iran isn’t hiding more stocks of enriched uranium somewhere else. And one must not forget that Tehran is continuing to churn out enriched uranium at its plant in Natanz -- in direct defiance of a United Nations Security Council order.

The United States and the other great powers that resumed negotiations with Iran this week are going to have to push Iran’s leaders hard to fulfill this promise and to finally open up their entire nuclear complex to rigorous international inspection.

At the talks -- the first with the Americans fully involved -- Iran also said it would open the uranium-enrichment plant it is building near Qom to international inspection in the next two weeks. Of course, Iran didn’t even acknowledge that it was building a plant near Qom until last week after it was caught red-handed.

Iran has long insisted that it must be able to do all of the steps in nuclear fuel production -- from uranium mining through enrichment and fuel fabrication. It argued that that was the only way it could be sure it would have an uninterrupted fuel supply for its nuclear power plants.

Most of the rest of the world suspected that what it really wanted was to be able to make the fuel for a nuclear weapon.

That said, there are good reasons to continue negotiating -- and to continue testing Iran’s intentions.

Odds are Tehran is just playing for more time. But given all of the political ferment in the wake of June’s stolen presidential elections -- and the disclosure of the Qom site -- there is a chance that Iran’s leaders are getting nervous about their future and their ability to avoid or withstand tough international sanctions.

We are encouraged that more talks are set for later this month. But this is no time for complacency or wishful thinking. The United States and its partners must push Iran to open all of its declared nuclear facilities and allow inspectors to interview any Iranian scientist they choose to -- the only way to figure out what else Iran may be hiding. The leading powers must also be ready to impose tough sanctions if Iran resists or if negotiations go nowhere.


By Jackson Diehl

Washington Post
October 4, 2009

Original source: Washington Post

The Obama administration's positive tone following its first diplomatic encounter with Iran covers a deep and growing gloom in Washington and European capitals. Seven hours of palaver in Geneva haven't altered an emerging conclusion: None of the steps the West is considering to stop the Iranian nuclear program is likely to work.

Not talks. Not sanctions, even of the "crippling" variety the Obama administration has spoken of. Not military strikes. And probably not support for regime change through the still-vibrant opposition.

For obvious reasons, senior officials won't state this broad conclusion out loud. But it's not hard to find pessimistic public statements about three of the four options. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the prospects for diplomacy "very doubtful." Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has said military action will do no more than "buy time." Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, echoing private statements I've heard from the Obama administration, told me last week that a strategy of backing the Iranian opposition "would take too long" and might well produce a government with the same nuclear policy.

As for sanctions, Western officials rarely disparage them in public. They don't want to help spoilers in Russia and China who want to block U.N. action against Iran for their own reasons. But many are doubtful about them, and with good reason. Despite hints of cooperation by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the White House is pessimistic that Russia or China will agree to the sort of escalation in sanctions that would command Iran's attention, such as a ban on gasoline supplies or arms sales or new investments in oil and gas production.

The history of sanctions in the region also is not good: More than a decade of punishment, including regular airstrikes, had no positive impact on Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Iran's current rulers, many of whom came of age in the Revolutionary Guards during the Iran-Iraq war, sound convincing when they say they are ready for the country to suffer more austerity for the cause of Iranian greatness.

What of Thursday's talks in Geneva? Iran agreed to international inspections of its new nuclear facility and to ship out of the country some of the uranium it has enriched. Yet those modest concessions may complicate the negotiations and the prospects for sanctions. The headlines about them already obscured the fact that Tehran's negotiator declined to respond to the central Western demand: that Iran freeze its uranium enrichment work. Iran has rejected that idea repeatedly, and there is no reason to believe the hard-liners in power will change their position.

In the meantime, talks about the details of inspections and the uranium shipments could easily become protracted, buying the regime valuable time. (On Friday the Associated Press quoted a member of the Iranian delegation as saying it had not, in fact, agreed to the uranium deal.) Meanwhile, Tehran's tactical retreat has provided Russia and China with an excuse to veto new sanctions -- something they would have been hard-pressed to do had Iran struck an entirely defiant tone in Geneva.

The Obama administration and its allies have said repeatedly that they will pursue diplomacy until the end of the year and then seek sanctions if diplomacy hasn't worked. That sets up a foreseeable and very unpleasant crossroads. "If by early next year we are getting nothing through diplomacy and sanctions," says scholar Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, "the entire policy is going to be revealed as a charade."

What then? Pollack, a former Clinton administration official, says there is one obvious Plan B: "containment," a policy that got its name during the Cold War. The point would be to limit Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons or exercise its influence through the region by every means possible short of war -- and to be prepared to sustain the effort over years, maybe decades. It's an option that has been lurking at the back of the debate about Iran for years. "In their heart of hearts I think the Obama administration knows that this is where this is going," Pollack says.

I suspect he's right. I also don't expect Obama and his aides to begin talking about a policy shift anytime soon. For the next few months we'll keep hearing about negotiations, sanctions and possibly Israeli military action as ways to stop an Iranian bomb. By far the best chance for a breakthrough, as I see it, lies in a victory by the Iranian opposition over the current regime. If that doesn't happen, it may soon get harder to disguise the hollowness of Western policy.