Iran plans to expand, not suspend, its nuclear program, position paper obtained by Times of Israel says

Iranian document, whose authenticity cannot be independently verified but accords with other recent reports, sets out Tehran’s ‘need’ for a ‘backup’ enrichment facility and 4 more research reactors

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

Iran's Chief Nuclear Negotiator Saeed Jalili at daylong talks with six world powers in Istanbul, on April 14, 2012. (photo credit: AP/Burhan Ozbilici)
Iran's Chief Nuclear Negotiator Saeed Jalili at daylong talks with six world powers in Istanbul, on April 14, 2012. (photo credit: AP/Burhan Ozbilici)

A position paper obtained by The Times of Israel, understood to have been used by Iran’s negotiators at last week’s technical-level talks with the P5+1 powers in Istanbul, makes plain the Tehran regime’s unyielding rejection of international efforts to negotiate safeguards and restrictions that would prevent Iran attaining a nuclear weapons capability.

Far from indicating Iranian readiness for a suspension or scaling back of its nuclear program, indeed, the document, made available by an informed source on condition of anonymity, includes references to Iran’s expansion plans. “Facing constant threats, we need a back up facility to safeguard our enrichment activities,” it states at one point, when discussing the Fordow enrichment facility, the underground complex built beneath a mountain near Qom where Iran carries out its 20% uranium enrichment.

A later point, related to the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), refers to the need “for at least 4 other research reactors because of the territorial extent of Iran and the short lifetime of medical isotopes.” The next clause in the document declares an Iranian ambition “to sell fuel complexes to other countries.”

The position paper, dated July 3, first sets out Iran’s objectives in the diplomatic process — which include obtaining international recognition of what it claims are its rights to enrichment activities, and securing “total termination” of all sanctions against it. It then details Iran’s bitter response to proposals from the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) for a negotiated agreement, notably including rejection of the international demand that it shut down its enrichment facility at Fordow.

The paper includes the statement that “the Islamic Republic of Iran emphasizes… its opposition to nuclear weapons based on the Supreme Leader’s Fatwa against such weapons.” And it features language that could be read as hinting at an Iranian readiness to suspend uranium enrichment to 20% if supplies are made available from abroad, in a clause that states “Iran will cooperate with 5+1 to provide enriched fuel needed for TRR.” But it also demands recognition of Iran’s ostensible right to enrich as much uranium to 3.5% as it wants — a “right” that is disputed by the West.

Written in imperfect English, in language that is clear in some sections and appears deliberately vague in others, the document’s authenticity could not be independently verified. But its content appears to accord with references made by some Western reporters who claim to have been shown certain texts by Iranian officials and by other anonymous sources in the past few days.

The text suggests that gaps between Iran and the P5+1 negotiating teams are extremely wide after three rounds of ministerial level negotiations in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow, and provides little basis for optimism regarding future rounds of negotiation.

Some of the content is marked by a tone of grievance and outrage at the international community’s demands of Iran. In a section subheaded “Transparency Measures,” for instance, the document protests that “baseless accusations and ambiguities have been raised regarding Iran’s past nuclear activities” and asserts that “Iran is asked to answer such allegations beyond its legal obligations.”

Similarly, in the first paragraph of its response to P5+1 positions, it states: “Some of the propositions in the proposal of 5+1 are incorrect, some are ambiguous, some are in contradiction to international documents and some are not in conformity with the realities.”

Objecting to the P5+1 demand for stopping all activity at Fordow, the document acknowledges that the facility is “being used for 20% enrichment” and other activities, but asserts that “this facility is not a military base and there is no reason to consider it so.” Taking issue with the P5 description of Fordow as “heavily fortified,” it argues that “protection of nuclear facilities is not only permissible but necessary” and cites “the sustained threats against nuclear facilities and enrichment activities.” It also protests the “ongoing threats against nuclear scientists.” Because of those constant threats, it adds, “we need a back up facility to safeguard our enrichment activities.”

Responding to a long list of suggestions from the international negotiators for cooperation with Iran in the operation of the Tehran Research Reactor, in various technical projects and in other areas — presumed carrots from the West designed to encourage progress — the Iranian text is withering and gives a hint at the frustrations P5+1 negotiators may have felt in the negotiating rounds to date.

“First, using general terms such as ‘cooperation,’ ‘support,’ ‘adjustment,’ ‘review’ and ‘recommendation’ in these propositions are in contradiction with the basic goal of the very same proposal ‘which is creating confidence and trust in the first stage,'” the document states. “Second, the above-mentioned suggestions are not compatible with the requests such as “stopping enrichment,” “transferring of materials” and “shutting down the Fordo (sic).”

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