Iran delivered its long-awaited response to the invitation by Western governments to begin another round of negotiations yesterday. The actual document has been held very closely for the last 24 hours, but a copy has recently been made available online, via Dafna Linzer of the website Pro Publica.
The proposal was somewhat disappointing, though by no means closed the door on constructive engagement. Unfortunately, by the time the actual document was released, the media and many policymakers had already made up their minds about what the package said, based on accounts from western diplomats. For example, this morning’s Wall Street Journal:
Iran Dims Hopes for Diplomacy
By FARNAZ FASSIHI and JAY SOLOMON
Iran rejected any compromise with the West over its nuclear program Wednesday…
Iran offered Western officials a long-awaited package of proposals to restart negotiations over its nuclear program. But diplomats who viewed the offer Wednesday said the document of fewer than 10 pages essentially ignored questions over Iran’s production of nuclear fuel and instead focused broadly on other international issues.
It made no mention of Tehran’s willingness to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities or to enter into substantive talks about the future of its nuclear program, they said.
Laura Rozen, now of Politico, quoted an unnamed diplomat as saying: “it is not a serious response.” “It doesn’t really address the clear problem,” and makes no mention of the international community’s chief concern, Iran’s nuclear program.
But I read the package of proposals, and I can’t find a single passage that would lead me to believe that Iran “rejected” any possible compromise, as the Wall Street Journal asserts; nor does the document “make no mention” of nuclear matters.
See for yourself; here are a few passages that I’ve copied from the document:
The Iranian nation is prepared to enter into dialogue and negotiation in order to lay the ground for lasting peace and regionally inspired and generated stability for the region and beyond and for the continued progress and prosperity of the nations of the region and the world.
Shakespeare, it is not–but I hardly think we should get hung up on grammar and punctuation when we’re talking about matters of nuclear nonproliferation. Continue:
We stand ready to enter into this dialogue on the basis of godly and human principles and values, including the recognition of the rights of nations, respect for sovereignty and principles of democracy and the right of people to have free elections, as well as refraining from imposing pressure or threats and moving forward on the solid foundation of justice and law.
Again, I’m not sure where that “rejection” of talks comes in, though that bit about free elections probably caused a chuckle or two. But if the international community changed the rules for diplomacy recently to prohibit ambassadors from making laughably hypocritical statements, then the entire diplomatic profession is going to suffer, not just Iran.
The Islamic Republic of Iran voices its readiness to embark on comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations aimed at acquiring a clear framework for cooperative relationship by ensuring the adherence of all parties to collective commitments…
Sure, that’s probably a shot at Israel for not joining the NPT, but Iran has joined the NPT and they have got to know that they’re bound by these same “collective commitments.” It would stand to reason that a round of negotiations about parties’ adherence to nuclear commitments would focus at least some attention on Iran’s safeguards agreement.
Finally, the document lays out a framework of three areas that negotiations could focus on: political-security issues, international issues, and economic issues. And yes, the term “nuclear issues” is noticeably absent. But their suggestions do include the following:
2.4 Definition and codification of the rights relating to new and advanced technologies.
2.5 Promoting a rule-based and equitable oversight function of the IAEA and creating the required mechanisms for use of clean nuclear energy in agriculture, industry, and medicine and power generation.
2.6 Promoting the universality of NPT mobilizing global resolve and putting into action real and fundamental programmes toward complete disarmament and preventing development and proliferation of nuclear, chemical and microbial weapons.
If critics want to harp on the fact that Iran’s response talks about these matters in general terms, rather than being self-referential, then they are welcome to. But that is a critique of style, not substance. To characterize this document as a “rejection” of negotiations, or as “ignoring” the key issues is disingenuous and false. Period.Back to top