Israel Worried about Washington-Tehran Talks under Obama

A05292042.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Israel is making discussions on future US-Iranian ties with some concerns and worries over a possible direct talks between Washington and Tehran if Senator Barack Obama wins the US presidential elections.

Israel expects Washington to initiate direct talks with Iran if Obama is elected president, in which case a critical Israeli interest would be to condition any talks between the West and Iran on halting uranium enrichment, Zionist daily Ha’aretz quoted a senior government source as saying.

Discussions have been underway for months among officials from Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Security Council, the intelligence agency Mossad and the Defense Ministry, and some academic experts, which were coordinated by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is also the ruling Kadima party chairwoman and the prime minister-designate, said the source.

The discussions studied a number of scenarios between Iran and the West, one of which held that following an Obama win, the new US president will start a dialogue with Iran to pressure it to give up its nuclear rights stipulated in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Obama has said in his first debate with Senator John McCain that the US had to enter tough direct talks with the Iranians as attempts to isolate Tehran only speed up its progress toward nuclearization.

Israel has no knowledge at present if Obama intends to present pre-conditions to dialogue with the Iranians, which is of great concern to Israel, said Ha’aretz.

The United States, Israel and their Western allies accuse Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons, but Iran insists that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

According to another scenario, after the US elections, and perhaps even before them, Iran would announce its agreement to the plan for a way forward proposed by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, known as the six powers, a few months ago.

Under the plan, uranium enrichment and sanctions would end simultaneously and talks would begin within 45 days on complete suspension of enrichment in exchange for a package of incentives from the West.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismissed West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.

Iran insists that it should continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Iran currently suffers from an electricity shortage that has forced the country into adopting a rationing program by scheduling power outages – of up to two hours a day – across both urban and rural areas.

Iran plans to construct additional nuclear power plants to provide for the electricity needs of its growing population.

The Islamic Republic says that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA’s questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.

“The evaluation in Israel is that these two scenarios are possible in the next six months,” said the source, who took part in the discussions.

The source said that in the course of strategic planning it was made clear that “Israel would have to avoid a situation in which the international community entered into dialogue and real negotiations with Iran while giving up the condition of stopping enrichment, and that this had to be emphasized to the six powers.”

Ahead of the annual evaluation by Israeli Foreign Ministry held about two weeks ago, a document was written on the subject of the scenarios which was not presented to a wide forum because of concern over leaks that would compromise international efforts against Iran, according to local TV Channel 10.

Ha’aretz also reported that over the past two months Israeli Foreign Ministry has put together a four-pronged plan for a new diplomatic campaign against Iran.

The plan divides activities on Iran into four teams that will advise Israeli diplomatic missions worldwide.

The team charged with diplomatic action against the nuclearization of Iran will consist primarily of personnel from the strategic wing of Israeli Foreign Ministry and will cooperate with other bodies in the defense establishment. It will focus on increasing international pressure on Iran.

The team tasked with Iran’s economic isolation will discuss divesting from Iran, cancelling deals, particularly on energy, boycotting Iranian banks and increasing monitoring of Iranian money in foreign banks.

Another team will work to isolate Iran in areas other than the nuclear program, and organize rallies during visits by senior Iranian officials.

A fourth team will deal with issues of public diplomacy – writing articles in leading newspapers around the world, conducting press briefings, engaging in public relations efforts against Iran on university campuses, and disseminating false intelligence against Iran in the media.

In response to the Ha’aretz report, Emily Landau, senior research associate at The Institute for National Security Studies, told a Thursday press briefing in Tel Aviv that Israel appears to make preparation for the scenario in which the new US president, Obama or McCain, will start talks with Iran.

She, however, noted that the US-led efforts have been going nowhere.

Ha’aretz held that if the US initiates direct talks with Iran if Obama is elected president, it means Israel will not attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and must get used to the reality of the US dialogue with Tehran.

Israel should keep an eye on its interests in the event of a possible US-Iranian dialogue, rather than live with the mistaken illusion it can unilaterally put a stop to Iran’s nuclear program, said Ha’aretz.

However, more to the point is that both the US and Israel evaluate that Iran is not yet approaching the nuclear threshold.

Isaac Ben-Israel, a member of Knesset (parliament) from the ruling Kadima party, told local newspaper Maariv that Livni “believes that if Iran’s nuclear program is not stopped by the world, Israel will have no choice but to attack.”

Speculation that Israel could bomb Iran has mounted since a big Israeli air drill in June. In the first week of June, 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters reportedly took part in an exercise over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece, which was interpreted as a dress rehearsal for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear installations.

Iran has, in return, warned that it would target Israel and its worldwide interests in case it comes under attack by the Tel Aviv.

The United States has also always stressed that military action is a main option for the White House to deter Iran’s progress in the field of nuclear technology.

Iran has warned it could close the strategic Strait of Hormoz if it became the target of a military attack over its nuclear program.

Strait of Hormoz, the entrance to the strategic Persian Gulf waterway, is a major oil shipping route.

Intensified threats by Tel Aviv and Washington of military action against Iran contradict a recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies which endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s nuclear plans and activities.

Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions or launch military attack on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Also in his latest report to the 35-nation Board of Governors, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed “the non-diversion” of nuclear material in Iran and added that the agency had found no “components of a nuclear weapon” or “related nuclear physics studies” in the country.

The IAEA report confirmed that Iran has managed to enrich uranium-235 to a level ‘less than 5 percent.’ Such a rate is consistent with the construction of a nuclear power plant. Nuclear arms production, meanwhile, requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.

Mohammed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said on Monday that Iran remains far from acquiring capabilities to develop nuclear weapons as it is still lacking the key components to produce an atomic weapon.

“They do not have even the nuclear material, the raw unenriched uranium to develop one nuclear weapon if they decide to do so,” said the head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

The IAEA has so far carried out at least 14 surprise inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites so far, but found nothing to support West’s allegations.

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog continues snap inspections of Iranian nuclear sites and has reported that all “declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.

Observers believe that the shift of policy by the White House to send William Burns – the third highest-ranking diplomat in the US – to the latest round of Iran-West talks happened after Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran lost steam due to the growing international vigilance.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

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