'Quid pro quo' in store for US and Iran?
Katie Baker
Published: Friday November 23, 2007

Print This  Email This

Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday that Iran could put nuclear enrichment on hold if the United States and Western Europe would recognize its nuclear program as a peaceful enterprise.

Unfortunately, few believe it will be that easy to settle the Iran/US nuclear conflict that has been brewing for months.

“We don't trust the United States," Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told McClatchy Newspapers on Friday, citing a “serious confidence gap” between his country and the US and Western Europe as the reason he sees little reason to try and “build confidence” with countries that distrust Iran.

“We will not suspend enrichment again because there is no end to what the United States will demand,” he said.

The meeting this week at the United Nation compound in Vienna was instigated by a report from IAEA director general Mohamed El Baradei that urged Iranians to “build confidence by suspending uranium enrichment.”

The United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom spoke out this week against what Iran has not yet done. The Europeans took things even farther, calling for an "immediate suspension of Iranian nuclear activity which poses a proliferation risk."

When McClatchy reporters asked “why Iran refuses to respect the U.N. Security Council's demand that it halt its nuclear-enrichment program,” Soltanieh angrily responded that no deal is possible because of the U.S.’s “hidden agenda,” which he hinted had to do with U.S. support for Israel.

According to McClatchy’s Matthew Schofield, his remarks suggest that “Iran’s irritation with the process is growing.”

Nevertheless, some important powers in Iran are anxious about Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear agenda and are becoming increasingly more vocal in a country where criticism of the President is usually avoided for fear of negative repercussions.

Two former presidents, Akbar Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, have warned that “the country faces threats from foreign governments worried over the nuclear program.”

Other influential authorities are speaking out as well. "We must not give excuse to the enemy and provoke it with unwise statements," said Hassan Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator and a close aide to Mr. Rafsanjani.

The former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Mohsen Rezai, and mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf of Tehran also expressed concerns over foreign threats this month.

Still, the majority of Iran authorities feel that Iran has the right to continue with nuclear enrichment. Saeed Jalili reiterated as much at Thursday’s International Conference on Iran's Nuclear Program in Tehran: “[The] Islamic Republic of Iran insists on its absolute rights within the framework of NPT, and won't accept to be deprived of its nuclear rights.”

Almost every US presidential hopeful strongly opposes the development of Iran’s nuclear power. “If I were president of the United States … I would not allow [Iran] to become nuclear,” said Mr. Giuliani, the republican front-runner. Ms. Clinton is just as uncompromising.

Consequently, an US attack on Iran seems imminent. While Paul Koring of The Globe and Mail doubts a “full blown ground war with Iran” will take place, he believes the likeliest scenario is a brief short air war, “designed to avoid the quagmire of invasion and regime change that now characterizes Iraq.”

“Bombing Iran would be relatively easy,” Koring says, but warns that “the fallout, especially the anger sown across much of the Muslim world by another U.S.-led attack in the Middle East, would be impossible to calculate.”