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Iran Talks with Russia Stall Predictably

Today’s awaited talks between Russia and Iran for negotiating particulars in the Russian Proposal for enriching Iran’s uranium on Russian soil have ended and passed without resolution or agreement. The maneuver to first delay the talks and then re-enter into them with Russia served the purpose of buying Iran both time and also to relieve international pressure, both in the short term, ahead of the March 6 meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors regarding Iran’s nuclear program and the threat its clandestine nature poses.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, called for Iran to reinstate the freeze on its enrichment activities and said that it was “premature to speak of [the] results” of today’s talks with Iran because there would be more talks in the future. It is not, however, premature to declare that Iran’s bid to buy one more minor installment of time has been successful. Lavrov added that Moscow’s expectations are ‘reserved’ for the talks, but simply wants to forestall military action or economic sanctions against an important Russian partner.

Mixed signals have come to characterize Iranian statements on their nuclear program and talks with the West and Russia. While Ali Larijani spoke positively of the Russian Proposal during a Moscow visit last month, today from Brussels after the Russian-Iranian talks broke, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki ensured that Iran seeks a peaceful solution to the nuclear standoff. He also added, “We have committed ourselves not to move for nuclear weapons based on our religious belief. Nuclear weapons have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine.”

But that is contradicted by the recent fatwa issued by Mohsen Gharavian, who, like Ahmadinejad, is a disciple of the radical Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi and dedicated to preparing the way for the return of the 12th Imam. In the fatwa, it was declared that the use of nuclear weapons is not against the principles of Islam and therefor a viable weapon to pursue and potentially use.

With the added context of the fact that Iran wants 20 nuclear power plants and has a bill before the Iranian mejlis to fund the research and construction of them, the true purpose of Iran’s ‘peaceful nuclear energy program’ becomes undeniably clearer. With all of the current difficulty presently swirling around Iran’s existing program, expanding it by an additional 20 reactors seems an illogical allocation of resources for a country supposedly seeking to pursue civilian power generation.

Consider that the U.S. has only 104 commercial nuclear reactors generating electricity, and a far greater power consumption rate per capita. Consider also that Iran, OPEC’s second greatest oil exporter with 5% of the world’s production, imports a significant amount of gasoline and other refined products because it lacks the refining capacity to meet its own needs. Consider also that the Busheur nuclear plant on Iran’s Persian Gulf coast carries a $800-900 million price tag alone.

And now, rather than invest in conventional power plants utilizing the abundance of hydrocarbons available for the cost of pumping them or increasing refining capabilities, Iran is determined to construct an additional 20 nuclear plants? This fails to address a serious strategic and economic Achilles heel for a country that portrays its nuclear program as simply a peaceful domestic energy program.

Can there be any question as to Iran’s true intentions?

The non-productive talks with Russia are a stall for time. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else.

Feedback

Without plans for 20 nuclear power plants, Iran won't possibly be able to justify the size of it's enrichment operations.

If a deal does get done, full scale inspections will be required. More centrifuges will be found than can reasonably be justified as "enrichment" for a couple of power plants.

Iran needs to find "plausible deniability" prior to any deal.

Plausible deniability really amounts to letting the EU -- and to a lesser extent Russia and China -- off the hook for having to make a difficult decision.