RFE/RL Iran Report
A Weekly Review of Developments in and Pertaining to Iran
RADIO FREE EUROPE/ RADIO LIBERTY
3 May 2006, Volume 9, Number 16
AHMADINEJAD REITERATES VIEWS ON ISRAEL.President Mahmud Ahmadinejad told an April 24 news conference that "logically...this fake regime [Israel] cannot continue its existence," Radio Farda reported. Ahmadinejad said the Middle East was not part of World War II, but the war continues to have an adverse impact on the region, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network reported. Ahmadinejad noted that Iran mourns the war's victims, too: "Some 60 million people were killed. We are unhappy that all those people were killed; every single one of those lives is worthy of respect."
He questioned mourning for only some of the war's victims, however, and he asked why Europeans claim to support the Jews so wholeheartedly today when they were so anti-Semitic in the past. Ahmadinejad said Jews living in Israel should be allowed to "return" to their countries of origin. In what appears to have been an allusion to his call for a Palestinian referendum, Ahmadinejad said that Palestinians should be allowed to determine their own fates. Ahmadinejad also addressed the Holocaust, saying research on the subject should be permissible if the West is confident that it occurred.
Ahmadinejad returned to the subject of the Holocaust and World War II in an April 27 speech in Zanjan, state television reported. Ahmadinejad noted the deaths of more than 60 million people in the war, and he added that war still affects "many parts of the world." He asked rhetorically, "Why is the Palestinian nation burning in the flames set by the crimes of the occupying Zionists?" Ahmadinejad explained that the events of the war are "an excuse to murder the Palestinian nation," and he said the Jews are portraying themselves as "victims" so they can get "revenge." Germany does not have "an independent policy" or a "defensive force, the Iranian president claimed, and "that nation is still held hostage by power-hungry impudent Zionists." Ahmadinejad added, "They have been oppressing Germany for 60 years. (Bill Samii)
IRAN DETERMINED TO CONTINUE NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES.Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 23 April in his weekly press conference in Tehran that the Islamic Republic will not reverse course on uranium enrichment or its other nuclear activities, Radio Farda and state television reported. "We are determined not to forfeit our rights," he said. "The [nuclear] research will continue. The issue of suspension is not on the agenda. The issue is irreversible, be it for one hour, one minute, or one second. It is irreversible." He added that no agreement has been reached regarding Moscow's proposal that Iran enrich uranium on Russian soil, and he complained that great powers are pressuring the International Atomic Energy Agency to judge the Iranian nuclear program negatively. The previous day, Assefi noted Western support for the monarchy's nuclear efforts and complained of double standards, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. He ascribed Western opposition to hostility to Iran's independence, and added, "They say because Iran is a defendant of Palestinian rights and...oppressed nations, it should not have access to nuclear technology." (Bill Samii)
IRANIANS DON'T GIVE UP ON NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS.Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said in Tehran on April 25 that Iran will suspend its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) if international sanctions are imposed on his country, Mehr News Agency reported. If the United States attacks Iran's nuclear facilities, he added, the country will continue its nuclear activities clandestinely.
Also in Tehran, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani criticized the IAEA for failing to focus on the technical side of the nuclear question, IRNA reported. He defended the country's record, saying, "Since the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Iran has adopted transparency on [its] nuclear program and met all requirements of the NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty]." The former secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rohani, acknowledged in a speech that was published in the September 30, 2005, issue of "Rahbord" that Iran had been far from forthcoming on aspects of the nuclear program (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 8 March 2006).
Supreme National Security Council official Javad Vaidi said on April 25 that Iran is ready to have talks with the Europeans, IRNA reported, adding that the Europeans previously did not "pay attention to the facts." Hussein Musavian, deputy chief of the Expediency Council's Strategic Research Center, said on April 25 in Tehran that a negotiated solution to the nuclear crisis remains within the realm of possibility, IRNA reported, although the situation has become more complicated lately.
Iran's vice president for atomic energy, Gholamreza Aqazadeh-Khoi, and his deputy for planning, Mohammad Saidi, left Tehran for Vienna on April 24, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported on April 25.
Saidi said on April 27 that the previous day's talks in Vienna with IAEA officials were "good," dpa reported. Saidi predicted that the discussion could affect IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei's upcoming report on Iran. Anonymous diplomats told AFP on April 27 that the Iranians did not offer any new ideas to resolve the current crisis. One anonymous diplomat said Aqazadeh-Khoi "just rattled around on Iran's previously stated positions. He did not propose anything new." (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN REPORTEDLY PURCHASES LONG-RANGE MISSILES FROM PYONGYANG.Major General Amos Yadlin, head of the Intelligence Branch of the Israeli Defense Forces, announced in an April 26 lecture that North Korean missiles purchased by Iran have a 2,500-kilometer range, "Haaretz" reported on April 27. Yadlin added that some of the BM-25 liquid-fuel missiles are already in Iran, and their range exceeds that of the Shihab-4. (Bill Samii)
UNITY STRESSED IN MEETINGS WITH SUDANESE PRESIDENT.Umar Hassan al-Bashir, the president Sudan, arrived in Tehran on April 24, IRNA reported. He was greeted at Mehrabad Airport by Agricultural Jihad Minister Mohammad Reza Eskandari.
On the second day of his visit to Iran, al-Bashir met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Iranian media reported. The theme of unity reportedly arose in every meeting. "Maintaining unity and avoiding discord will be the main factors in foiling conspiracies of the arrogant powers," state television quoted Khamenei as saying. He added, "Over the past several years, global arrogance -- headed by America -- has weakened day by day." Discussing Muslim solidarity, Hashemi-Rafsanjani said, "considering the complex and sensitive conditions dominating the region and the world, the world of Islam bears a heavy responsibility for preventing attacks on some Muslim states," Fars News Agency. "The Iranian and Sudanese nations and governments have a joint enemy that is constantly after creating obstacles in the way of their advancement, and hatch plots against them," Ahmadinejad said, according to IRNA.
Ahmadinejad and al-Bashir attended the signing in Tehran of a cooperation document on April 26, Republic of Sudan Radio reported.
Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki told his Sudanese counterpart, Lam Akol Ajawin, on April 26 that ties between the two countries should be strengthened through more frequent official visits, IRNA reported. Mottaki went on to mention the upcoming Nonaligned Movement meeting in Havana, Cuba, saying that Tehran and Khartoum should try to strengthen that organization.
An editorial in the independent "Khartoum Monitor" on April 18 had questioned the wisdom of the Sudanese visit to Iran and recommended its cancellation. The newspaper said President Ahmadinejad's "provocative and isolationist policies" could "rub off" on Sudan if the countries become too close. Referring to Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel statements, the newspaper said, "A man who talks of letting other people disappear is not worth having as a friend." The editorial concluded: "We cannot have people who preach destruction of fellow human beings as friends. Such people should be called by their real names, terrorists. You never visit terrorists. Have you ever tried to call on Osama bin Laden?" (Bill Samii)
KAMPALA ARRESTS IRANIAN HUCKSTER.Professor Sheikhollah Gholi Elahi, an Iranian who claims he created a substance that expels HIV/AIDS from the body and cures tuberculosis, was arrested in a suburb of the Ugandan capital on April 25, "The New Vision" reported on April 27. Four colleagues were arrested, too. The arrests followed a Health Ministry finding that the people who were allegedly cured continued to be infected.
Elahi's medicaments, called Khomeini I, II, and III, consisted of honey, olive oil, and varying concentrations of minerals.
Minister of State for Primary Health Care Alex Kamugisha told the Ugandan legislature on April 20 that the Institute of Elahi International Initiatives for Development and Education must not treat patients or distribute products, "Daily Monitor" reported on April 21, as legislators demanded the Iranian's arrest. A dose of Elahi's substance cost approximately $1,700 and was allegedly sufficient to cure HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis.
The "Daily Monitor" reported on April 14 that Elahi had written to Health Minister Major-General Jim Muhwezi to complain that he was being left out of the investigation of his remedy's effectiveness. (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN HAILS POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN BAGHDAD.Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki on 23 April congratulated Iraq on the establishment of a permanent government, IRNA reported. Mottaki called for solidarity on the part of all Iraqi political parties, promised Iranian support, and called on the international community to help Iraq in order to hasten the withdrawal of occupation forces.
An international conference on Iraqi affairs began in Tehran on April 24, IRNA reported. Mottaki told the attendees that the foreign occupation of Iraq has not "helped restore security, stability, and tranquility" but has, in fact, worsened the situation. Mottaki went on to attribute terrorism and sectarian strife in Iraq to the occupation forces. He called for the prompt establishment of Iraqi military and security institutions in order to hasten the withdrawal of foreign forces, and promised Iranian assistance. "Iran has always expressed its readiness to help the Iraqi government and people restore security in their country by providing educational assistance and dispatching equipment required by Iraq's police and security forces," he said. Once a permanent government is established in Baghdad, Mottaki continued, Iran will host a meeting of foreign ministers from Iraq's neighboring states. Mottaki cited the construction of oil pipelines connecting Al-Basrah and Abadan, rail links, and bilateral trade as positive signs.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has promoted Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, the charge d'affaires in Baghdad, to the rank of ambassador on April 22, Mehr news agency reported.
Meanwhile, the status of Iran-U.S. talks on Iraqi affairs, which Washington called for in October and Tehran agreed to in mid-March, remains unclear. In Baghdad on April 18, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he will participate in the talks, IRNA reported the next day.
An anonymous Iranian official said on April 19 that neither the date of Iranian-U.S. talks on Iraq has been set, nor has a chief Iranian negotiator been named, IRNA reported. The anonymous official denied that Mohammad Javad Larijani -- who has served in the Foreign Ministry -- would head the Iranian delegation. The previous day, anonymous sources said in the state-run daily "Iran" that Larijani -- because of his extensive diplomatic experience -- and UN Ambassador Mohammad Javad Zarif are likely to be on the negotiating team.
Iran's acting charge d'affaires to Iraq, Hussein Zolanvar, said on April 24 that Iran's Supreme National Security Council will determine the date for Tehran-Washington talks on Iraqi affairs, IRNA reported.
A statement by President Ahmadinejad during an April 24 news conference, however, made the talks seem unlikely. "Our experts announced that we were ready to talk [with the United States] about [the situation in Iraq]," he said, according to Radio Farda. "But even in this case, we saw that [the United States] did not behave well. We are really sorry about their behavior. We think that with the settlement of the permanent Iraqi government, there is no need [for talks], and we hope they will let the Iraqi people administer their country themselves." (Bill Samii)
RENEWED BALUCHI THREATS IN SOUTHEAST.The ethnic Baluchi group known as Jundullah has announced that "it will smash the mouths of those Sunni religious scholars who say anything against them," the official "Iran" newspaper reported on April 25. Jundullah claimed responsibility for a March 16 attack on a motorcade traveling between the cities of Zahedan and Zabol in which more than 20 people were killed and another seven were injured, and in early April it released a videotape in which it claimed to have killed an officer in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," March 29 and April 18, 2006). Baqer Kurd, who represented Zahedan in the sixth parliament (2000-04), discussed continuing insecurity in the province in an interview that appeared in "Etemad-i Melli" daily on April 18. "The government must pay greater attention to creating employment in the province, and allow native forces to have greater involvement in the border control provided by the police and security forces," he said. Kurd called on the government to allow greater involvement of "local elders" and "greater participation by the region's elites and clerics in public, security and social issues." (Bill Samii)
IRANIAN SPOKESMAN: WOMEN'S RIGHTS NOT 'REALISTIC.'Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 22 April in Karaj that the Western perspective on some issues, such as the rights of women and religious minorities, are not "realistic," IRNA reported. Assefi added, "The West, which espouses feminist views, in fact propagates competing roles between men and women, which is unethical." Assefi complained that the rights of women and religious minorities are being manipulated in the international arena for political purposes. (Bill Samii)
CLERIC, LEGISLATOR EXPRESS CONCERN OVER WOMEN'S PRESENCE AT SPORTS EVENTS.Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's source of emulation, on April 26 expressed his opposition to Ahmadinejad's April 24 initiative to allow women to attend sports events featuring the national team, ISNA reported.
Ahmadinejad reasoned when the announcement was made that "contrary to what some people imagine and say, experience has shown that the mass presence of families and women in public places has imposed a healthy morality and decorum in those places."
Mesbah-Yazdi's opposition was conveyed to the president, and the cleric went on to advise people to "perform their religious duty as they understand it." The cleric's announcement appears to be an attempt to encourage vigilantes to intervene against female sports fans.
Conservative Tehran legislator Imad Afrugh said Ahmadinejad's decision was hasty and deserved greater study, the hard-line "Jomhuri-yi Islami" daily reported on April 26. The same decision by any of Ahmadinejad's predecessors would have sparked a great deal of criticism, Afrugh added.
An editorial in "Jomhuri-yi Islami" on April 26 criticized Ahmadinejad's action and said sports venues are not proper places for women, adding, "Let it be known that the condition of those places -- minus women -- is already so unethical, immoral, and vulgar that one has to weep." (Bill Samii)
UNEMPLOYMENT REMAINS A CONCERN IN IRAN.President Ahmadinejad addressed the issue of job creation in his speech in Zanjan on April 27, state television reported. Ahmadinejad prefaced his comments by saying, "I can see some young people here carrying a hand-written cardboard placard which highlight unemployment and ask for jobs." The president described job creation as "one of the government's priorities," and said banks are being restructured and money is being distributed to the provinces, and from them to the townships. Ahmadinejad said 180 trillion rials has been allocated to reduce unemployment.
With International Workers Day (May 1) approaching, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in an April 26 speech to workers in Tehran that their role in the 1978-79 revolution was "critical," state radio reported. Their importance, Khamenei continued, remains unchanged. He said the government will continue to deal with workers' concerns: "The issues identified by government officials in relation to workers and their welfare, dignity, skill, or job security, should be closely looked into. The problems related to temporary contracts, social security and similar things, and the weakness of management which leads to the unemployment of workers, should be wisely and patiently removed."
Hamid Reza Navabpur, who heads the Iran Statistics Center, said on April 24 that the country's unemployment rate surpassed 12.1 percent during the winter, IRNA reported, and he attributed the spike to the seasonal inactivity of agricultural workers. Unemployment stood at 10.8 percent during the summer and 10.9 percent in the fall, he added. Navabpur went on to say that Iran's 20-Year Outlook foresees a 7 percent unemployment rate, and this would necessitate a 4 percent annual rise in employment and an 8.6 percent annual economic growth rate.
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad referred to job-creation efforts in his April 24 news conference, according to Islamic Republic of Iran News Network Television. He said a major portion of government activities had an economic focus, and added, "Development of employment as a need for today was put on the government's agenda." Ahmadinejad continued, "Directing banking funds toward quickly-profiting industries and economic institutions, creating support funds and reducing interest rates were aimed at developing employment."
The director of the Gilan Province Management and Planning Organization, Hussein Arami, said earlier in the month that the provincial unemployment rate is 13.5 percent, "Moin" reported on 8 April. Arami blamed heavy snowfall and factory closures. Unemployment for people aged 16-24 in Gilan is 36.4 percent, he said. The inclusion of seasonal unemployment would bring the provincial average up to 20 percent, he said. (Bill Samii)
YOUNG IRANIANS URGED TO LOWER EXPECTATIONS ABOUT SPOUSES.Ayatollah Ali Amini, the Friday prayer leader in Qom, said in his April 21 sermon that official "marriage consultation centers" should be established in Iran, state television reported. Young people should register at these centers to find a suitable mate, and he advised the youth to lower their expectations. (Bill Samii)
UN DRAWS ATTENTION TO TEHRAN'S ROLE IN LEBANON.Iranian involvement in Lebanese affairs has been an issue since the early 1980s, and it came in for renewed attention last week. On April 18, a United Nations report urged Tehran to cooperate to resolve Lebanese issues. Washington's ambassador to the UN has welcomed the spotlight on Iran's involvement in Lebanon, while an outspoken Lebanese politician has been decrying this problem for some time.
UN Security Council Resolution 1559 made in 2004 calls for a withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon and the disarming of the country's militias. Syrian forces have pulled out, but UN special rapporteur Terje Roed-Larsen noted in his April 18 report that the provision calling for "the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias" has not been "fully implemented."
The report refers to Hizballah as "the most significant Lebanese militia," and it adds, "There has not yet been any noticeable change in the operational status and capabilities of Hizballah." Referring obliquely to the influence of Iran and Syria on Hizballah, the report adds, "a dialogue with parties other than the Lebanese authorities is indispensable" in the pursuit of disarming and disbanding the militias.
Syrian And Iranian Cooperation Needed
The UN report concludes: "[with] the necessary cooperation of all other relevant parties, including Syria and Iran, the difficulties of the past can be overcome and significant further headway be made towards the full implementation of resolution 1559."
U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton hailed the report's attention to Iranian influence in Lebanese affairs, voanews.com reported on April 19. He said, "I think it's a recognition by the secretary-general [of the UN, Kofi Annan,] that Iran's financing of terrorist groups in Lebanon and Syria has a significant impact on what happens in those two countries."
Hizballah sees itself as a resistance movement rather than a militia and, according to the recent UN report, Hizballah justifies its "resistance" status in the context of "Israel's ongoing occupation of the Shabaa farms area, which the United Nations has determined to be Israeli-occupied Syrian territory and which many Lebanese continue to assert is Lebanese."
The Issue Of The Shabaa Farms
The questionable status of the Shabaa farms was addressed several months earlier by the man who is possibly the most outspoken critic of Iranian and Syrian involvement in Lebanese affairs -- parliamentarian Walid Jumblatt, who is the leader of the Druze sect and the Progressive Socialist Party.
On February 12, Jumblatt contrasted a 1962 Lebanese army map that shows the Shabaa farms are outside Lebanon's borders with a 2001 map provided by Lebanon's former director-general of general security, Major General Jamil al-Sayyid, which shows the farms within Lebanese territory. Jumblatt said this new map and the principle of the liberation of the Shabaa farms through resistance are an obstacle to building Lebanon, LNNA reported. "This map permits an armed force [Hizballah] to control the south and to use it indefinitely, through the Lebanese-Syrian-Iranian alliance, for the benefit of the [Syrian] regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran, while Lebanon remains a captive," Jumblatt said. Use of the newer map means that "Lebanon's destiny and independence remain in limbo for many years to come," Jumblatt said, adding that Lebanon risks remaining "a hostage of the avarice of the Syrian regime and of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Major General al-Sayyid's attorney rejected on February 14 allegations that the Shabaa farms issue reflects Syrian manipulation of international borders, LNNA reported. Attorney Akram Azzuri explained on behalf of his client that the last agreement on the issue was reached in 1966 and approved by the governors of the Bekaa region and of rural Damascus. "This agreement specified the location of the farms within the Lebanese property ownership borders," he added, and maps drawn after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon reflect this.
As the Lebanese disputed possible gerrymandering, events occurred that supported the accusations of Iranian interference and links with Hizballah. Lebanese Labor Minister Trad Hamadeh said in Tehran on February 13 that he thanks Iran for supporting his country and its resistance against what the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) termed "Zionist threats and aggression." He added, "Iran has always been a forerunner in supporting the Palestinian nation to resist Israel's systematic killing of Palestinians." He went on to criticize those who do not approve of the Iran-Syria coalition.
Lebanese President Emil Lahud met with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki in Beirut on 16 February, LNNA reported, and told him that Lebanese unity, combined with "the support for Lebanon by fraternal and friendly countries, chiefly Syria and Iran," is essential in successfully resisting international pressure. Lahud said the promotion of democracy in the region is actually a pretext for controlling countries.
Hizballah Denies The Charges
Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah addressed allegations about Iran's role in a February 16 speech in Beirut, Al-Manar television reported. Nasrallah thanked Iran and Syria for supporting the "resistance" against the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. He then alluded to allegations that Syria created the Shabaa farms issue as a pretext for undermining stability and peace in Lebanon, and that the country is being manipulated by Iran, Syria, and Hizballah. "Some may accuse us and say we speak at the request of Syria or Iran or to serve their motives," he said. "I say we are not doing so." Nasrallah said Hizballah is not part of any coalition, and it has been consistent in its stance on numerous issues.
Nasrallah's denials are not very convincing. He visited Tehran in August 2005 to meet with newly inaugurated President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and the two met again in Damascus on January 20. Nasrallah met with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani on April 13, when the Iranian visited Damascus. A Hizballah delegation headed by Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qasim met with Ahmadinejad in Tehran on April 18.
Nevertheless, it is Druze leader Jumblatt who has been the most consistent critic of Iran, and he repeated his claims just days before the UN report was issued. Jumblatt noted that some Lebanese Shi'ites are loyal to their home country, but "there is a large political extension by the Islamic Republic of Iran that tries to use the Shi'ites in purposes that are not in the interest of the Arab world," "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported on April 17. Jumblatt called Hizballah an instrument of Iranian influence in Lebanese affairs, adding, "Hizballah is a faction that is politically linked to the Republic of Iran." (Bill Samii)
IRAN SEEKS 'NATIONAL' INTERNET.Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Suleimani announced on April 19 that Iran intends to establish a "national" Internet this year, state television reported. He explained that the current requirement that information on a website must exit the country and then return in order for users to access it is quite costly. "Our people may not feel the problem, but this problem is there anyway," he continued. Suleimani went on to say that this effort began a few months earlier with the connection of the country's universities to a fiber-optic network. (Bill Samii)
U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IAEA DISCUSSES IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM.Radio Farda spoke with U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Gregory Schulte on April 10.
Radio Farda: You and many other officials in the Bush administration say that you support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy, but then you say you don't want Iran to have technology for enriching uranium. To many Iranians, these are the same thing. How would you explain the differences?
Gregory Schulte: Well, the United States does support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy, but the right comes with an obligation, and that's an obligation to cooperate with the IAEA. And when Iran signed the [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] NPT, it promised that cooperation, but unfortunately the leadership has broken that promise. As you know, they've hidden the nuclear program for 18 years, they repeatedly lied about the extent of the program, and they refuse to provide full cooperation with the IAEA.
So Iran needs to abide by its obligations, but we don't object to the peaceful use of nuclear technology. In fact we don't object to the efforts that have been undertaken by the EU and Russia -- we've supported these efforts to give Iran access to nuclear technology. What concerns the world -- not just the United States, but many other countries -- is Iran's pursuit of enrichment and reprocessing technologies; technologies that it doesn't need to the civil use of nuclear power today, but technologies that have given the world such concern because we're concerned the intention is a military one.
Radio Farda: Right, but Iran says it needs these technologies to produce its own nuclear fuel. There is a concern that if Iran gives up its ability to produce its nuclear fuel inside the country, then Iran would be dependent on foreign sources. There is a concern that great powers, such as the United States, could use this politically, perhaps to undermine Iran's independence. What is your response?
Schulte: Well, Iran's development of enrichment and reprocessing technologies does not make any sense economically. First, Iran, as you know, doesn't have a nuclear power reactor. For the one that's under construction at Bushehr, the government of Iran has a contract with the Russian Federation to provide it fuel for the next 10 years.
Secondly, having the capability to enrich uranium doesn't make Iran independent from foreign energy sources. In fact, Iran has only enough uranium -- by its own admission -- in Iran to fuel a small program of nuclear power for a few years.
And then finally, economically it makes no sense. Iran could save tens of millions of dollars a year by buying nuclear fuel instead of making it. A good example here is South Korea. South Korea has 20 nuclear power plants, and it doesn't enrich its own fuel. It saves money, and it has reliable source of supply in the international market, which is very diversified. South Korea, a very advanced country technologically, has made the right choice. The right choice for the Iranian people is not to sink all this money into enrichment and reprocessing technologies, but to pursue nuclear power without there technologies.
Radio Farda: The Bush administration has repeatedly mentioned the problem of human rights and democracy in Iran. If Iran's leaders embraced freedom, human rights, and democracy, do you think the nuclear issue would be less of a problem?
Schulte: I think that if Iran had leaders who embraced democracy, who embraced human rights, who thought of the interests of the Iranian people, I think that leadership wouldn't be interested in nuclear weapons. I think that leadership would be interested in cooperation with the rest of the world, opening to the rest of the world, and abiding by international commitments. I think that would be a very different type of leadership.
Unfortunately, the leadership that we have in Tehran today -- or at least elements of that leadership -- are very focused not on just procuring nuclear weapons despite international concern, but also on staying in power, suppressing the rights of the Iranian people. I think the leadership needs to make a choice here; the international community has offered them a choice.
And the choices they need to make are choices that are in the interest of the Iranian people, which means pursuing nuclear power without the capabilities that so concern the international community. It means pursuing nuclear power, but in complete cooperation with the IAEA, answering all of its questions, and it means treating the Iranian people with the dignity that they deserve.
Radio Farda: Speaking of cooperation with the IAEA, doesn't the U.S. nuclear initiative with India represent a double standard? Given the fact that India is not an NPT member and Iran is, why is it OK for India to have nuclear weapons, while Iran should not even have enrichment capability?
Schulte: You can't compare India and Iran. India is a democracy. India is a country where the leadership respects the rights of its people. India is a country with a responsible foreign policy that doesn't threaten to wipe other countries off the face of the earth. India is a country whose leadership has abided by its international commitments and, under this agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, has agreed to accept additional international commitments.
And in stark contrast, the leadership in Tehran is the world's largest supporter of terrorism. It has failed to abide by its international commitments. You can't compare the two. There's not a double standard, there's a single standard, and the single standard that the international community has is compliance with international obligations.
The government of India has complied with its international obligations, and it has accepted more; the government in Tehran, unfortunately, has violated its international commitments and is perhaps the greatest threat to the nonproliferation regime today.
Radio Farda: Ambassador Schulte, some experts tell us that if the U.S. really wanted to end Iran's nuclear program, they could by giving Iran a security guarantee. Why is the U.S. willing to give a security guarantee to North Korea, but not to Iran?
Schulte: Well, I don't think we can compare Iran and North Korea. They're very different situations, and we've adopted very different strategies -- the international community has -- towards each.
Quite frankly, I don't think the people of Iran want to become like the people of North Korea, who have been completely cut off from the outside world by their leadership. The people of Iran have a great history. The people of Iran have great educations. They have a great future if only the leadership would unleash them and give them the freedom to pursue that future.
Now, in terms of security guarantees, the European Union, in its offers to the leadership in Tehran, offered not only cooperation on peaceful nuclear technology, offered not only new economic ties and access to the World Trade Organization, but they also offered discussions on security issues, precisely those issues that the Iranian leadership may wish to address.
And instead of accepting that offer of security discussions, an offer that was backed by the United States and the rest of the international community, the leadership in Tehran turned it down. If the leadership in Tehran were really worried about the security of the Iranian people, about their prosperity and future, rather than confronting the world, they would work to cooperate and negotiate with the world.
Radio Farda: There is some concern about the possibility of a U.S. military attack on Iran. Human rights activists inside Iran tell us that military action against Iran could rally Iranians behind the highly unpopular Ahmadinejad government. Is the U.S. considering military action against Iran?
Schulte: The President [George W. Bush] has not ruled out any option. Having said that, we strongly support a diplomatic solution, and that is precisely what we're working with the rest of the world to achieve.
For diplomacy to succeed, the Iranian leadership needs to make this decision that I talked about before. They have to decide what is the best path for the Iranian people. Are they going to walk down a path of confrontation and noncooperation that will leave the Iranian people increasingly isolated and subject to sanctions, or are they going to choose a different path, the path that has been opened by the European Union, Russia, and others, a path that will allow constructive engagement with the rest of the international community.
So we want a diplomatic solution, but the choice lies with the leadership in Tehran. They need to think about what's best for the Iranian people. They need to make the right choices, and we hope they make those right choices. It's not just the U.S. that hopes for that, it's many other countries in the world, from Russia and China to Egypt and Sri Lanka, that have all called Iran to cooperate with the IAEA and to give up these capabilities that give the world such concern.
Compiled by A. William Samii
Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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