MidEast

Iran FM Demands End to All Sanctions, Offers No Nuke Concessions in Return

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, in a letter sent other foreign ministers, wrote that “lifting of all sanctions, is an essential component of any agreement,” Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported Wednesday.

According to Fars, Zarif wrote further:

“The second objective envisaged by JPOA, namely the lifting of all sanctions, is an essential component of any agreement. But some members of P5+1 have become increasingly reluctant to abandon this counterproductive, illegal and inhuman instrument of coercion even at the expense of putting in jeopardy the entire process that provides certainty and assures transparency. Obsession with sanctions has not only obstructed a comprehensive long-term agreement, but also prevented the West from regaining the confidence of the Iranian people even after the adoption of JPOA. While Iran has shown its good faith by completely fulfilling its part of the bargain under the deal, the US and EU have adopted more measures to maintain and strengthen the sanctions regime than to live up to their sanction-easing commitments,” the Iranian foreign minister pointed out.

“I am confident that a comprehensive agreement is imminently within reach. It requires foresight, political will and recognition of realities by our negotiating partners as well as the audacity to make the right choice benefitting the entire global community rather than succumbing to the whims of vocal, but increasingly unpopular, pressure groups and special interests,” the Iranian foreign minister concluded.

Contrary to Zarif’s claim that the lifting of sanctions was not an “essential component of any agreement” but rather a step to be taken once Iran complies with the obligations specified in the Joint Plan of Actions (JPOA) and abides by its commitments to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In the past thirteen months since signing the JPOA Iran has continued to flout its international obligations that spurred the imposition of sanctions in the first place.

An op-ed written a few weeks ago by a researcher at the non-partisan Institute for Science and International Security observed that Iran has continued to procure illicit materials since signing the JPOA last year.

The UN Security Council has adopted several resolutions against Iran that order the country to halt its uranium enrichment, heavy water-related and ballistic missile programmes (exempted from sanctions at the insistence of the Russian government is the Bushehr light water reactor, as Russia is that project’s biggest external stakeholder).
Since the adoption of the first of the UN resolutions Iran has substantially increased the size of its uranium enrichment capability, has nearly completed the Arak heavy water complex (which is well‑suited to plutonium production), and has continued to advance its ballistic missile effort. All of these have largely been achieved through the use of illicit procurement methods to acquire Western‑origin goods, often through countries such as China, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey.

The op-ed goes on to note that “Iran, for its part, has dismissed the sanctions as illegitimate and even admits violating them. President Hassan Rouhani said in late August, ‘We are proud that we bypass sanctions.’ But this attitude flies in the face of the efforts by the P5+1 to get a verifiable long term deal.”

Zarif’s letter, at least the parts that were published, offers no specific proposals for addressing Iran’s obligations, rather Zarif wrote that Iran won’t develop nuclear weapons because Iran sees no advantage in them:

“In our view, nuclear weapons are obsolete tools of the past, incapable of providing external security or internal stability. This is especially the case for Iran, which is content with its size, geography, natural resources and human capital, and has not started a single war in the past three centuries. A sober strategic assessment will show that nuclear weapons are detrimental to Iran’s security,”

Zarif also made the dubious claim that Iran would never acquire or use nuclear weapons for because the were “strictly forbidden” in Islam. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) did an extensive review of Ayatoallah Ali Khamenei’s writings and could find no reference to his fatwa, religious ruling, banning the use of nuclear weapons. Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote in a brief essay (.pdf) that the nature of the fatwa is that ” if the Islamic Republic’s leaders believe that developing, stockpiling, or using nuclear weapons is in its interests, then religious considerations will not constrain these actions.” Finally in a speech (.pdf) he gave shortly after he was replaced as Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rouhani, now Iran’s president said, “Having fuel cycle capability almost means that the country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons, should that country have the political will to do so.” Only “political will” was cited by Rouhani as a consideration for developing a weapon, not religious approval.

Zarif’s letter made no mention of Iran’s obligations to explain its past nuclear activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as spelled out in the JPOA (.pdf) , that Iran in conjunction with the P5+1 would “work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern.” The IAEA instead has regularly released reports complaining that Iran was not forthcoming in reporting its past nuclear work. In an interview last month, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told CNN:

The IAEA has been addressing this issue of Iran nuclear issues for more than 10 years but we still cannot give the assurance that all of the activities in Iran are for peaceful purposes. We have two problems: one is that Iran is not fully cooperating with the Agency to clarify the information that may have military aspects. Another problem is that Iran is not allowing us to implement a more powerful verification tool which is called an “Additional Protocol”. Agreement was not reached.

The United Nations sanctions were initially imposed when Iran failed to end its enrichment program in 2006, to come into compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions. Subsequent sanctions were imposed as Iran continued to flout its NPT obligations. These newer sanctions were imposed against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and prohibited Iran from any arms exports. These sanctions also targeted Iran’s ballistic missile program, which could provide Iran with a means to deliver a nuclear bomb against an enemy. Iran continues to arm its allies including terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and Shiite militias in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Zarif didn’t address any of these activities, instead he rejected any compliance referring to requirements Iran doesn’t approve of as “arbitrary, degrading and unlawful demands.”

All Zarif offered in return for having all sanctions lifted is a “firm mandate and strong political will to reach a comprehensive agreement,” but didn’t offer a single specific commitment to bring Iran into compliance with any of the numerous violations of international laws it continues to disregard.

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