Friday, June 02, 2006

WaPo - Six Powers Reach Accord On Iran Plan

Six Powers Reach Accord On Iran Plan
U.S. Supports Combination Of Incentives, 'Disincentives'

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 2, 2006; A01

VIENNA, June 1 -- The United States and five other major world powers agreed Thursday to offer Iran a broad new collection of rewards if it halts its drive to master nuclear technology, but they threatened "further steps in the Security Council" if Iran refuses.

The agreement, announced here by British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett following extended talks, brings general unity to the countries' approach to Iran after months of discord, diplomats said. It is intended to sharpen the choice facing Iran, giving it a clear reason to opt for cooperation over confrontation on its nuclear program.

"There are two paths ahead," Beckett told reporters, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and counterparts from Russia, China, France, Germany and the European Union stood at her side. "We urge Iran to take the positive path and to consider seriously our substantive proposals, which would bring significant benefits."

Beckett made the announcement near midnight Tehran time. There was no immediate response from the Iranian government.

Rice, who spent more than eight hours in sometimes freewheeling talks with her counterparts Thursday, flew here after announcing a major shift in U.S. policy on Wednesday -- a willingness to join the negotiations with Iran that have been led, unsuccessfully, by Britain, France and Germany, provided Iran suspends its uranium-enrichment activities first.

Iranian diplomats on Thursday did not reject outright the U.S. proposal for talks, but they criticized the demand that their country end enrichment first.

Although details of the five- to six-page document agreed to in Vienna were not announced, incentives discussed before the meeting included an international effort to assist Iran's nuclear industry, including construction of a light-water reactor and guarantees of a long-term supply of fuel. That would represent a significant shift from the Bush administration's past insistence that Iran has no need for nuclear power. Increased trade and investment have also been discussed.

Aides to Rice said the deal also commits China and Russia to a long list of specific steps to punish Iran if it refuses to halt its enrichment program. Both countries have resisted sanctions for months, arguing that they could backfire.

Addressing reporters here, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized the incentives in the package and did not mention possible negative measures. He said it was important that all six powers be united in making the offer, including the United States, which he said found it difficult to offer inducements to Iran.

The possible sanctions in the agreement are listed as a menu, ranging from minor to major, diplomats said. It was unclear whether there was agreement on which options to choose if Iran fails to act.

Diplomats have said that measures under discussion include an embargo on export of goods and technologies relevant to nuclear programs, the freezing of assets of organizations and people involved in the programs, and a suspension of technical cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Broader measures include a freeze on bilateral contacts, a visa and travel ban for senior Iranian officials, an arms embargo, an embargo on certain exports and an end to support for Iran's bid to join the World Trade Organization.

The Bush administration has repeatedly declared it "unacceptable" to have Iran armed with nuclear weapons. While publicly declaring that no option was "off the table," an allusion to military action, it had been struggling to organize unified diplomatic pressure against the country by all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

Beckett read the brief statement after the diplomats huddled over it for two hours, fiddling with the wording. It emphasized the positive, while using vague code words for tough action, which U.S. officials said stemmed from a desire to persuade Iran to return to negotiations. Even speaking anonymously, U.S. officials repeatedly refused to characterize the possible punishments for Iran as "sanctions," using words such as "steps," "measures," "actions" and "negative disincentives."

"We are prepared to resume negotiations should Iran resume suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, as required by the IAEA, and we would also suspend action in the Security Council," Beckett said.

Representatives of some of the countries involved -- but not the United States -- will present the package to Iran in the "coming days," and an answer is expected before the Group of Eight industrialized countries meet in St. Petersburg in mid-July, a U.S. official told reporters. He said the countries had agreed not to disclose details until after Iran had received a full presentation and been allowed time to "digest it."

Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Russia and China were considering joining the United States and the Europeans in the talks with Iran.

Iran offered a mixed initial reply earlier Thursday to the Bush administration's offer to join talks on the country's nuclear program: It welcomed the opportunity to deflect confrontation while resisting demands that it suspend work on the program first.

"We believe that under the current circumstances, negotiations without any precondition would be the best solution to put an end to the Tehran-Washington logjam," said Hamid Reza Asefi, spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, in an interview with the official press agency IRNA.

Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, reiterated the proviso, telling reporters, "We won't negotiate about the Iranian nation's natural nuclear rights but are prepared, within a defined, just framework and without any discrimination, to hold dialogue about common concerns."

Analysts and diplomats described the responses as preliminary. The most powerful elements of Iran's theocratic government remained silent on the U.S. proposal and were said to be intensely engaged in the private consultations that precede major policy announcements in Tehran.

The measured tenor of the Iranian diplomats' initial replies appeared to signal that their country was at least not dismissing the start of a process it had actively solicited in recent weeks, through back-channel messages seeking direct engagement with Washington. But one analyst in regular contact with the Tehran government said the full response would reflect skepticism about Bush's sincerity.

"The perception here is basically that the U.S. did what it did in response to domestic pressure inside the U.S., and also to convince the Russians and Chinese" to back stronger pressure on Iran, said Nasser Hadian-Jazy, a political scientist at Tehran University.

He predicted Iran's final response would stop short of obliging the Americans but go far enough to convince Moscow or Beijing of its good intentions. It might include steps such as suspending the installation of the next two enrichment systems and letting U.N. inspectors conduct snap inspections for the duration of the negotiations.

Correspondent Karl Vick in Tehran contributed to this report.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thomas X. Hammes - Tearing Iraq Apart - NYT

June 1, 2006

Op-Ed Contributor

Tearing Iraq Apart


Oxford, England

THE White House is right to insist that our postwar goal is a unified Iraq, as opposed to one divided along ethno-religious lines. So why is the administration taking so many actions that make holding the country together virtually impossible?

In January, President Bush diverted nearly half the money allocated to reconstruction in Iraq to other needs, including security. Given that our current strategy is nicknamed "Clear-Hold-Build," where does that leave us? Clear-Hold-Hope? Mr. Bush's decision sent a terrible signal to the Iraqis about our resolve. It is even less understandable since the expense of the critical reconstruction program is a small fraction of our annual cost in Iraq.

Next, the administration deeply cut financing for democratization efforts, many of them undertaken by nongovernmental groups. The proposed budget for fiscal 2007 asks for a paltry $63 million. This token sum — in a war that costs some $200 million a day — may simply reflect a belief that the security situation prevents such efforts from being effective. But democratization has always been one of the administration's cherished goals, and cutting spending there sends the wrong message.

The latest administration budget also recommends cutting overall Army and Marine troop strength. If Mr. Bush and his advisers are really committed to sustained support for the "long war" in Iraq, how do they reconcile that with cutting the budgets for the most engaged forces?

President Bush and his aides have also repeatedly hinted at significant troop reductions in Iraq this year — perhaps to as low as 100,000 from the current 130,000. This is despite the growing violence in Baghdad and the fact that our military leaders in Iraq have consistently said that we can withdraw troops safely only if conditions improve. The administration may simply be talking fewer troops to reassure the electorate before midterms. Unfortunately, American voters are not the only audience. What do the Iraqis think?

The administration has long stated that the so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams — groups of 100 or so political, economic, legal and civil-military relations specialists who help distribute aid and advise regional Iraqi officials, which have had success in Afghanistan — are critical to our strategy in Iraq. Yet The Washington Post reported in mid-April that only 4 of the proposed 16 teams had even been inaugurated.

In addition, the Army staffs and units in Iraq, even those training Iraqi security forces, continue to be undermanned. Meanwhile, former colleagues outside the war zone — in the Joint Forces Command, the European Command and the Pacific Command — tell me their commands remain at full strength. It seems the Pentagon does not consider the Iraq war important enough to shift from its peacetime manning models.

Last, the administration has repeatedly said efficient and law-abiding Iraqi security forces are central to our strategy, yet has failed to provide them with more than minimal equipment. Three years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, most Iraq troops are still using open-backed trucks and unarmored S.U.V.'s.

Let's face it: this laundry list of inaction on the part of the Bush administration leaves a prudent Iraqi with no practical choice but to prepare for a United States withdrawal long before the Iraqi central government and security forces are capable of running the nation. For most Iraqis — Arab or Kurd, Sunni or Shiite — this will mean looking to religious and ethnic militias, criminal gangs and Islamist insurgents for protection. This, in turn, greatly increases the chance of civil war.

The militias are already looking ahead: some are carving out safe areas they will use as bases in the coming war by driving Iraqis of other ethnic and religious groups out of mixed neighborhoods and villages. Iraqi government officials estimated that more than 100,000 families have already fled their homes. This falling back on militias and preparing for internecine conflict is not a new phenomenon. It is exactly what we saw in Afghanistan nearly two decades ago. Once the Afghans believed the Soviet troops were finally pulling out, the various insurgent groups stopped fighting the invaders and began positioning for a multisided civil war. That conflict, of course, lasted until the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

The Bush administration, despite all its missteps since the fall of the Baathists, has clung to one correct idea: that an intact Iraq is a better outcome than a splintered one. To keep it unified, however, the White House must commit to long timelines and to providing the money necessary for both the military and reconstruction efforts. The alternative is for Mr. Bush to change his mind and tell the American and Iraqi people that we must start planning for a peaceful division.

In any case, the uncertainty resulting from trying to have it both ways will result in the worst possible outcome: open civil war.

Thomas X. Hammes, a retired Marine colonel, is the author of "The Sling and the Stone: On Warfare in the 21st Century."

NYT News Analysis: Bush's Realization on Iran: No Good Choice Left Except Talks

June 1, 2006

News Analysis

Bush's Realization on Iran: No Good Choice Left Except Talks


WASHINGTON, May 31 — After 27 years in which the United States has refused substantive talks with Iran, President Bush reversed course on Wednesday because it was made clear to him — by his allies, by the Russians, by the Chinese, and eventually by some of his advisers — that he no longer had a choice.

During the past month, according to European officials and some current and former members of the Bush administration, it became obvious to Mr. Bush that he could not hope to hold together a fractious coalition of nations to enforce sanctions — or consider military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites — unless he first showed a willingness to engage Iran's leadership directly over its nuclear program and exhaust every nonmilitary option.

Few of his aides expect that Iran's leaders will meet Mr. Bush's main condition: that Iran first re-suspend all of its nuclear activities, including shutting down every centrifuge that could add to its small stockpile of enriched uranium. Administration officials characterized their offer as a test of whether the Iranians want engagement with the West more than they want the option to build a nuclear bomb some day.

And while the Europeans and the Japanese said they were elated by Mr. Bush's turnaround, some participants in the drawn-out nuclear drama questioned whether this was an offer intended to fail, devised to show the extent of Iran's intransigence.

Either way, after five years of behind-the-scenes battling within the administration, Mr. Bush finally came to a crossroads at which both sides in the debate over Iran — engagers and isolaters, and some with a foot in each camp — saw an advantage in, as one senior aide said, "seeing if they are serious."

Mr. Bush, according to one participant in those debates, told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice several months ago that he needed "a third option," a way to get beyond either a nuclear Iran or an American military action.

Ms. Rice spent a long weekend in early May drafting a proposal that included a timetable for diplomatic choreography through the summer.

"Nobody wants to get to that kind of crisis situation — whether it is us or the next administration — where you either accept an Iranian weapon or you are forced to do something drastic," said the participant, who declined to speak on the record about internal White House deliberations.

The idea of engagement is hardly new. When Colin L. Powell was secretary of state, several members of his senior staff argued vociferously that the United States needed to test Iran's willingness to deal with the United States — especially in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

There was strong opposition from the White House, particularly from Vice President Dick Cheney, according to several former officials.

"Cheney was dead set against it," said one former official who sat in many of those meetings. "At its heart, this was an argument about whether you could isolate the Iranians enough to force some kind of regime change." But three officials who were involved in the most recent iteration of that debate said Mr. Cheney and others stepped aside — perhaps because they read Mr. Bush's body language, or perhaps because they believed Iran would scuttle the effort by insisting that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty gives it the right to develop nuclear fuel. The United States insists that Iran gave up that right by deceiving inspectors for 18 years.

In the end, said one former official who has kept close tabs on the debate, "it came down to convincing Cheney and others that if we are going to confront Iran, we first have to check off the box" of trying talks.

Mr. Bush offered a more positive-sounding account: "I thought it was important for the United States to take the lead, along with our partners, and that's what you're seeing. You're seeing robust diplomacy."

As part of the diplomatic timetable, Ms. Rice will be in Vienna on Thursday to endorse an international offer to Iran that includes several plums. Among them will be the dialogue with Washington that Iran has periodically sought, a lifting of many long-standing economic sanctions, and even light water reactors for nuclear power with Russia and the West controlling access to the fuel.

Yet skepticism abounds. "It's true that the conditions are significantly different than they were four or five years ago, but candidly they are not as favorable now for the United States," said Richard Haass, who as the head of the State Department's policy planning operation during Mr. Bush's first term was a major advocate of engagement with Iran.

First, the new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinijad, "has vowed that the country will never back down on enriching uranium.

"Oil's at $70 a barrel instead of $20, said Mr. Haass, now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. "And we are bogged down in Iraq," where the United States is vulnerable to Iranian efforts to worsen the violence and arm the insurgents.

But the internal debates in the White House included vigorous discussion of the risks associated with any effort to negotiate with foes suspected of seeking nuclear weapons. And in this, Mr. Bush already has bitter experience.

In its dealings with North Korea, which Mr. Bush branded a member of the "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq, the administration also decided a few years ago to try limited engagement, locked arm-in-arm with neighboring nations.

But North Korea has kept making weapons fuel, and the allies have not stayed united: China and South Korea continue to aid the North. The Iranians have doubtless noticed.

The question now is whether there is any middle ground between Mr. Bush's demand that Iran give up everything, and Iran's insistence that it will give up nothing. Without breaking that logjam, the American-Iranian dialogue may never begin.

NYT Rice Proposes Path to Talks With Iran on Nuclear Issue

May 31, 2006

Rice Proposes Path to Talks With Iran on Nuclear Issue


WASHINGTON, May 31 _ — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today that the United States would be willing to change course and join multinational talks with Iran over its nuclear program if it suspends all nuclear activities.

Ms. Rice said that the move was meant to "give new energy" to a European effort to develop a package of incentives or potential punishments to convince Iran to pull back from a nuclear program that it insists as peaceful but which the United States has argued is a cover for developing nuclear weapons.

Speaking at the State Department before flying to Vienna for a meeting with European diplomats, Ms. Rice said that the precondition for the multinational talks were for Iran to halt the uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities that it resumed following the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad last year.

Tehran would also have to allow a resumption of the voluntary surprise visits by nuclear inspectors that it cut off earlier this year.

Ms. Rice held out the eventual prospect of a "new relationship" involving contacts in trade, sports and education. But she stressed that the talks would not involve one-on-one meetings with Iran and was not part any broader negotiations. The United States has not had full diplomatic ties with Iran since the 1979 hostage crisis.

"This is not a grand bargain," she said. "What we're talking about here is an effort to enhance the chances for a successful negotiated solution."

Before any broader talks could take place, Ms. Rice said, Iran would have to change policies that Ms. Rice involved the support of terrorism in the Palestinian territories and actions undermining the stability of Iraq.

She said the United States offer could be seen as removing "the last excuse" Iran would have for not taking a European offer seriously. And she made clear that the United States was keeping a firm grasp on the prospect of a stick to balance out the new carrot.

If the talks did not lead to agreement, Ms. Rice said, the United States would then move to "increase the pressure" through Security Council sanctions, "or if necessary, with like-minded states outside of the Security Council."

In Washington, the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, told reporters that President Bush had called the leaders of Russia, France and Germany on Tuesday to brief them on the decision, "and they all signed off."

"There are going to be some changes," Mr. Snow said of the United States position.

The United States has not had direct contacts with Iran since the 1979 hostage crisis, and Mr. Snow stressed today that the new round would not involve one-on-one discussions. "That's not part of the deal," he said.

Mr. Snow said the initiative did not amount to a new approach. He said it was "a way of making what we're doing more robust."

Pressure has been building on the administration to accept some sort of contact, as American and Europeans have struggled in recent weeks to find an approach that would win agreement from Russia and China, which are wary of imposing sanctions. European officials have said that Iran is more likely to be persuaded by any security guarantees included in the package if the United States is involved in the negotiations.

When President Ahmadinejad sent President Bush a rambling and highly critical letter earlier this month, administration officials dismissed it as not worthy of a response. But American diplomats suggested last week that they giving the question of talks of some sort of serious consideration.

In another move to enlist Russian support for a Security Council resolution, the Bush administration has agreed to language ruling out the immediate threat of military force, American and European officials said Tuesday.

The American agreement has improved the chances that the Russians will go along with the resolution, European diplomats said.

The American goal is to get an agreement on a Security Council resolution this week, for possible approval in June.

Also being negotiated are a package of benefits in nuclear energy, economic activities and security to be offered Iran if it cooperates in ending its nuclear activities. The Europeans are to offer this package with American support, but the Bush administration has quietly expressed misgivings about some of its possible elements.

"I think that we could safely say at this point that we feel like we're in good shape heading into Vienna," Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said at a department briefing on Tuesday.

He added that Ms. Rice's top aide on the issue, R. Nicholas Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, had worked with his counterparts over the weekend on various disagreements. "That list of open issues is being whittled down, being narrowed," Mr. McCormack said.

For months the United States has demanded that pressure on Iran must increase through passage of a Security Council resolution under Chapter VII of the United Nations charter. This chapter invokes the Council's power to demand compliance of member countries on certain matters and threaten punishment if they refuse.

Russia, fearing a replay of the events before the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003, has opposed any invocation of Chapter VII, on the ground that the United States might seize upon its approval as a justification for acting unilaterally to impose economic penalties or use military force against Iran.

To placate the Russians, the United States has agreed to invoke only Article 41 of Chapter VII, and not the whole chapter. Article 41 makes no reference to the possible use of force, and therefore offers the Russians a means to support it.

"We're splitting hairs, but it keeps the process going," said a United Nations diplomat familiar with the negotiations, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the talks.

European diplomats said they were not sure whether Russia would show up in Vienna with a commitment to vote yes or to abstain from voting on the Security Council resolution. But two diplomats said it appeared that Russia did not like being seen as isolated by the United States and Europe on the matter.

In addition, they said, Mr. Putin hopes to get the issue of a Security Council resolution resolved soon so that it does not spill into the meetings of the Group of 8 nations in Moscow in June and in St. Petersburg in July.

Russia is the current president of the Group of 8, a rotating position, and is hoping for successful summit talks in St. Petersburg with President Bush and other top world leaders.

Steven R. Weisman reported from Washington for this article and John O'Neil from New York. Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting from Washington.