Iran might get some pressure taken off by the International Community. But Iran needs to come clean like President George W. Bush said. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took this as a victory. This isn't a victory for him or his country. He has to answer to what his religious police has done to the homosexuals in Iran. The Iranians aren't going to get off this fast. The CIA is incompetent and broken. The price of Oil isn't about Iran. It's about Venezuela who brought the price of Oil down with Hugo Chavez's defeat on the referendum on his presidential power. The Iranians will have to face the fact that they will be defeated in a war that will take there regime and nuclear power plants out. We need to continue the sanctions resolutions in the United Nations Security Council cause Iran needs to learn that it's civil disrespect to it's people is one the consuming reasons I want this regime in Iran gone. The Supreme Leader who I want him gone from power. He has no clue to really run a nation that is peaceful. He isn't a peaceful leader. The Iranians themselves don't have the power to elect a leader. It's the Council of the Guardians and the Majilis who elects the puppet President not the people. I want to empower the people in Iran to choose a real leader not some puppet council. That elects the most astringent power mad person. That doesn't help the people in Iran.
Note : http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22873289-643,00.html
Oil prices tumble below $US89 a barrel
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Gregory Meyer, Dow Jones Newswires | December 05, 2007
OIL prices retreated below $US89 a barrel overnight as traders sold positions before a key OPEC meeting on oil output and as geopolitical risks over Iran eased.
A report from US intelligence agencies concluded Iran has halted nuclear weapons programs.
Light, sweet crude for January delivery settled at $US88.32 a barrel, down US99 cents, or 1.1 per cent, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. January Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange fell US27 cents to settle at $US89.53 a barrel, the contract's second straight day closing higher than the Nymex contract.
The decline came as traders searched for clues about the policy tack OPEC will take at a meeting today in Abu Dhabi. The cartel has been pressured to boost supply as oil prices brushed close to $US100 a barrel, though oil's pullback of 10 per cent in the past two weeks has complicated its choices. An OPEC delegate said the cartel is still evaluating whether to increase oil supply by 500,000 barrels a day or hold steady.
"No one thinks OPEC is about to substantially ramp up output," said Brad Samples, an analyst at Summit Energy. "But everyone knows the Saudis are responsive to price and also to political pressure. I think the market is seeing an output increase," which Mr Samples estimates will be 500,000 barrels.
Projections of an economic slowdown, combined with lower crude prices, have led other analysts to predict no change in OPEC output today.
"Less worried now about oil price rallying through $US100, ministers now seem focused on dim prospects of weaker economic growth eroding oil demand next year," UBS Securities analyst Jan Stuart said in a note.
Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter and OPEC's de facto leader, wasn't showing its hand before the meeting.
"We will look at all the information," said Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi. "All options are open."
Other country delegates drew a harder line.
"The market doesn't need more oil," said the head of Libya's oil industry, Shokri Ghanem. "The market needs more stability and less speculation."
US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman added the voice of the world's largest oil consumer to the debate, saying OPEC should pay attention to continuing low global crude inventories and decide to increase supplies to the market at its meeting.
According to previously published data from OPEC, its 10 members with output quotas had an output target of 27.25 million barrels a day, which incorporates a 500,000 barrels a day production increase agreed to in September that became effective on November 1.
The market also came under pressure as traders digested a US intelligence report finding that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons development program in 2003. Analysts said the report relieved some geopolitical risk of an armed clash with OPEC's second-biggest oil producing country over the program.
"It's always been a high-impact, low-probability scenario," said Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citigroup in New York. "Now it's a high-impact, even lower-probability scenario."
Note 1. : http://voanews.com/english/2007-12-05-voa48.cfm
Iranian President Claims Victory in Nuclear Dispute
By Sonja Pace
05 December 2007
Iran's president declares victory over the United States and other world powers in the dispute about Tehran's nuclear ambitions. The Iranian leader says this week's U.S. intelligence report supports Iran's assertion that its nuclear program is for energy, not weapons. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures as he talks to supporters in Ilam province, Iran, 05 Dec 2007
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures as he talks to supporters in Ilam province, Iran, 05 Dec 2007
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wasted no time in declaring victory.
Speaking to crowds in western Iran, he vowed Iran would stand firm behind its right to obtain nuclear technology and would not retreat one iota.
Mr. Ahmadinejad also reiterated that Iran is a peaceful nuclear country.
Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and not for developing weapons as the United States and other countries claim.
Washington has spearheaded the international campaign to curb Iran's nuclear program and has been pushing for a third round of U.N. sanctions to pressure Iran to stop its uranium enrichment.
Monday the U.S. intelligence community released a new assessment on Iran's nuclear capabilities and stated that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons development program four years ago.
The National Intelligence Estimate says international pressure and scrutiny likely caused Tehran to scrap its weapons program. But the assessment also says that Iran appears to be keeping its options open as it continues to produce enriched uranium.
President Bush makes a statement about Iran upon his arrival at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, 05 Dec 2007
President Bush makes a statement about Iran upon his arrival at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, 05 Dec 2007
U.S. President George Bush has said the report would not change Washington's position.
"Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous," he said. "And, Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Mr. Bush cautioned that the international community must remain vigilant.
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov said the U.S. report should be taken into account when discussing further sanctions at the United Nations. As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russian support for new sanctions against Iran is crucial and Russia as well as China have been reluctant to step up the pressure.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says the new U.S. assessment also validates the agency's findings that there is no indication Iran is conducting a secret nuclear-weapons program.
But the United States, Britain and France say they remain concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions and say further sanctions against Tehran remain an option.
Note Added on : 12:10 PM 12/7/2007 http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IL08Ak02.html
Dec 8, 2007
A smart side to US intelligence
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
The European Union needs a wake-up call and, unfortunately, none seems to be forthcoming, despite the earth-shattering new US intelligence report on Iran which warrants a wholesale change in the West's confrontational approach to that country. Instead, Europe continues to carry on with business as usual and, sadly, is even less predisposed to do otherwise due to various implications of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).
Thus, the leaders of the European troika of Germany, France and Britain, who have been at the forefront of nuclear diplomacy with
Iran since 2003, have remained completely oblivious to the profound policy implications of the new NIE indicating that Iran has no nuclear weapons program today, contrary to what has been vociferously alleged by the US and Europe until now.
On the contrary, instead of factoring in the sea-change caused by this report, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have joined hands in a desperate show of unity, calling for staying the course and initiating new sanctions if Tehran continues to defy "the will of the international community". The will to fabricate goes far indeed, no matter how thin its legitimacy now in the European consciousness and public sphere. It emerges that a non-existent threat, causing an unnecessary crisis to endanger world peace, has been the focal point of European diplomacy, combining carrots and sticks, to force Iranian non-proliferation. 
But, too bad for Europe, the net result of the NIE is that, in effect, it makes Europe redundant in the nuclear diplomacy, by depriving it of the stick of US hard power that has constantly lurked in the background every time European officials met with the Iranians and pressed their (unreasonable) nuclear demands. These were that Iran should forever forego its right to peaceful nuclear technology simply because of unfounded allegations and hyped-up fears.
This is, indeed, the nub of the paradox of the new situation as a result of the NIE: it has raised Iran's expectations for a more proactive European role precisely when Europe is now deprived of the necessary muscle to deal with Iran, hitherto provided by the US's credible threat of military action. With the latter jettisoned from the equation for now, Europe's cards for dealing with Iran have diminished considerably. All the attention has been deflected from Vienna and other European capitals to Washington, which until now has "outsourced" its Iran nuclear diplomacy to Europe.
The word outsource, though, is a bit of misnomer since (a) the US has always been indirectly involved in the minutest details of European negotiations with Iran, and (b) Europe's foreign policy head, Javier Solana, continues to claim that in September the US granted him permission to negotiate with Iran on its behalf.
But, with the Solana option pretty much drying up after the most recent failed meeting between him and Iran's negotiator, Saeed Jalili, Europe now faces the conundrum of how to continue with its active diplomacy toward Iran when the foundational premise of that (coercive) diplomacy has been thrown in the whirlwind of serious doubts and question marks.
Another pertinent question deals with the US's own intentions behind the NIE, which apparently has been in the making more than a year. Is side-stepping Europe and the "embracing the dragon" approach one of the hidden intentions of this report? This would nail the US's hegemonic, leadership role, feebly questioned even by the pro-American Sarkozy, who wants to have his cake and eat it by putting Paris ahead of London as the US's most reliable European ally while, at the same time, charting an independent French Middle East policy.
Now, with the effective Americanization of Iran's nuclear dossier due to the inescapable implications of the NIE report, the US must decide how to shuffle the nuclear negotiation deck so that new trans-Atlantic fissures are not introduced that may threaten the well-spring of the Sarkozy- and Merkel-led pro-American drift of European politics.
Most likely, what will transpire is a European atrophy in which the formal EU role in the Iranian nuclear standoff increasingly becomes a shell of its past, with the US in total command, dictating even the mini-steps. Can it be avoided? Can Iran do anything to avoid it? A provisional answer, based on the trajectory of the present overall circumstances, is no.
This is because Iran, seizing on the NIE report as a victory, has simultaneously denied the NIE's allegations of a pre-2003 weapons program and, by all indications, will continue its present path of building its nuclear fuel cycle. The awkward conundrum for Europe above-mentioned, on the other hand, will likely preclude serious policy modifications, as a result of which we will likely witness the absence of any fundamental changes in the posture of the various parties, with the sole exception of the US, which has its own "mixed motives" with regard to Iran. That is, it relies on Iran's good will to succeed in Iraq and, at the same time, cannot possibly reach a satisfactory victory in Iraq as long as Iran's meddlesome power challenges it.
What is more, the White House, already piling up sufficient justification as well as congressional authorization for an attack on Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, labeled as terrorists, does not really need the nuclear threat as part of its military contemplations against Iran. Any strike on Iran's Guards can easily escalate and extend to the nuclear facilities. All the more reason then to reject media speculation that the US military threat against Iran has altogether disappeared for the remaining year or so of the George W Bush presidency.
All that has happened is a shift of the rationale, despite Bush's perfunctory statement at his latest press conference that refused to remove the military option "from the table". Put simply, that option has now been wholly relocated on another plate, dealing with Iran's conventional military threat spilling into Iraq, which will come up at a potential fourth round of US-Iran dialogue in the near future.
Still, in light of the serious spins to the NIE by various US politicians and media experts for the need to set US-Iran relations on a more constructive path, Europe's auxiliary role may be none other than concentrating on complimenting the catalytic efforts to bring about a comprehensive US-Iran dialogue covering the myriad outstanding issues between the two countries.
However, with Europe incapable of dishing out anything tangible in the realm of security, and the US and Iranian militaries eyeball-to-eyeball in the Persian Gulf region, the US and Iran are perhaps better off dispensing with Europe altogether. They could then focus on how to reach a means of cooperation in a region considered vital for the national security of both nations, seeing how the US's energy dependency on Middle East imports has been on the rise with no sign of any improvement.
This brings one to a consideration of other, intended or unintended, side-effects of the NIE, including the following: the report, released at a time when Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad was in Qatar to participate at the summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), has the side effect of undermining Iran's regional policy by depicting Iran as a paper tiger that shelved the nuclear program due to cost-benefit analysis. This lessens the fear of the GCC states of Iran and their related proclivity to bandwagon with Iran on regional security and other issues. The "torpedo effect" of the NIE in grounding, if not sinking, the ship of Iran-GCC cooperation, deemed undesirable from the prism of the US's interventionist policies and priorities, is unmistakable.
In conclusion, the NIE may have been the brainchild of bureaucratic infighting aimed at fettering the neo-conservatives pinning their hopes on a US attack on Iran by the lame-duck president. But equally important is the other side effect of this report in dampening oil prices at a critical time when the US, and perhaps the global economy, is headed toward recession, according to many economists. And also when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel is contemplating shifting its currency exchange away from the US dollar.
A pre-emptive strike against that move was needed by the US and, it turns out, the NIE has precisely such a policy effect, on a broad range of issues. Who knows, in retrospect, the NIE, reflecting one of the most flagrant cases of US intelligence reversals in history, may be remembered as also a unique example of American smart power.
1. For more on this see Afrasiabi and Mojtahedzadeh, Crisis of choice, not necessity International Herald Tribune, August 12, 2005. URL : http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/08/11/opinion/edkaveh.php
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and co-author of "Negotiating Iran's Nuclear Populism", Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume XII, Issue 2, Summer 2005, with Mustafa Kibaroglu. He also wrote "Keeping Iran's nuclear potential latent", Harvard International Review, and is author of Iran's Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IL07Ak02.html
Dec 7, 2007
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A new Chinese red line over Iran
By M K Bhadrakumar
The conference on the Middle East in Annapolis in the United States last week seemed to be an exercise in self-delusion. Robert Fisk, who has chronicled the Levant for the past 31 years for the British media, somberly noted, "The Middle East is currently a hell disaster and the president of the United States thinks he is going to produce the crown jewels from a cabinet and forget Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran - and Pakistan, for that matter."
But in the days that followed, crown jewels did indeed begin to
tumble out of President George W Bush's cabinet. What awaits determination is whether Bush orchestrated it, or just let it happen.
In any case, the morning after the Annapolis shindig, we learnt that Syria and the US had a common choice in General Michel Suleiman (who also happens to be close to Hezbollah) for the unfilled Lebanese presidency. And then we saw on Sunday Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz entering the conference hall of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Doha flanked by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The GCC, flag-carrier of US regional strategy for three decades, had never before invited Iran to its meetings.
By Monday morning, the Bush administration had released declassified extracts of the sensational National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the Iranian nuclear problem, a report lying in the cabinet in the Oval Office in the White House for some time. The White House said on Wednesday that Bush was told in August that Iran may have suspended its nuclear weapons program. And now we learn that Bush will be packing his bags for his first-ever visit in his presidency to the Holy Land and Palestine.
Of course, the "hell disaster" in the Middle East that Fisk mentioned remains palpable still. Israel said on Tuesday it is seeking bids to build more than 300 new homes in a disputed east Jerusalem neighborhood. By nightfall on Tuesday, 21 rockets and mortars had been fired on Israel from Gaza, bringing the 12-month total to over 2,000. Yet, hardly a week remains for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to meet in the first follow-up session of the Annapolis meeting.
It is premature to say whether there is a pattern in all this. There is no credible evidence of a compelling vision at Annapolis either. Between a final-status peace and interim measures, a wide chasm undoubtedly lies. The Middle East sits on plate glass and it is agonizing to contemplate that glass can give way. All we know for sure is that the NIE signals that the Middle East isn't going to be the same again.
China, Russia vindicated
The NIE means the Bush administration cannot resort to a military strike against Iran during its remaining term in office, as it says that Iran "halted" its secret nuclear weapons program in the autumn of 2003. The military option simply doesn't exist anymore, no matter US officials' grandstanding.
Equally, the Bush administration's diplomatic campaign to get the international community to back tougher sanctions against Iran runs into a cul-de-sac. Washington has been lobbying for a third round of United Nations sanctions against Iran. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked to their Chinese and Russian counterparts. But Beijing and Moscow have taken serious note of the NIE. Probably, their intelligence already knew of its contents. At any rate, they reiterated their aversion for another UN Security Council sanctions resolution.
China's ambassador at the United States, Wang Guangya, commented, "I think the [UN] council members will have to consider that [NIE], because I think we all start from the presumption that now things have changed." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "We will assess the situation on proposals for a new resolution in the United Nations Security Council on the basis of [several] factors, including the publication by the United States of data showing that Iran does not have a military nuclear program."
Lavrov added that Moscow had no intelligence pointing toward any Iranian nuclear weapons program, even before 2003. Lavrov also said separately following a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, at the Kremlin on Tuesday, "We noted the willingness of Iran to adhere to cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], and Iran again confirmed its adherence to an observation of the [nuclear] Non-Proliferation Treaty."
China offers mediation
But, having said that, China's stance on the Iran problem has acquired some unique features. Prominent American strategic thinker and former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote after a recent visit to China that it is "timely and historically expedient" for Washington to enter into a strategic dialogue with Beijing regarding applying their shared experience in dealing with the North Korean nuclear problem to the potential crisis with Iran.
Brzezinski highlighted three points. First, in "wide-ranging private conversations", Chinese leaders impressed on him their worry about the financial and political fallouts of a US-Iran collision. Second, Chinese leaders pointed out to Brzezinski that Iranian denials of a nuclear weapons program in fact create a window of opportunity for Washington to contrive a face-saving arrangement for an internationally sanctioned, non-threatening Iranian nuclear program. "In China's view, the United States should avoid being drawn into tit-for-tat salvos" with the Iranian leadership, but should rather focus on a formula that "effectively forsakes the allegedly unwanted nuclear option". Third, China could help break the US-Iran stalemate, but the US should be "more active in the negotiating process with Iran".
China's motivations are completely self-centered. Beijing doesn't want its economic relationship with Tehran disrupted. Iran is a major supplier of oil to China. China intends to boost its bilateral trade with Iran to over US$100 billion annually in the near future. (There is no reason to doubt China's capacity to do so.) China supplies weapons and industrial products to Iran and participates in major projects, such as the Tehran metro.
Interestingly, Brzezinski gave a logical explanation as to why the US and China should become equal stakeholders. He pointed out that cascading US-Iran tensions could cause a more dramatic shift in the global distribution of power than what the international system witnessed when the Cold War receded into history. He explained that unlike the US and China, Russia has an "uncertain role" in the Iran crisis. That is because Russia is an increasingly revisionist state, and denying Chinese and American access to Caspian and Central Asian oil is at the core of the Russian geostrategy. Also, Russia fears "potential Chinese encroachments on Russia's empty but mineral-rich eastern areas and American political encroachments on the populated western areas" of the former Soviet Union.
Therefore, Brzezinski argued that unlike the US and China, Russia might even stand to gain from a political conflict in the Persian Gulf. Russia would certainly stand to gain out of a dramatic spike in oil prices, unlike the US and China, which would be badly hit. More important, high oil prices resulting from Persian Gulf tensions would leave Europe and China with no option but to depend heavily on Russian energy supplies. That is to say, "Russia would clearly be the financial and geopolitical beneficiary" of the Iran crisis. Brzezinski concluded, "A comprehensive strategic dialog between the United States and China regarding
the relevance of their shared experience dealing with North Korea to the potential crisis with Iran could be timely and historically expedient."
US leaves allies in the lurch
Curiously, the NIE echoes the line of thinking that the Chinese leaders put across to Brzezinski. But it leaves the US's allies with a lot of egg on their faces. Not only the US's European allies but
also its Asian partners, like Japan, India and Australia, went out on a limb to demonstrate their willingness to toe Washington's line on the Iran question.
Britain and France will be severely embarrassed by the u-turn in the NIE. They were hardliners. Germany, in comparison, has been the weakest link. The mounting US pressure on Germany will now ease. On the whole, the European allies will now be even more lukewarm about pursuing a confrontational path with regard to Iran.
Among Washington's Asian partners, it is India which will be the hardest hit. India's Iran policy is in a shambles. Amazingly, it now transpires that Delhi succumbed to US pressure to curtail banking links with Iran. Delhi will be hard-pressed to claw its way back into friendship with Tehran. There is a stunned silence among the strategic community and media elite in Delhi, who used to disparage the "mad mullahs" in Tehran. The NIE has been a nasty hit when there is much criticism already in public opinion over Delhi's pro-US foreign policy.
Compared to the US's Asian partners, its Middle Eastern allies find themselves far better placed to cope with the fallouts of the NIE. They heave a sigh of relief that the threat of war descending on the region may now lift. The pro-West Arab regimes should feel relieved that they kept a dual-track approach by also engaging Tehran actively. The changes in Saudi foreign policy in the post-September 11, 2001, period in the direction of more diversified external relationships included a judicious approach of keeping lines of communication open to Tehran at the highest levels of leadership, no matter the US-Iran tensions.
Therefore, the GCC's decision to invite Iran for its summit for the first time goes beyond a symbolic gesture. What remains to be seen is the extent to which the GCC kept Washington informed in advance about its overture to Tehran. Conceivably, the GCC consulted Washington. If so, we are witnessing the foundation-laying ceremony for a new regional security architecture in the Persian Gulf region.
The NIE poses Washington with a difficult choice. Prominent neo-conservative thinker Robert Kagan, who is close to the US administration, starkly posed the dilemma: "With its policy tools broken, the Bush administration can sit around isolated for the next year. Or it can seize the initiative, and do the next administration a favor, by opening direct talks with Tehran."
Kagan argues a strong case for negotiations and suggests an agenda of intrusive IAEA inspections and monitoring of Iran's nuclear facilities, and underlines that any talks with Tehran should be wide-ranging and include such thorny issues as terrorism and al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas, and of course Iraq.
Meanwhile, Bush and Rice have kept up a road show that the NIE changed nothing. Such grandstanding doesn't come as surprise. Washington will strive to negotiate with Tehran from a position of strength. Also, it is far from clear how the NIE shock waves play out on Iran's complicated political landscape. The Bush administration will be closely watching for signals from Tehran.
Ahmadinejad certainly comes out a winner on the Iranian political heap. He astutely played his cards. By appointing a tough negotiator like Jalili, he ensured that his position that Iran would not stop its uranium-enrichment program would be put across more firmly than before. The West now realizes that the stance carries conviction and is rooted on a principle that is difficult to counter, namely, that as long as Iran honors its commitments under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it has no reason to forgo its rights either.
A logjam has resulted insofar as UN Security Council resolution 1747, adopted in March, insists on suspension of all enrichment and reprocessing-related activities by Iran. That leaves two choices. First, if Iran stubbornly refuses to curtail its uranium enrichment, then the Security Council ought to impose tougher sanctions. But China and Russia will not agree. The alternative is embarrassing and precedent setting - the Security Council backtracks from 1747, admitting a mistake. Iran has essentially challenged the US's untenable assumption that it is incumbent on the NPT's non-weapon signatories to prove the peaceful nature of their programs.
On balance, Ahmadinejad has won. IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said recently that it no longer makes sense to insist Iran should stop enrichment since its nuclear program is already far advanced. Washington has to learn to live with Iran, just as it did with North Korea, despite the latter actually possessing nuclear weapons. No wonder, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, who met with Jalili last week, plainly admitted he had no more proposals to make to Iran, nor did he think Iran would resume nuclear talks.
Putin, too, acknowledged this reality when he referred at his meeting with Jalili in Moscow on Tuesday to the "intensive contacts at all levels" lately between Moscow and Tehran and "stepped-up cooperation on all fronts", and added, "I am very pleased to note the intensification of contacts between your country and the IAEA. We welcome the expansion of cooperation and expect that all your nuclear programs will be open, transparent and conducted under the supervision of this international organization."
But it is unlikely Tehran will brag too much. Once the dust settles on the NIE, cool stocktaking will follow in Tehran. The diplomatic statements at responsible levels so far - by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and the head of the majlis (Parliament)foreign policy committee, Ala'eddin Broujerdi - have been mature and reasonable.
The highly respected former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans has assessed after a recent visit to Tehran and meetings with top Iranian officials that the outlines of a deal are emerging and the NIE "gives us the chance to break out of this impasse [of Iran insisting on its right to enrich]". He suggested that the "red line" should no longer be the issue of enrichment, but could be between the "civilian and military capability" of NPT signatories, and if such a new red line would hold, "it would not matter whether Iran was capable of producing its own nuclear fuel".
Evans added, "That [red] line will hold if we can get Iran to accept a highly intrusive monitoring, verification and inspection regime" with additional safeguards, and if Iran could be persuaded to "stretch out over time the development of its enrichment capability and to have any industrial-scale activity conducted not by Iran but by an international consortium".
Evan assesses that Iran is "capable of being persuaded" if incentives include the lifting of sanctions and normalization of relations with the US. Evans concluded: "This is a country seething with both national pride and resentment against past humiliations, and it wants to cut a regional and global figure by proving its sophisticated technological capability. One only wishes that something less sensitive than the nuclear fuel cycle had been chosen to make that point."
M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings including India's ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001).http://www.cfr.org/publication/14936/
Blow to Oil-Fueled Socialism
December 3, 2007
Blow to Oil-Fueled Socialism
Though Chavez’s reform bid failed, he still has many ardent supporters. (AP Images/Rodrigo Abd)
Venezuela’s December 2 referendum on constitutional reforms followed street protests (CSMonitor) by thousands of Venezuelan university students. They proved to be a galvanizing force in the surprise defeat of the referendum, which would have broadly expanded President Hugo Chavez’s powers (TIME). The Venezuelan government, awash in oil revenues, has shared the windfall—from the upper-middle class down to the poor in Caracas’ barrios. Yet shortages of basic foodstuffs like milk and eggs have increased skepticism about economic reforms and eroded some of Chavez’s support among poor Venezuelans (LAT). Chavez accepted the poll’s result in a speech on December 3, adding that he would “continue in the struggle to build socialism.”
He will now have to contend with an emboldened opposition (NYT). Experts say the vote, Chavez’s first electoral defeat in nine years, could further polarize Venezuela’s already divided population. The referendum failed by a razor-thin margin of two percentage points, according to the Electoral Commission. Speaking on a panel at the Council of the Americas on November 30, Michael Penfold, an associate professor at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administracion in Venezuela, said the country is headed toward a “governability crisis.” Andy Webb-Vidal, a journalist and political-risk analyst, suggested at the same panel that Chavez will continue to do as he pleases, given the enabling law passed earlier this year that allows him to rule by decree.
The president and his followers still control most of the government, including the National Assembly, the state-owned oil company, and the courts. The proposed constitutional changes would have further centralized Chavez’s power (Economist), allowing him to be reelected indefinitely, giving him more leeway for declaring states of emergency, and mandating the creation of regions led by vice presidents picked by Chavez. Other amendments called for economic changes, such as allowing the president control over the central bank. A report (PDF) from the Venezuelan government outlines (in Spanish) the sixty-nine amendments in the referendum. John Walsh of the Washington Office on Latin America tells CFR.org's Bernard Gwertzman that these reforms were so far-reaching that many Venezuelans, even those who support Chavez, were “afraid of such power in one person's hands.”
Social programs to bring cheap groceries, medical care, and education to the poor have been the bulwark of Chavez’s support, but price distortions from the oil-fueled economy have hit many of these constituents hard. Inflation, officially at 16 percent but thought to be higher, is significantly raising the cost of basic foodstuffs. Journalist Alexandra Starr says Chavez has merely tapped into the Venezuelan belief that the government should help its citizens. “Cheap gas strikes at the heart of the arrangement many Venezuelans feel they have with the state: ‘national patrimony belongs to all of us, and I deserve my share of the spoils,’” she writes in The American Scholar.
Chavez’s political future will depend on the ability of Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA, to continue producing the heavy crude that fuels his socialist revolution. The president spends billions dollars of PDVSA's revenue on social programs, handouts to foreign governments such as Cuba, and defense. Though the company’s financial dealings and level of oil production are largely opaque, many analysts say oil production is down and the company is not investing enough. Venezuela was the ninth-largest global producer in 2006, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Two decades ago, PDVSA was considered a top-notch oil company. Now, it “amounts to the president’s $35 billion petty-cash drawer,” writes Tina Rosenberg in the New York Times Magazine.