Ex-chief negotiator opitimistic on Iran nuclear deal

Tehran, Jan 16, IRNA – Former head of Iran’s nuclear negotiation team with European troika (EU3) Hossein Mousavian says he is optimistic that on-going talks between Tehran and the six world powers (EU3+3) will reach a principle agreement.
  Full text of his interview with the German daily Die Welt follows:

Die Welt: Dr. Mousavian, on Wednesday, a new round of nuclear talks starts in Geneva. What are your expectations?

Seyed Hossein Mousavian: I am optimistic because there is no dispute on measures related to NPT. The remaining issues are on some measures beyond NPT and for a specific period as confidence building measures. The base should be and would be NPT. As long as there is no dispute on such measure, it would be a big mistake for the world powers to stop the deal.

Die Welt: When no deal was reached and the extension of talks was announced around noon on November 24th, were you disappointed?

Mousavian: I knew that they would not be able to go for comprehensive, detailed agreement but I was hoping very much, that they would be able to finalize the principles of the agreement. To my understanding, practically they reached a point where they could have signed a principle agreement, a political agreement“ as they called it, that would define the major principles of a final deal. These would have comprised the principle of agreement, mainly transparency measures within the IAEA and NPT at the maximum level, additional measures to address a possible military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program, technical changes to the heavy water reactor in Arak, converting Fordo from an enrichment site to a research and development facility, limits on the stockpile of enriched uranium, and capping enrichment at the five percent level. In return the EU3+3 would respect enrichment in Iran for practical needs and lift the sanctions. They were ready to sign on these points and to date all parties have a common understanding on them. Only two issues were left: The one is the capacity of enrichment and the other is the sequence of the lifting of sanctions. The joint plan of action of November 2013 states that the capacity of enrichment should be synchronized to Iran’s practical needs.

Die Welt: Whatever that would mean.

Mousavian: Right. Now they are negotiating to define practical needs. Iran has a nuclear reactor at Bushehr. There is a contract between Iran and Russia providing nuclear fuel for Bushehr that would be terminated 2021, so, from that year onwards, Iran would need to provide fuel for Bushehr by itself. The Americans say, the Russians can extend the contract. Iran says, of course they can, but we have our own facilities, specialists and technology to do that, so why should we buy it. This is a real domestic practical need why we should be forced to import.

Die Welt: But an extension would not be unusual. Many similar contracts that are usually signed together with the building agreement for a nuclear power plant have duration of 60 years. Why would Iran not agree to an extension?

Mousavian: We have the facilities, we have the engineers, we have the know-how and you are asking Iran to put all that aside and buy fuel from outside. For future power plants that might be reasonable. If there is a deal then Iran can make plans accordingly and buy fuel on the international market for those plants and would not need to invest in new enrichment plants. But for 30 years the West has limited Iran’s access to international fuel markets. We did not want our own enrichment facilities. In the 1990’s, I was Iranian ambassador to Germany and I had more than 300 meetings with German officials, telling them: if you complete Bushehr, for which you already received the payment of 7.8 billion Deutschmarks, and if France provided the fuel for which we have already paid $1.2 billion, then we don’t have to ask Russia to complete Bushehr and we don’t need to enrich uranium on our own. But Europe and America made a big strategic mistake to sanction us despite the agreements and the money paid. That left Iran with no option but to go for self-sufficiency. These investments have now been made. We cannot throw Natanz into the Persian Gulf.

Die Welt: But there was the famous speech of Hassan Rouhani before the Cultural Revolution Council in 2005 where he said that the groundwork for a fuel cycle was already laid in the late 1980s. And that Iran willfully concealed this work. He even goes so far to cite the example of Die Welt: Pakistan and Brazil to conclude that the international community only gives you trouble before you have the fuel cycle, not afterwards. Does that kind of thinking still prevail in Iran today?

Mousavian: The world powers have committed the biggest violations of the NPT. The prime aim of the treaty was disarmament. But today we have 22,000 nuclear bombs in the hands of the world powers, even after 50 years of NPT and they are not willing to dismantle them. The NPT was designed to prevent proliferation. But India, Pakistan, Israel proliferated and produced the bomb. None the less, the world powers have the best relations with them, strategic relations even – and they put all the pressure and sanctions on Iran that signed the treaty, does not have the bomb and which according to the IAEA’s report after ten years of inspections, there is no evidence of any diversion toward weaponization. Even the American national intelligence assessment stated in 2007 and 2011 that there was no evidence for an political decision to build the bomb. Iran has been sanctioned more than North Korea. Even though Pyongyang withdrew from the NPT and produced nuclear weapons. How can you trust those world powers on nuclear proliferation? We Iranians say: You are the problem! You want to negotiate on world peace while possessing 22,000 bombs! You developed this technology! You gave it to other countries! And you are sanctioning us more than North Korea? That is a joke.

Die Welt: But in its report of November the IAEA states, that Iran has conducted specific research and development for nuclear weapons and seems to be continuing it.

Mousavian: No. First, it is not what the IAEA report says. IAEA’s November report says that Iran has conducted research and development which could be for dual purposes: peaceful or military purposes. They ask for inspections beyond NPT to verify. Second, R&D on nuclear weapons is not prohibited by NPT. NPT prohibits building, storage and the use of nuclear weapons. For many years Germany is doing R&D on nuclear weapons under IAEA’s supervision. Because Berlin wants to know the consequences of possible use of nuclear bomb against Germany by other nuclear powers. It is legitimate as long as the nuclear powers maintain thousands of nuclear weapon.

Die Welt: But according to that thinking, wouldn’t it be logical for Iran to attain breakout capability and declare it?

Mousavian: No. If we want the nuclear bomb we have the capability to produce it. Everyone knows that. If Iran wants to produce the bomb, it will. We have said clearly we do not want nuclear weapons. We are party to the NPT and Iran is the only country that has banned nuclear weapons on religious grounds from the highest religious-political level, through a fatwa of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. If anyone doubts the validity of such a fatwa, just think of this: During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s Saddam Hussein used poison gas against Iranian civilians and military forces, for which the technology was provided by Western countries…

Die Welt: …by German companies, among others.

Mousavian: That is true. By Americans, Germans and other Westerns. In this way you killed or injured over 100,000 Iranians. Our military commanders went to the then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and asked him for permission to reciprocate with chemical weapons. But Ayatollah Khomeini said that based on Islam, using weapons of mass destruction is genocide and thus haram(forbidden). Is there any better objective guarantee against the use of such weapons than this example, which shows that we did not even do that in retaliation to attacks with such weapons?

Die Welt: But what is being negotiated is if Iran is ready to accept a distance of one year from breakout point, ie. the point where it would be possible to produce the bomb. And your country seems unwilling to accept that.

Mousavian: In reality, this is just a political issue. America knows that we Iranians started enriching uranium because you deprived us of fuel. You gave Saddam missiles and he used thousands long-range missiles against us, so we were forced to developed missiles to retaliate because missiles are conventional arms and not weapons of mass destruction. While our civilians were shelled with more than 1,800 rockets. the West provided Saddam material and technology for missiles and sanctioned us for our missile program. Today, we are one of the world’s most powerful missile producers. If we wanted to have nuclear missile’s warhead we could produce them any day. The British chief negotiator once told me: We Brits produced our first nuclear weapons with 16 centrifuges. Everyone knows that building a bomb even with 40 or 50 centrifuges is easy. And the Americans want to limit our capacity to 1,000-15000 centrifuges because of the so called breakout point. This is just a game. Six months, one year – if there is no political decision for a bomb than that does not matter, if there is one, then we will build the bomb. If Iran accepts the maximum transparency levels to prevent a possible military dimension and if it agrees to limiting its enrichment level to five percent and forgo reprocessing facilities that would help building a plutonium bomb, then these measures taken all together would be enough to allay any concern.

Die Welt: Would this maximum transparency level also include inspections of military facilities?

Mousavian: Maximum level would mean the maximum level described by the NPT and its additional protocol. Even you Germans would not allow the IAEA to inspect your military facilities. But since 2003, Iran has permitted IAEA over 37 inspection on its military sites. The IAEA has launched over 7000 man-hour inspections on Iran’s nuclear facility. This is unprecedented during the history of the IAEA. No other nation has given access to the IAEA like Iranians.

Die Welt: We would, I believe.

Mousavian: No, perhaps Germany, but the US or France and many others wouldn’t do that either. We have even given the IAEA twice access to Parchin, the military base where we allegedly conducted weaponisation tests. And we have offered the IAEA that within a final deal – not now – we would give them access to military facilities, if needed, to resolve the IAEA‘s possible military dimension issues,

Die Welt: So, only a limited access with visits announced in advance.

Mousavian: No, the IAEA and Iran have already agreed on those type of inspection under a ‘managed access“. Iran would need a list of facilities they want to see and then they could see them. But then the file of PMD should be closed. Anyway, these issues of a PMD date back to the 1980s. So what. This is not a big deal. It is about the past and not the current. The world powers have admitted that the current program is peaceful and in order to ensure that, these measures would be enough.

Die Welt: But the IAEA stated about three years ago that research on weaponisation, ie. construction of nuclear warheads and ignitions, has continued at least until 2003 and it suspects that this work is going on to this day.

Mousavian: No. It is not what the IAEA says. The US National Intelligence Estimate(NIE) says that since fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program. The IAEA may believe the same but even to this day, the IAEA has not found any proven evidence that Iranian nuclear program ever has diverted toward weaponization.

Die Welt: But if the breakout point is not really relevant, why do we haggle over 1,000 or 6,000 centrifuges? That would not be enough to feed Bushehr anyway.

Mousavian: Right. The question really is how you define ‘practical needs“. Because after 2021 we will need more centrifuges and the definition of ‘practical needs“ predetermines the expansion of their number until that year. That is the real sticking point. To provide fuel for one nuclear power plant, Bushehr, Iran would need 190000 centrifuges if uses IR1 generation. If Iran uses its developed IR8 generation, it may need about 20000 centrifuges to provide fuel for Bushehr. This is a real practical needs of Iran.

Die Welt: Talking about the phasing out of sanctions: Some people suggest that Europe could move on that first. Is that what you ask from the EU?

Mousavian: The Europeans should be brave enough and sincere. In 2012 Iran asked for the import of fuel rods enriched to 20 percent for Tehran Research Reactor built by Americans in 1967 for medical purposes. Iran did not want to produce the fuel on its own. To produce fuel rods, you need to enrich to 20%. The West said, Iran is bluffing, they can’t enrich up to 20 percent and we are not giving you Iranians the rods. Within a few months the EU found that Iran produced 20-percent and the rods. And they were shocked. Because of their own misjudgment. Only because of that they sanctioned Iran’s Central Bank, our oil exports and our membership of the international bank transfer system Swift. Only because they were afraid we would go on to enrich Uranium up to the 90 percent needed for military use. Iran has already stopped enriching at 20% level and is ready to continue because it has already built the fuel rods. Therefore there is no justification for the EU to continue those sanctions.

Die Welt: And because Iran has concealed parts of its nuclear program which had been discovered before 2009, namely the subterranean facility in Fordo.

Mousavian: Only according to the additional protocol (AP) would Iran have to reveal that facility earlier. But we Iran was not implementing the AP in that time. This remains a point of dispute. But what the IAEA has confirmed is that Iran has capped its production at 5 percent and has diluted most of its 20 percent stockpiles. We would continue for a number of years to keep that cap and remain with only an extremely limited amount of 20 percent enriched uranium.

Die Welt: What should Europe do?

Mousavian: If the US administration is convinced that Iran has made an enormous good will gesture in capping the enrichment level and its stockpile, but cannot persuade congress – then they should at least not punish the Europeans for lifting the oil, central bank and Swift sanctions. Remember that the Europeans went ahead with those, even before the Americans. That would be a very easy deal that could be concluded within two or three months, even before a final deal. Iran would cap enrichment at five percent and limits it stockpile of 20 percent and 5% not beyond its domestic needs and the EU would lift their 2012 sanctions.

Die Welt: In the beginning of the Rouhani tenure there were signs that at least the tone between Israel and Iran could change. Could there be a new chapter in their mutual relations?

Mousavian: I believe that the overwhelming majority of Jews in the world like Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran and not Netanyahu’s policy of war. I am 100 percent sure. I am talking about Netanyahu not about the Jews. He wants harsh, radical rhetoric from Iran. He doesn’t like moderates. Because he plans to rally the international community against Iran. He said, Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, he said he wants to wipe Israel off the map. Then Rouhani came into power and the president congratulated the Jews on their new year. The new administration also condemned the Holocaust. But Israel’s policy has not changed. Netanyahu did not change. For him it does not make a difference if our president denies the Holocaust and wants to wipe Israel off the map or if he congratulates them and condemns the Holocaust. The problem is not rhetoric from Iran. Thank god that America and the EU now has acknowledged that the obstacle to a two-state-solution is not Iran. It is Netanyahu.

Die Welt: That does not sound as if you were looking for the new cooperation that the Americans are looking for as a consequence of a nuclear deal.

Mousavian: On the contrary. Just look at the current crisis: The radical Sunni extremism – be it Al-Qaida, Al-Nusra or IS – is really a threat to the Arabs, Turkey, Israel, China, Russia, and Europe. This is the number one threat for everyone, regardless of other issues. Thus, we need collective countermeasures. We may have many disputes on other measures. But this is a threat for us all and we should fight it together. If we can manage the peace and stability in Afghanistan and Syria then we could gain a lot of stability.

Die Welt: But what about a normalization of relations with Israel?

Mousavian: I wonder why people keep asking that question. There are 57 Muslim countries and 50 of them do not recognize Israel, some of them American allies such as Saudi Arabia, who get the most sophisticated military equipment from the Americans. Why should Iran recognize Israel if it is impossible even for the Saudis?



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