The Meddling Rice

Even after years of go-anywhere see-anything inspections, Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, continues to report to the IAEA Board of Governors that he can find no indication that Iran now has, ever had, or intends to have a nuclear weapons program.

Nevertheless, last week Secretary of State Condi Rice "determined" – pursuant to Presidential Directive 12938, as amended – that the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran had engaged in activities or transactions that materially contributed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Whereupon Treasury Secretary Snow immediately "blocked" all the Iranian agency’s U.S. assets.

Of course, it’s doubtful that the Atomic Energy Agency had any assets in the U.S. to seize. So, why did Bush-Rice-Snow bother to seize them?

Apparently, so Bush could threaten this week to seize – pursuant to Presidential Directive 12938, as amended – all the U.S. assets of any foreign company that provides (or attempts to provide) financial, material, technological or other support to the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran.

France’s new foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, was in Washington to "review" with Condi the state of the "Paris negotiations" between the European Union and Iran.

Last November, France, Germany and the United Kingdom – as agents for the European Union – began negotiations with Iran on "a mutually acceptable long-term arrangement" that would a) provide "objective guarantees" to the EU that Iran’s nuclear program was exclusively for peaceful purposes, b) guarantee future EU-Iranian nuclear, technological and economic "cooperation" as well as c) provide "firm commitments" by the EU to Iran "on security issues."

Now, the key to preventing nuke proliferation is the international control of the acquisition and chemical/physical transformation of certain "nuclear" materials. In return for a promise not to acquire or seek to acquire nuclear weapons, the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons recognizes the "inalienable right" of all signatories to acquire and transform those materials, subject to oversight by the IAEA Safeguards regime.

The EU-Iran negotiating agreement reaffirmed Iran’s "inalienable right" under the NPT to acquire and operate – subject to the IAEA Safeguards regime – any and all nuclear fuel-cycle facilities.

However, as a "confidence building measure," Iran volunteered to temporarily suspend its IAEA Safeguarded fuel-cycle activities and invited the IAEA to "verify" to the EU that suspension.

However, the Iranians made it very clear that under no circumstances would they permanently suspend all nuclear fuel-cycle facilities.

So, at best the EU can hope the Iranians would agree to EU-Iranian co-production co-ownership arrangements for reactors and other fuel-cycle facilities.

Hence, if the EU-Iranian talks are successful, numerous European entities – many having substantial U.S. assets – will be providing financial, material, technological and other support to the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran.

Nevertheless, at a joint press conference Douste-Blazy pledged to continue "consulting" with Condi as the Europeans prepare a new proposal, which "might" include security guarantees for Iran.

Douste-Blazy noted that for the EU to give Iran such "security guarantees" – which is Iran’s "ultimate objective" in the negotiations – it would be necessary for the U.S. to endorse those guarantees.

So, obviously, Condi had summoned Douste-Blazy to Washington to tell him that the success of the EU-Iranian negotiations was her "ultimate objective."

And, that she had been mistaken when she "determined" just a few days before that the Iranians were using the Safeguarded nuclear programs at their Atomic Energy Agency to hide a secret nuke program.

And, that President Bush had absolutely no intention of seizing the U.S. assets of any European entity – public or private – that was a party to any "mutually acceptable long-term arrangement" with the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran.


But then Douste-Blazy declared, "Our ultimate objective is to insure that there is a suspension of the enrichment and reprocessing of hazardous nuclear material."

Whoa! Up until now, that hasn’t been the EU "ultimate objective." Re-establishment of normal banking and trade relations with Iran – disrupted for more than 20 years by U.S. sanctions on European entities that have attempted to do business in Iran and with Iranians – has been.

So, what did Condi actually tell Douste-Blazy?

"Well, the Paris agreement is initially about suspension. But ultimately, the world has to be assured that Iran cannot have this [nuclear fuel-cycle] capability. And that there will ultimately have to be objective guarantees, and we believe that means cessation."

That tears it. No EU offer that makes that voluntary suspension an enforced cessation will be acceptable to the Iranians.

So, thanks to Condi’s "determination," there won’t be a EU-Iranian agreement.

July 15, 2005