The Vienna Group Dismisses the Tehran Declaration

Just before permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) voted on Resolution 1929 which imposes further sanctions on Iran, Brazil’s representative Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti gave a remarkable statement on why Brazil would vote against the resolution. Of course she extensively referred to the Tehran Declaration of May 17 in which Turkey, Brazil and Iran had, within hours of further negotiations, succeeded in drafting a deal which would allow Iran to receive urgently needed fuel rods for its research reactor in Tehran for the purpose of producing medical isotopes in exchange of 1200 kg low-enriched uranium (LEU) which would be shipped out of the country and escrowed in Turkey.

“As Brazil repeatedly stated, the Tehran Declaration adopted 17 May is a unique opportunity that should not be missed. It was approved by the highest levels of the Iranian leadership and endorsed by its Parliament.

The Tehran Declaration promoted a solution that would ensure the full exercise of Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, while providing full verifiable assurances that Iran’s nuclear program has exclusively peaceful purposes.

We are firmly convinced that the only possible way to achieve this collective goal is to secure Iran’s cooperation through effective and action-oriented dialogue and negotiations.

The Tehran Declaration showed that dialogue and persuasion can do more than punitive actions.

Its purpose and result were to build the confidence needed to address a whole set of aspects of Iran’s nuclear programme.

As we explained yesterday, the Joint Declaration removed political obstacles to the materialization of a proposal by the IAEA in October 2009. Many governments and highly respected institutions and individuals have come to acknowledge its value as an important step to a broader discussion on the Iranian nuclear program.

The Brazilian government deeply regrets, therefore, that the Joint Declaration has neither received the political recognition it deserves, nor been given the time it needs to bear fruit.

Brazil considers it unnatural to rush to sanctions before the parties concerned can sit and talk about the implementation of the Declaration. The Vienna Group’s replies to the Iranian letter of 24 May, which confirmed Iran’s commitment to the contents of the Declaration, were received just hours ago. No time has been given for Iran to react to the opinions of the Vienna Group, including to the proposal of a technical meeting to address details.” (Emphasis added.)

The letter of the Vienna Group, consisting of the United States, France and Russia, has been received, in the meantime, in Tehran. That the hastily drafted one-page Joint Declaration by Turkey, Brazil and Iran would raise grave concerns among world powers was not surprising. In particular the fact that Iran has now started to enrich up to 19.75% is condemned:

“The Joint Declaration (JD) does not address Iran’s production or retention of 19.75 percent enriched uranium. The cessation of such enrichment and the removal of the 19.75 percent uranium already produced (at the same time as the removal of the 1,200 kg of 3.5 percent LEU) should be an integral part of any TRR refueling arrangement.”

There had been speculations as regards differences in the (not known/declassified) original swap deal brokered by former IAEA watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei in Geneva last year and the deal which has now been detailed in the Tehran Declaration. Yesterday’s response by the Vienna Group lists several items which might hint to important differences. It has always been assumed that Iran’s enrichment activities would have silently been tolerated by western powers in the original swap deal. The Iranian delegation in Geneva would not have seriously considered any deal in which Iran’s right for enrichment would have been denied. The Vienna Group writes in this regard:

“The JD asserts a right for Iran to engage in enrichment activities despite the fact that several U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibit Iran from pursuing such activities.”

The Tehran Declaration does also not mention under which circumstances and, in particular, when Iran wants to remove its 1200 kg LEU from the country.

“Unlike the IAEA’s October proposal, the JD does not set a date certain for removal of the 1,200 kg of 3.5 percent LEU from Iran. The JD states that the LEU would be removed within one month of the conclusion of an implementation agreement. But because there is no timeframe specified for completing that agreement, there is no deadline for removal of the LEU.”

The set timeline for delivering the fuel rods to Iran seems to be unrealistic. The Tehran Declaration mentions that Iran would receive the rods (120 kg at 19.75%) not later than one year after it had deposited 1200 kg LEU in Turkey. The Vienna Group is “confident [that this] would be impossible to meet.”

“The JD indicates that, if Iran decided unilaterally that the provisions of the arrangement were not being respected, Turkey would be obliged, upon the request of Iran, to “return swiftly and unconditionally Iran’s LEU to Iran.” Under the previous “escrow” proposal, the return of LEU would be justified if the parties failed to deliver fuel assemblies to Iran as agreed.

The JD states that Iran’s LEU would be the “property” of Iran while in Turkey. The IAEA proposal stated the IAEA would maintain “custody” of the LEU throughout the process.”

A final concern regards the fact that Iran has considerably increased its stockpile of LEU in previous months, up to more than 2400 kg. The main goal of the original swap deal, namely removing what is considered a ‘breakout capacity’ from the country, would not been achieved anymore under the conditions of the Tehran Declaration.

As the Brazilian representative at the UNSC meeting yesterday noted, rushing for sanctions only hours after world powers had responded to the Tehran Declaration of May 17 is ‘unnatural’. It can also be regarded a big scandal indicating bad faith of, in particular, the Obama Administration which had recently worked hard to get Russia and China aboard for new sanctions on Iran.

Despite the fact that sanctions to be imposed on Iran can no longer be considered ‘crippling’, due to its deleterious psychological effect the resolution must be regarded a diplomatic disaster. Barrack Obama seems no longer be interested in negotiations with Iran. Previous sanctions have proved highly counterproductive. The effects on any democratic movement in Iran will be disastrous. Iran won’t give up its enrichment program. It might even consider leaving the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Chances for a nuclear-free Middle East in the near future have been dramatically decreased these days. Risks for new military actions currently mount.

Last update June 10, 2010.

This entry was posted in Brazil, Geneva talks, IAEA, Iran, LEU, UN Security Council, USA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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