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September 24, 2003

Nuclear Ambitions Gone Bad!
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]

nuclear.jpg With the IAEA's Governing Board 40-day ultimatum to Iran in its September-12th resolution, Iran's nuclear ambitions seem to have plunged into a serious crisis. The IAEA demands that Iran sign the additional protocol of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which includes authorizing IAEA snap inspection requests with a 24-hour notice to replace the current one-week requirement. The course of events that led to the ultimatum showed, once again, how immature and impractical Islamic Republic's foreign policy can get. Most importantly is the fact that Europe, which usually takes a more lenient stance on issues related to Iran and has traditionally had extensive trade relations with the Islamic government, took full part in making the decision.

The European alignemnt with the ultimatum came about after the Islamic Republic (IR) refused the terms of a letter by Britain, Germany and France that promised technological aids if Iran signed the NPT additional protocol. The IR essentially passed up its last chance to benefit from the only powerful enough player on the international politics game board they had left for themselves. Now, if Iran fails to act favourably by the October-31st deadline, the IAEA may refer the issue to the UN security council for further action on charges of material breach of its resolutions. The US has already threatened to implement sanctions on Iran's oil sales that could have catastrophic consequences for the country's oil-based economy.

The IR officials' response to the ultimatum resolution has been so far confused. On the one hand, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's representative in the IAEA, walked out of the session that approved the resolution and later implied, in an interview reported by the hardline Tehran daily Kayhan and hardliner-controlled National TV, that while Iran would continue to work with the IAEA, it may reduce its level of cooperation with the agency. [Persian: Kayhan, English: Reuters; Al-Jazeera] On the other hand, the Foriegn Minister Kamal Kharrazi insisted that Iran is going to fully cooperate with the IAEA. Mr. Salehi had to take back his comments, saying that they were misinterpreted. The confusion shows in part that the IR apparantly did not expect the deadline and is bewildered by the decision. However, it might as well be a tactical play, to underline any future compliance with the resolution.

Inside the country too, there has been a spectrum of responses, with reformists being more inclined towards accepting the resolution and conservatives towards refusing it. An important question that would most likely remain unanswered is, of course, what the reaction of the ordinary people is to the resolution and the way the IR has handled the whole situation.

From the outset, however, the development has been a big step backward for the IR foreign diplomacy, as they seem to have lost their position in their courtship relationship with the EU. The cost the IR might be paying as a result is not only limited to the seemingly undisputable fact that their nuclear ambitions seem farther from being realised than any time before, but that the whole power structure of the Islamic regime might shake in the months to come. To whose benefit all this will turn out to be is for time to show, and for us to decide.

Internal Links:

FToI: WMD?! Keep out of children's reach!
FToI: Chernobyl, Harrisburg, Hiroshima ... Bushehr

External Links:

Economist: It's all gone dreadfully wrong
Mohamed El Baradei: on The Connection show of National Public Radio in the U.S.

Senior Grad at September 24, 2003 09:24 PM [permalink]:

Now the question is: What would Khomeini do? ;-)

Senior Grad at September 24, 2003 09:56 PM [permalink]:

Joking aside though, thanks are due to Babak for providing a thorough survey of the Islamic Republic's current predicament. You write well: organized, with good English, and solid arguments. In one word: well-done! :-)

I have nothing to add at this point, except that I can't hide my state of near euphoria (compared in Persian phraseology with the joy of having your stomach cool off) for mullahs' dilemma. Let's hope that this give them a lesson in managing their international relationships...

saoshyant at September 24, 2003 10:29 PM [permalink]:

Will the Mullah's ever learn?

Or the See-Saw of diplomacy will break under them and will cause them a nasty hip pain?

Or, a hemlok drinking party will ensue after deciding to resist and having half of the countries infrastructure bombed by the "Coalition"?

By the way, I think SG means Khamenei not Khomeini, because I think Khomeini died after the First Hemlock drinking party, unless that was hypothetical question?

Ali Mahani at September 25, 2003 02:25 AM [permalink]:

Senior Grad-

You got it wrong, pal. Khomeini bit the dust 14 years ago. That old bugger running the country now is called Khamene'ei.

Arash Jalali at September 25, 2003 06:26 AM [permalink]:

Thank you Babak for your very informative article. There is one point which I would like to add:

I wholeheartedly agree that the Iranian foreign policy and diplomacy is hopeless to put it mildly; but I think we should try to be more analytic in our discussions and rely less on general criticisms. Blaming it all on the inefficiency of the system, very true and justified though it might be, does not, in my opinion, add much to the content of our discussions. I believe the system is sometimes unable to make a right move even if it indeed wants to. Babak mentioned a letter from three European countries that offered the Islamic Republic technical assistance in their "peaceful" nuclear projects if and when they sign the additional NPT protocol. One could simply call rejecting it another isolated miscalculated move by the incompetent regime but could the situation be a little more complicated than that? Could it be because of a much graver miscalculation they made years before?
When the regime decided to jumpstart its nuclear program it was so much in isolation, and it had developed such an awful reputation and image for itself that it simply could not call for bids on building a nuclear infrastructure. Russia saw this as a golden opportunity and signed another Turkmanchai with the desperate and incompetent Iranian politicians. I think it is quite possible that the I.R. government couldn't accept the offer simply because their prior multi-facetted consents to the Russians practically had grabbed them by the balls. Add to this, the pressure from the bloodsucking lobbyists within the regime who are willing to put their own wives up for grabs by the highest bidders let alone the interests of a nation.
This fiasco is much more large-scaled than this. It encompasses much more than the nuclear industry. Iran is paying the same price if not higher in the aviation industry, the territorial dispute in the Caspian Sea, as well as in enhancing Iran's conventional military arsenal.
I think the greatest mistake the Islamists made was their constant insistence on their wrong and unjustifiable positions regarding the Middle East and the U.S. They had so many opportunities to make amends with the Americans especially during the Clinton era and they blew it and now they, or better to say Iranian people, are paying the price for making the same mistake over and over again.
I think the roots of most of Iran's failures in international affairs lies in the fact that the policymakers at the top are not politicians in the true sense of word. Not in the sense Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Putin are, or Hafiz Assad of Syria was. They seem to be unable to make a distiction between a marriage and a political alliance.

Mehrad at September 25, 2003 06:45 AM [permalink]:

Dear Senior Grad,

Whould you please make us all delighted and mark our posts from now on? That, I guess, will help other Junior Undergrads to improve their level of writing and discussing...

By the way, isn't your real name, by any chance, M.Mansouri? Sorry if I'm wrong, but you remind me of a close friend back in Iran.

saoshyant at September 25, 2003 08:19 AM [permalink]:

Arash J et al.:

Arash J said:

"I think the roots of most of Iran's failures in international affairs lies in the fact that the policymakers at the top are not politicians in the true sense of word."

Yes, "Policy Makers at the top are not Politicians in the ture sense of the word".

I have a question though: What do you mean by "the true sense of the word"?

If you look at it from the realpolitik of power, the regimes' most infamous men (such as Mr. Rafsanjani) are the ones who have elminitated all their opposition, from within their own ranks, and from within and without the country in the most fascinating and brutal way. They have survived a war, economic crises, student movements, etc.

They have also managed to effectively send to exile almost every brilliant person that they could (chief amongst them my peers who contribute to this website), and keep the most incompetent, loyal, fanatic, and more frequently corrupt ones in critical positions.

Would you mind rephrasing "True Politicians" to "Competent Diplomats"?

I think the hooligans who are in charge of the Iranian Foreign Policy in general, which should be the Office of Mr. Khamenei, are effectively people whose mindset is that of street thugs and not diplomats.

Diplomacy is non-existent both in terminology and practice of the Supreme Mullah.

Arash Jalali at September 25, 2003 01:04 PM [permalink]:
Dear Saoshyant, Your suggestion is almost right to the point I was trying to make and I gratefully accept the correction you have kindly proposed. As the core of my sentence reflects, I was too trying to refer to international affairs. However, allow me to humbly point out to very subtle aspects of the two words "politician" and "diplomat" which I somehow (maybe unconsciously) had in mind when using the word politician. With all due respect to all other respectable dictionaries, I should like to take the OED as my refernce: politician 1. A politic person; chiefly in a sinister sense, a shrewd schemer; a crafty plotter or intriguer. Obs. 2. One versed in the theory or science of government and the art of governing; one skilled in politics; one practically engaged in conducting the business of the state; a statesman. b. One keenly interested in politics; one who engages in party politics, or in political strife, or who makes politics his profession or business; also (esp. in U.S.), in a sinister sense, one who lives by politics as a trade. diplomat One employed or skilled in diplomacy; a diplomatist. diplomacy I.1. The management of international relations by negotiation; the method by which these relations are adjusted and managed by ambassadors and envoys; the business or art of the diplomatist; skill or address in the conduct of international intercourse and negotiations. 2. The diplomatic body. 3. Skill or address in the management of relations of any kind; artful management in dealing with others. 1- This provides evidence by itself that your criticism is very well justified, but I think I was somehow misunderstood when saying that "the policymakers at the top are not politicians in the true sense of word" as meaning that they are not politicians in the "sinister" sense (which according to Oxford is rather obsolete). They are indeed ruthless plotters and schemers although not very subtle and intelligent in the Shakespearean sense of the word (I'm refering to the character of Richard III). They have done and still do all those awful things that you mentioned and more, simply because they have the power, and they undertake them shamelessly, quite openly and without the slightest bit of subtlety or "politics". So even in that sinister sense of the word, I think not all of them are worthy of the title "politician". 2- A politician by definition is a statesman; "one who is skilled in the management of public affairs." Now I believe a good leader never makes a statement that could easily be refuted simply by future course of events, and even if he/she does, never allows it to become a slogan written on every wall in town. A true politician never says "never". I believe most of you find these quotes very familiar: "Even if the war lasts for 20 years, we will stand". "War, War, until Victory". "Oh Lord! Oh Lord! Until Mahdi's revolution, keep [...] alive". Friendship with the U.S. is like friendship between a sheep and a wolf. (paraphrased) 3- Since I mentioned Hafiz Assad of Syria, let me also remind you of an example. For the past 25 years, Iran has categorically denied even the existence of Israel as a country. We do not negotiate with them (at least not openly and not by the foreign ministry). We do not mention the name of the country and only refer to them as "the occupying regime". We do not even allow our athletes compete with theirs very much like two ordinary people who have this deep feeling of persona ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Senior Grad at September 25, 2003 04:25 PM [permalink]:

Jesus H. Christ! I said what *would* Khomeini do? Not what will he do! I know he died long time ago. Haven't you guys heard the famous phrase: "What would Jesus do?" I was just parodying it.

Mehrad: What do you mean by "marking your posts"? By the way, wrong guess, pal! ;-) Next time you want to make a guess about who I am please email me and I'll discreetly inform you about the faslehood of your guess. Thanks a zillion. :-)

saoshyant at September 25, 2003 04:53 PM [permalink]:

Arash J:

I really appreciate that you took time to look it through. I had never thought about the subtle differences that the two terms could have.

My illiteracy is now most humbly exposed, not to mention that I am grateful for the explanation and the reference,

Most Sincerely,


Babak S at September 25, 2003 07:07 PM [permalink]:

Arash: I agree that the base of the diplomacy is and has been very poor among the Islamic government officials. Thus, I also agree that the mistake they made by refusing the terms of the EU letter should not be considered as an isolated act. It finds its full meaning when you put it in the context of all the past deeds of the regime, starting from the hostage taking fiasco and on. I just wanted to underline the fact that they, once again, managed to deprive themselves of a golden chance to get out of the line of crisis; and that the people who think about changing the current hopeless state of affairs, should not make the same mistake.

saoshyant at September 25, 2003 09:25 PM [permalink]:

Arash J:

From your previous posting I think it would be good if you had time and would make a posting concerning the impolitics and non-diplomacy of the Islamic Republic.