Matching Grant Challenge
BruceMatch
We’re slowly making headway in our annual fund drive, but not nearly fast enough to meet our make-or-break goal.  On the bright side, a generous CounterPuncher has stepped forward with a pledge to match every donation of $100 or more. Any of you out there thinking of donating $50 should know that if you donate a further $50, CounterPunch will receive an additional $100. And if you plan to send us $200 or $500 or more, he will give CounterPunch a matching $200 or $500 or more. Don’t miss the chance. Double your clout right now. Please donate.
 unnamed

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)

pp1

or
cp-store

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

The US Refuses to Negotiate With Iran

Diplomat: Iran Offered Deal to Halt 20 Percent Enrichment

by GARETH PORTER

Iran has again offered to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, which the United States has identified as its highest priority in the nuclear talks, in return for easing sanctions against Iran, according to Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who has conducted Iran’s negotiations with the IAEA in Tehran and Vienna, revealed in an interview with IPS that Iran had made the offer at the meeting between EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul Sep. 19.

Soltanieh also revealed in the interview that IAEA officials had agreed last month to an Iranian demand that it be provided documents on the alleged Iranian activities related to nuclear weapons which Iran is being asked to explain, but that the concession had then been withdrawn.

“We are prepared to suspend enrichment to 20 percent, provided we find a reciprocal step compatible with it,” Soltanieh said, adding, “We said this in Istanbul.”

Soltanieh is the first Iranian official to go on record as saying Iran has proposed a deal that would end its 20-percent enrichment entirely, although it had been reported previously.

“If we do that,” Soltanieh said, “there shouldn’t be sanctions.”

Iran’s position in the two rounds of negotiations with the P5+1 – China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain, the United States and Germany – earlier this year was reported to have been that a significant easing of sanctions must be part of the bargain.

The United States and its allies in the P5+1 ruled out such a deal in the two rounds of negotiations in Istanbul and in Baghdad in May and June, demanding that Iran not only halt its enrichment to 20 percent but ship its entire stockpile of uranium enriched to that level out of the country and close down the Fordow enrichment facility entirely.

Even if Iran agreed to those far-reaching concessions the P5+1 nations offered no relief from sanctions.

Soltanieh repeated the past Iranian rejection of any deal involving the closure of Fordow.

“It’s impossible if they expect us to close Fordow,” Soltanieh said.

The U.S. justification for the demand for the closure of Fordow has been that it has been used for enriching uranium to the 20-percent level, which makes it much easier for Iran to continue enrichment to weapons grade levels.

But Soltanieh pointed to the conversion of half the stockpile to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which was documented in the Aug. 30 IAEA report.

“The most important thing in the (IAEA) report,” Soltanieh said, was “a great percentage of 20-percent enriched uranium already converted to powder for the Tehran Research Reactor.”

That conversion to powder for fuel plates makes the uranium unavailable for reconversion to a form that could be enriched to weapons grade level.

Soltanieh suggested that the Iranian demonstration of the technical capability for such conversion, which apparently took the United States and other P5+1 governments by surprise, has rendered irrelevant the P5+1 demand to ship the entire stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium out of the country.

“This capacity shows that we don’t need fuel from other countries,” said Soltanieh.

Iran began enriching uranium to 20 percent in 2010 after the United States made a virtually non-negotiable offer in 2009 to provide fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor in return for Iran’s shipping three-fourths of its low-enriched uranium stockpile out of the country and waiting for two years for the fuel plates.

The P5+1 demand for closure of the Fordow enrichment plant was also apparently based on the premise the facility was built exclusively for 20-percent enrichment. But Iran has officially informed the IAEA that it is for both enrichment to 20 percent and enrichment to 3.5 percent.

The 1,444 centrifuges installed at Fordow between March and August – but not connected to pipes, according to the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security – could be used for either 20-percent enrichment or 3.5-percent enrichment, giving Iran additional leverage in future negotiations.

Soltanieh revealed that two senior IAEA officials had accepted a key Iranian demand in the most recent negotiating session last month on a “structured agreement” on Iranian cooperation on allegations of “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear programme – only to withdraw the concession at the end of the meeting.

The issue was Iran’s insistence on being given all the documents on which the IAEA bases the allegations of Iranian research related to nuclear weapons which Iran is expected to explain to the IAEA’s satisfaction.

The Feb. 20 negotiating text shows that the IAEA sought to evade any requirement for sharing any such documents by qualifying the commitment with the phrase “where appropriate”.

At the most recent meeting on Aug. 24, however, the IAEA negotiators, Deputy Director General for Safeguards Herman Nackaerts and Assistant Director General for Policy Rafael Grossi, agreed for the first time to a commitment to “deliver the documents related to activities claimed to have been conducted by Iran”, according to Soltanieh.

At the end of the meeting, however, Nackaerts and Grossi “put this language in brackets”, thus leaving it unresolved, Soltanieh said.

Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recalls in his 2011 memoirs that he had “constantly pressed the source of the information” on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research – meaning the United States – “to allow us to share copies with Iran”. He writes that he asked how he could “accuse a person without revealing the accusations against him?”

ElBaradei also says Israel gave the IAEA a whole new set of documents in late summer 2009 “purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapons studies until at least 2007″.

Soltanieh confirmed that the other unresolved issue is whether the IAEA investigation will be open-ended or not.

The Feb. 20 negotiating text showed that Iran demanded a discrete list of topics to which the IAEA inquiry would be limited and a requirement that each topic would be considered “concluded” once Iran had answered the questions and delivered the information requested.

But the IAEA insisted on being able to “return” to topics that had been “discussed earlier”, according to the February negotiating text.

That position remains unchanged, according to Soltanieh. The Iranian ambassador quoted an IAEA negotiator as asking, “What if next month we receive something else — some additional information?’”.

“If the IAEA had its way,” Soltanieh said, “It would be another 10 or 20 years.”

Soltanieh told IPS a meeting between Iran and the IAEA set for mid-October had been agreed before the IAEA Board of Governors earlier this month with Nackaerts and Grossi.

The Iranian ambassador said the IAEA officials had promised him that Director General Yukia Amano would announce the meeting during the Board meeting, but Amano made no such announcement.

Instead, after a meeting with Fereydoun Abbasi, Iran’s Vice President and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Amano only referred to the “readiness of Agency negotiators to meet with Iran in the near future.”

“He didn’t keep the promise,” said Soltanieh, adding that Iran would have to “study in the capital” how to respond.

Soltanieh elaborated on Abassi’s suggestion last week that the sabotage of power to the Fordow facility the night before an IAEA request for a snap inspection of the facility showed the agency could be infiltrated by “terrorists and saboteurs”.

“The objection we have is that the DG isn’t protecting confidential information,” said Soltanieh. “When they have information on how many centrifuges are working and how many are not working (in IAEA reports), this is a very serious concern.”

Iran has complained for years about information gathered by IAEA inspectors, including data on personnel in the Iranian nuclear programme, being made available to U.S., Israeli and European intelligence agencies.

GARETH PORTER is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006. Porter received the UK-based Martha Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.The Barak argument on Iran contradicted Netanyahu’s assertion, most recently reported in an Aug. 5 Channel 2 report, that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is “an irrational leader”.