• 10 September 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

Why it’s important to read things for yourself…


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


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.

Continued further:

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.

Posted By Patrick Disney

    7 Responses to “Why it’s important to read things for yourself…”

  1. Pirouz says:

    I totally agree with you, Patrick.

    I would just add the following:

    *3.1 Energy and its security in production*

    This economic concern is related to enrichment.

    Thanks for the link to the document.

  2. Mike says:

    I think your article is spot on and I don’t think that the nuclear proposal went blindly before the eyes of President Obama and he is simply listening to the naysayers. The President has wisely been communicating through written documents at least twice already that we know of directly to the Supreme Leader and that I believe HE has already made up his mind. He has said that Iran can produce uranium for peaceful purposes so what is all the freeze talk. He has already said that he will communicate based on mutual respect and dignity, which is basically what the document says. I think we are set to go for a solution, and I think you will find the president on board with that as well!!!

  3. john says:

    Wow. You guys at NIAC just showed your true colors. Islamic Republic of Iran lovers. Are you stupid have you not seen that they are not aswering the questions the international community has. When you dance around a topic for 20 years and give this answer shows they are not serious and that is a rejection of negotiations.

    NIAC has just a bit more time to stand with the people of Iran and the world or be known as mullah lovers for history. Good luck the choice is yours. Reform idiology was a failure and now this.

    Thanks NIAC.

  4. Maryam says:

    And to trust anything the Iranian government says at this point is naiive as well. It is clear to most if not all that they have been manipulating the western countries, participating in negotiations only to buy more time to accomplish their goals.

  5. David says:


    Ever since the furor over the “Free elections” begun, I have been a regular visitor to the NIAC blog. I’ve learned much from this website.

    What troubles me is essentially the same thing that John pointed out above. Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. Surely with all the intelligence on this available you don’t disagree with that fact. Where you disagree is whether or not Iran has the “right” to develop the nuke.

    Iran’s latest response proves that they want to waste as much time as possible until such time that they can test a nuke. When that happens the game is over and the rest of the Middle East is in big trouble.

    I am not a neo-con, and my heart goes out to the Iranian people. But I also hope that all actions are taken to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapon capability.

  6. Bruce says:

    There is no relationship between the Islamic regime’s statements and actions.

    This is a regime that mercilessly enforces public execution of rapists and homosexuals, but ruthlessly institutionalized rape as a means of torture for male and female political prisoners.

    To say their response to the nuclear negotiations is one way or another is completely meaningless in the context of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is not to say that the Islamic regime is better or worse than other regimes, but at some point, nations interested in a nuke-free Iran have to come to terms that negotiating with cancer will be unsuccessful.

  7. Ye Irooni says:

    To David – I disagree… I dont think that “Iran is developing nuclear weapons” is a ‘fact’… its an assertion made by many, but its no fact. they are enriching uranium – which IS a fact – but that CAN be (and they claim it is) for energy… just like 20 NPT non-nuclear-weapons countries that have nuclear energy but not weapons.

    To Mike – you were right, the US and Europe will talk to Iran… we are in a bind unfortunately, b/c Iran under the IRGC is now in Russia’s pocket, and before the next decade is out, I fear we may see Russian troops in the Persian Gulf… THAT is the biggest long-term strategic danger the West now face.

    To John – then why visit this site? you think repeating the same trope will somehow magically make it true? NIAC does an amazing job of analyzing a very difficult international relationship and has been right on its analysis for three years straight now. in fact, the ridiculed NIAC position of diplomacy and engagement in 2006 is now the official US position in 2009… so if you actually read their analysis instead of jumping into your hysterical conclusions, you might learn a thing or two. But i wont count on that.

    To Maryam – absolutely true. but when has International diplomacy been about “trusting” what your adversary says in a communique? if THAT is what you believe, then either you are naive or an amateur to think that this is the goal. Diplomacy is an adult game that’s been played since humanity has organized itself into cohesive societies vying with each other for power. Of course Iran is trying to buy time, and because of Bush’s idiocy, it bought itself 8 crucial years to develop nuclear enrichment technology it could only dream of acquiring in the 90s… The US and the West are also playing this adult game – and trust me, we know how to play just as well as the best of them – and we have our own gains to make out of the same talks… Thats the name of the game… no country will sit down and ‘play nice’… we are not in kindergarten anymore.

    Bruce – too true. but the alternative (not engaging) will result in the same horrific results we had during Bush’s tenure.

    lastly – to Patrick and the NIAC team… I think you guys need to realize that a blog is not a one-way street… or else it would be the same as your articles… a Blog means a back-and-forth conversation… I think you guys need to visit your comment sections a couple times a day and respond to the many good comments you do get… I agree, you can ignore the BS from people like john, let them have their say (I commend you for not simply deleting their crap comments), but respond to your readers… many of whom make great observations, ask insightful questions, and genuinely read you as a good source of information…

    so… would love to see more of you guys on here.

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