Jul 032010
 

MEHMOOD-UL-HASSAN KHAN

Diversified but integrated diplomatic efforts, regional seminars and international conferences on nuclear arsenals reduction, nuclear proliferation treaty, nuclear free zone and the last not the least, nuclear fuel swap are going on around the globe. Meanwhile, power centers of the world are closely engaged with their strategic allies for the imposition of severe socio-economic sanctions on Iran. On the other hand, government of Iran had made a timely good strategic move and offered the idea of “nuclear fuel swap”. Some Western experts termed it too late to be implemented. Others regional strategists labeled it strategic cushion for Iran. Some political pundits predicted “emergence of a new power of axis”. The new idea gathered support as well as total rejection from the West. Following is given the salient features of the joint declaration by Iran, Turkey and Brazil.

Salient Features

Recently, Tehran, Brazil and Turkey via their foreign ministers, signed a groundbreaking nuclear fuel swap agreement.

a. Strong commitment to NPT

Iran, Turkey and Brazil reassured their political commitment on the subject of NPT. They pledged their support to all the related articles of the NPT which recalled the right of all state parties, including the Iran, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy as well as nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment activities for peaceful purposes without discrimination.

b. Beginning of a positive and forward looking process

All the countries expressed their strong conviction on the beginning of a forward looking process that would create a positive, constructive, non-confrontational atmosphere leading to an era of interaction and cooperation.

c. Nuclear fuel exchange

They all believed that the nuclear fuel swap is instrumental in initiating cooperation in different areas, especially with regard to peaceful nuclear cooperation including nuclear power plant and research reactors construction.

d. Peaceful Nuclear Activities

They considered that the nuclear fuel exchange is a starting point to begin cooperation and a positive constructive move forward among countries. They stressed the need to have a move lead to positive interaction and cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities replacing and avoiding all kinds of confrontation through refraining from measures, actions and rhetorical statements that would jeopardize Iran’s rights and obligations under the NPT.

e. Iran’s Strong Political Commitment

Iran agreed to deposit 1200 kg LEU some 58 per cent of its stock in Turkey. It was decided that while in Turkey that LEU would continue to be the property of Iran. Iran and the IAEA may station observers to monitor the safekeeping of the LEU in Turkey.

f. Mutual Cooperation between Iran and IAEA

It is agreed that Iran will notify the IAEA in writing through official channels of its agreement with the above within seven days following the date of this declaration. Upon the positive response of the Vienna Group (US, Russia, France and the IAEA) further details of the exchange will be elaborated through a written agreement and proper arrangement between Iran and the Vienna Group that specifically committed themselves to deliver 120 kg of fuel needed for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).

g. Vienna Group’s Commitment

When the Vienna Group declares its commitment to this provision, then both parties would commit themselves to the implementation of the agreement mentioned in item 6. Iran expressed its readiness to deposit its LEU (1200 kg) within one month. On the basis of the same agreement the Vienna Group should deliver 120 kg fuel required for TRR in no later than one year.

h. If joint declaration not accepted

In case the provisions of this Declaration are not respected Turkey, upon the request of Iran, will return swiftly and unconditionally Iran’s LEU to Iran.

The above mentioned joint declaration shows, political commitment based on strategic thinking to defuse looming tensions of confrontation between the Iran and the West. Furthermore, they initiated a serious effort to avoid expected heavy imposition of socio-economic sanctions on Iran. It is predicted that if accepted by the West it could largely defuse the international crisis over Iran’s nuclear. Moreover, it would be a considerable contribution to the regional peace and international harmony in the days to come. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister appealed to the international community to support the fuel swap deal. He urged the international community to support the final declaration for the sake of world peace.

The 10-point deal, signed at the Group of 15 (G-15) summit in Iran, represents a major foreign policy shift of Iran and is likely to thwart US-led efforts to gain United Nations Security Council approval for a fourth round of sanctions against

Expected Beneficiaries

Iran

By floating new idea of nuclear fuel exchange Iran succeeded to gather strategic cushion to delay expected imposition of socio-economic sanctions. Iran achieved the support of Brazil and Turkey (both are emerging economic powers) which would be useful for its economy and society alike in the days to come. It is the victory of diplomacy over destruction and dialogue over deadly consequences of armed confrontation. It offers a way out of the looming confrontation with the US. It also means that he can extend its ties with fellow developing nations.

Brazil

It raised the geo-political status of Brazil in the Muslim as well as developing countries. It also indicates diplomatic surge in Brazilian foreign policy. It has balked at US urges for sanctions on Iran over their nuclear programme. Brazil was a permanent seat at the UN Security Council and this joint declaration enhances its international standing and claim for it.

Turkey

It has achieved strategic sympathies in Muslim world. It has made Turkey an emerging power equalizer in the Middle East and international power broker. Furthermore, it has also given the chance of facilitator between the West especially the Iran and the USA. Right from onward, Turkey may be used as a bridge between the West and the Muslim world. It signed gas and other business deals with Tehran worth millions of dollars. Turkish exports to Iran are estimated at $10 billion (Dh36.7 billion), and both countries expect to triple their trade volume in the near future. It is predicted that if the Tehran agreement sticks, it can only further enhance Turkey’s beneficent regional role as a mediator and peacemaker.

The above table clearly reflects the Iran’s strong political commitment along with Turkey and Brazil forward looking strategic paradigm shift to avoid any further global confrontation and bring peace in the region too. It is predicted that Brazil, and will win good support throughout the developing world as well as in the Middle East region. It seems that Iran has consolidated its diplomatic ties with Brazil and Turkey. Iran will feel far less isolated on the international scene. Turkey can claim a diplomatic victory and onward march to add to its many foreign policy successes of the past year. Turkey has tremendously improved diplomatic relations with Syria, Iraq and Iran, as well as with other countries in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Expected losers

Israel

Israel got disappointment on the Iran’s nuclear fuel exchange deal. It further frustrated on the delaying of sanctions against Iran. Bad news after bad news, i.e. leakage of news regarding Israel nuclear proliferation and deal with South Africa and most recently happened sad incident of “Freedom Flotilla” badly produced dints in the Israel foreign policy. It has defamed so called high value public opinion in the world and halted its expansionary geo-political and geo-strategic interests in the region. As usually, a senior Israeli official accused Iran of having “manipulated” Turkey and Brazil over the exchange. “The Iranians have already pulled off such a trick in the past by pretending to accept such a procedure to lower tensions and reduce the risk of harsher international sanctions, then refusing to follow through.

USA

Timing considers being an essential part of power politics and any delay in power politics game causes geo-political and geo-strategic fallbacks. By Iran’s nuclear fuel exchange, unearthing of Israel nuclear deal with South Africa, joint declaration of recently ended NPT conference (Middle East should be declared nuclear free zone), Greece worsening socio-economic conditions, and the last not the least, Israel gross human right violation forced hawks in Washington to wait further for the time being.

The above table expresses the multiplier effects geo-political and geo-strategic implications of Iran’s nuclear fuel exchange and US and its allies desire to impose socio-economic sanction and further political isolation of Iran on the alleged issue of nuclear program.

Serious efforts are also carried out in many parts of the world and Central Asia is not any exemption on the issue of NPT, nuclear reduction and the last not the least nuclear free zone. Many countries especially Uzbekistan has had been trying its levels best to achieve that noble cause of nuclear free zone in the Central Asia region. President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov presented the idea of nuclear free zone at the 48th session of the UN General Assembly on September 28, 1993. The initiative of Uzbekistan was fully supported by its neighbors Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on the basis of Almaty Declaration, which was adopted in February 1997. The proposal has created the atmosphere of political trust in the area of nuclear nonproliferation among the regional countries in Central Asia.

The “Central Asia “Nuclear Free Zone” international conference, took place in Tashkent on September 15, 1997 is considered to be a significant event along the way of establishing a nuclear free zone. The efforts of countries of the region, which strove to expand the areas of the planet, where nuclear weapon and nuclear tests would be banned forever, were positively assessed during the meeting. The Regional Expert Group (REG) for preparing the relevant treaty was established on the outcomes of the conference.

From 1997 to 2002 with active contribution of the UN Disarmament Department and IAEA experts a number of working meetings of REG was held in such cities as Geneva, Ashgabat, Tashkent an two meeting were held in Sapporo (Japan) and Samarkand (Uzbekistan). At the last meeting in Samarkand on September 27, 2003 the agreement was achieved on holding the signing ceremony of the Treaty in Kazakhstan. The two consultative meetings with the experts of “nuclear five” (UK, China, Russia, USA and France were held in the second half of 2002 at the UN headquarters. Upon the outcomes of these meetings the significant amendments and proposals were introduced into the draft of the document. Furthermore, in 2005 Tashkent hosted the 7th meeting of REG during which the common position of Central Asian countries was agreed upon the text of the Treaty with taking into account the proposals and comments of the countries of the “nuclear five”, IAEA and the UN Legal Department. Signing of the document on September 8, 2006 has become a result of a several years-long joint work of region’s countries with active contribution and participation of the United Nations, IAEA countries of the “nuclear five” UK, China, Russia USA and France. It should be especially underscored that the initiative has been supported by all UN member-states, including countries which possess the nuclear weapon. Also, the role of the United Nations, which for the first time took a direct part in elaborating and agreeing the draft Treaty, should be stressed. After ratification by the Republic of Uzbekistan (May 5, 2007), Kyrgyz Republic (July 27, 2007), Republic of Tajikistan (January 1, 2009), Turkmenistan (January 17, 2009) and Kazakhstan (February 19, 2009) the Treaty came into effect on March 21, 2009. The Treaty is of indefinite-term. The practical implementation of the initiative of President of Uzbekistan coincides with the priority tasks of foreign policy on maintaining the national security for a stable and sustainable development of our country and the Central Asian region as a whole, contributing to the enhancing of the regime of nuclear nonproliferation.

A little changed world

Next day after the Iran’s nuclear fuel exchange deal, secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented the expected socio-economic sanctions in the press. It is presumed/feared that the draft resolution would expand an arms embargo and measures against Iran’s banking sector and ban it from sensitive overseas activities like uranium mining and developing ballistic missiles. But it is hoped that after the new nuclear fuel exchange proposal the chances of imposition of further sanctions has become weak. It is argued that the sanctions proposal has considerably less global support now than it did before the Teheran deal was struck. History reveals that from Belgrade to Baghdad, Sudan to Somalia sanctions tend to punish and achieved nothing but greater conflict and confrontation. The expected sanctions would produce stronger anti-Americanism in Iran.

It is a standardized process that when the Security Council imposes sanctions on a member country, it is desirable for the body to vote unanimously in favour. But Turkey and Brazil are currently members of the council. If they vote against, they would not defeat the sanctions. But dissent by two countries friendly to the United States would damage the Security Council’s already contested claim to express the will of the world. It seems that power is going away from the US (Iran, Turkey and Brazil together in an act of strategic defiance to the US) which is right now burdened by debts and badly engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Europe is likewise focused on its own financial problems and its attempts to project a unified foreign policy have been lamentable.

Divided World

Joint declaration of nuclear fuel exchange again succeeded to divide the world opinion. The deal has been greeted with great doubt and hostility in the US and its allies which tend to dismiss it as a delaying tactic. The US and its allies said that Iran wanted highly enriched uranium to make an atomic weapon, but Tehran said its nuclear programme was simply designed to meet its increasing civilian energy needs. To USA, the joint declaration “is not a solution for the core of Iran’s enrichment programme”. US has interpreted the Iran’s nuclear fuel exchange agreement as an act of defiance of its global authority. Moreover, he US State Department said that the administration is not willing to hold talks with Iran unless it agrees to a complete halt in uranium enrichment. Russia welcomes the new agreement under which Iran would swap the bulk of its enriched uranium for nuclear fuel in Turkey, but further talks are needed, President Dmitry Medvedev. The European Union said the deal in Tehran failed to alter its concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. “If Iran has now accepted the IAEA proposal, this is welcome, but it does not solve the fundamental problem, which is that the international community has serious concerns about the peaceful intention of the Iranian nuclear program,”

The director of the China National Association of International Studies says China welcomes news of the Iran uranium exchange plan as “a very positive step in the right direction”. To him, imposing sanctions would serve to further isolate Iran and make the situation more explosive. He further asserted that “diplomatic efforts should be the top priority. Even France welcomed Iran’s nuclear fuel swap. It seems that with the joint declaration, Turkey and Brazil have immensely complicated the US strategic push for further socio-economic sanctions. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi of China said his country “expresses its welcome” and looks forward to more negotiations.

Historic perspective: Nuclear fuel swap

USA

Iran’s LEU must be exported to Russia to be converted into fuel rods for the Bushehr reactor in order take away Iran’s nuclear “break-out capability”.

Iran

Iran came with the proposal that uranium enrichment may be processed in Switzerland. Again, Iran floated the Idea that uranium enrichment may be carried in France and Russia. Iran would send LEU to any country that would enrich it to 20% for the Tehran Research Reactor that led to the formulation of the swap proposal. Afterwards, it shifted the focus of that proposal from Bushehr to the Tehran Research Reactor, and it quickly became an “Iran Six” initiative to temporarily strip Iran of nearly 80% of its LEU.

The officials of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy see a paradigm shift in Iran foreign policy. It points out that Tehran had three major problems with the UN deal last year: that it was required to transfer 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium, that the uranium was to be sent in one shipment, and that the uranium would be processed into rods outside Iran. “Iran has now caved on all three,” They said that “this is not an end to the problem, but a modest step that helps defuse the immediate crisis”.

Concluding Remarks

The recently floated Iran’s nuclear fuel exchange has multiplier socio-economic, geo-political and geo-strategic effects. It reflects the immense power of public relations over. It speaks about the importance of diplomacy. It shows validity of dialogue in the realms of regional or international power politics. Opposite forces and centers of power are making every possible effort to win the race of superiority, supremacy and of course survival. It may be one of the possible way-out to bring peace in the region and as well as in the international power stage. It would be first right step towards normalization of mutual ties even with Iran and the US.

It is the bitter lesson of modern power politics and diplomacy doctrines that imposition of sanctions achieve nothing but greater sentiments of hate, enmity, distrust, isolation, rejection and the last not the least, revengefulness among the nations. Diplomacy, dialogue, and development are supposed to be main three pillars of any surge of foreign policy to achieve conflict resolution and uphold crisis management. Mutual peaceful co-existence, respect for other rights and sovereignty may pave the way of sustainable socio-economic development in the world. Double standards of international community/nations and even regulatory bodies/watch-dogs have already divided the world opinion into multidimensional horizon. Sanctions on one particular country and bounty to another in a same case, is making this planet an ugly place to struggle and survive.

Signs of new axis of power have already been initiated around the globe. Regional power blocks and socio-economic agreements are taking international power structure away from the US and its allies. The fate of Iran’s recently proposed nuclear fuel exchange agreement will depend on the rational attitudes of the US and its allies because stakes are very high and time is very short.

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