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Iran and the US: A Fictional Dialogue

Who threatens who is clear. For more than a half century, wehave been the victims of your aggression. In 1953, the CIA overthrew our democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh only because he dared to nationalize the oil industry.


Who is responsible for the escalation in the Iran conflict? A fictional dialogue between an American and an Iranian.

By Tim Guldimann

[This fictional argument published in: DIE ZEIT 08, 2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://zeus.zeit.de/text/2006/08/Iran_Dialog.]

[The conflict around the Iranian nuclear program can only be understood on the background of the dispute between the US and Iran over many years. For over a quarter of a century, the governments no longer spoke with each other. The following dialogue based on the positions of both sides was freely invented.]

IRANIAN: You believe you can deny us the right to the civil use of nuclear technology with your reso0lution of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA). We will not be intimidated or extorted. For a long time, we warned you that you would destroy trust in a negotiated solution if you referred the matter to the Security Council. Now we resume uranium enrichment and refuse the IAEA any unannounced inspections. Diplomacy is at an end.

AMERICAN: You are responsible for the failure of the negotiations. In August, you violated your agreement with the EU and resumed production of uranium-hexa-flouride, the initial product for uranium enrichment. Nevertheless the European Union (EU) in December 2005 continued discussions with you. Then to remove the last basis for negotiations, you re-started uranium enrichment in January 2006 with the flimsy justification that they were only very limited research activities.

IRANIAN: We never agreed to suspend these activities. The agreement with the EU said: The EU recognizes that the suspension is a voluntary trust-building measure, not a legal obligation. Everything we do is legal. Article IV of the Nuclear Test Ban treaty guarantees our inalienable right to research, produce and use nuclear energy that also includes enrichment. We only interrupted enrichment with view to a comprehensive agreement with the EU. However we always made clear we did not renounce on enrichment. Responsibility for the escalation lies with you since you denied us any form of enrichment on principle and forced this red line of the EU on us. Then the EU tried to dissuade us from our position and delay the negotiations. We cannot wait any more because you only want to force your scientific apartheid and your nuclear monopoly on the world.

AMERICAN: Article IV of the Test Ban treaty is only exp-licitly valid in agreement with Article II. Article II forbids producing nuclear weapons. As long as you do not remove that suspicion, you have no right to enrichment. Three years ago the IAEA criticized your intentional diversion- and hide-and-seek policy. Since then General director ElBaradei repeated his suspicion. The latest IAEA resolution confirmed the lack of trust that your program only serves peaceful goals.

IRANIAN: You violate the Test Ban treaty, not us. For decades, y8ou refused to fulfill Article VI of the treaty on nuclear disarmament. Israel, India and Pakistan never signed the treaty, have nuclear armed and are your best friends while we keep this treaty and are denounced. The IAEA can only reproach us for not meeting all the notification requirements up to October 2003. However the IAEA already confirmed at that time that there was no evidence that this was connected with a weapons program. Since then we have collaborated closely with the IAEA to solve unresolved questions as ElBaradei noted positively at the end of January 2006. You failed to gain a declaration from the IAEA that we broke the Test Ban treaty because only this declaration would have made necessary a referral to the Security Council. In its latest resolution, the IAEA council merely asked the General director to inform the Security Council without identifying a violation of the Test Ban treaty.

AMERICAN: What are involved here are not legal subtleties. You pull the wool over the eyes of the world public with your claim of an exclusively peaceful nuclear program. This claim makes no sense in light of your immense oil- and gas reserves. By pulling out of the negotiations, you intentionally provoked the IAEA resolution and created the pretext for expelling the international inspectors from the land. Now you erect a smokescreen behind which you pursue your military program. At the same time you claim to keep the Test Ban treaty.

IRANIAN: Our religious leader Chamenei, the highest authority in the state, declared in a binding religious statement that Iran is not producing, storing and using nuclear weapons.

AMERICAN: How can we believe that? You are the main sponsor of terror in the world and your president wants to erase Israel from the world map. Therefore you are the greatest geo-strategic threat.

IRANIAN: Our religious leader recently reemphasized that we do not threaten any nation in the world while Bush spoke again of a military attack against our land a few days ago.

AMERICAN: Bush only said: I will never take away any option from the table.

IRANIAN: He confirmed that the war option is on his desk. Who threatens who is clear. For more than a half-century, we have been the victims of your oppression. In 1953, the CIA with the English MI-6 overthrew our democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh only because he dared to nationalize the oil industry.

AMERICAN: That is history. However you celebrate today the anniversary of the barbaric kidnapping during the revolution of 52 of our diplomats who feared for their lives for 444 days.

IRANIAN: We did not injure them while you helped Saddam Hussein in his war against us with weapons and satellite pictures of our troop concentrations. Tens of thousands of our soldiers were killed with the most brutal chemical weapons.

AMERICAN: In 1983 your henchman the Hisbollah killed 230 of our marines in a terrorist attack in Beirut. We have tried to get over the past. In March 2000, Secretary of State Albright officially acknowledged that American policy toward Iraq during its conflict with Iran seems regrettably shortsighted today, above all in light of our later experiences with Saddam Hussein. She had the courage to extend her hand. She called for writing a new chapter of our common history. She said: Let us be open about our differences and over come them. But you did not respond to her invitation.

IRANIAN: We were stirred. We condemned the attacks of September 11 very sharply. Our religious leader even called to a holy war against these terrorists. Your operation in Afghanistan could not have succeeded without our help in mobilizing the Afghan Northern Alliance against the Taliban. Then at the Bonn conference, we helped you hoist Karsai's government into the saddle. As thanks for all our help, Bush put us on the axis of evil six weeks later.

AMERICAN: We had good reason. This week your former president Rafsandschani threatened with the Islamic nuclear bomb that could destroy everything in Israel. You granted shelter to many al-Qaida members from Afghanistan and actively supported weapon smuggling for the PLO...

IRANIAN: You never proved the accusations against us in the Karine-A affair. At the Afghani border, we could not ward off all the infiltrators. We waged war there against the drug smuggling. Up to now, over 3500 of our soldiers died and no one helped us. You never got the message of the connection between drugs and al-Qaida. You pretend to combat international terrorism and close your eyes to the drug cultivation in Afghanistan that doubled since September 11 compared to the time under the Taliban. We arrested many al-Qaida people and handed them over to their home states.

AMERICAN: ... but not to us.

IRANIAN: Why should we hand them over to you? So you could torture them in Guantanamo? With your double standards, you handle with kid gloves the criminals of the Iranian terror organization MKO who operated against us from Iraq under Saddam and merely isolated them in your bases so they could remain active against us. You know how we helped you with our reserve in Iraq. We supported the unity of the Iraqi opposition so they could play an active role in overthrowing Saddam. But you wanted to overthrow Saddam without the help of the Iraqi people. The consequences are undeniable.

AMERICAN: Our criticisms concern the time since then when you destabilized the situation in Iraq with your revolutionary guards. You support the most dangerous extremists. The Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr was even received by Rafsandschani in Teheran.

IRANIAN: We always did our utmost for the integrity of Iraq and urged speedy democratic elections. We have a great interest in a stable and democratic Iraq.

AMERICAN: We offered to speak about Iraq and authorized our ambassador Khalizad in Baghdad to discussions.

IRANIAN: Now when the water is up to your neck, you come and want to speak with us only about Iraq and not anything else. We were long ready to speak with you under the condition that you respect us. You long supported Saddam. The backward Saudis are your best friends. But you could not speak the three key words "in mutual respect" toward our elected government.

AMERICANS: We could not accept as a precondition for conversations showing respect to a regime that denies Israel's right to exist, threatens the region with its nuclear program and supports terrorists. No, we do not respect you.

IRANIAN: On one side you act again and again as though you want to solve problems with us when it suits you. At the same time, you seek to overthrown our government and stir up the Iranian population. In his last State of the Union address, Bush said: "To Iranians, I say tonight, if you stand up for your freedom, the United States will stand at your side." You insult the Iranian people.

AMERICAN: No, we make clear to everyone that the region only has a future in freedom and democracy. We champion that. However this is only possible in security. Therefore Iran must be prevented from developing nuclear weapons.

IRANIAN: With this pretext, you seek to isolate us internationally and incite the Security Council against us. We face this development calmly. The Security Council will call to a diplomatic solution and handle our problem like the case of North Korea. China, probably Russia and many others will refuse to follow your sanctions. Even if you successfully move European states to sanctions against us, we will cope with that as we coped with your sanctions for years. We have focused our economic relations on Asian countries that have become attractive as industrial partners, above all in the high-tech realm.

AMERICAN: As we said, diplomacy has priority but we do not exclude any option.

IRANIAN: You threaten with a military strike but forget that the Iranian atomic program is not packaged in containers in the desert like the Libyan program but is in the heads of thousands of our specialists. You cannot erase this. We warn you. We told the Europeans clearly that if any country acts illogically and arrogantly toward Iran, we would close the Strait of Hormuz through which a quarter of the global oil supply passes. A doubling of the oil price will be just fine for us but not for you and your friends in Europe and Asia.

Tim Guldimann was the Swiss ambassador in Teheran from 1999 to 2004. Whoever visits him in his residence in the green, cool north of the capitol will always enjoy an intelligent conversation. A foreigner could hardly have been better informed about conditions in the country than the Swiss who also represented Washington's interests. He was candid and very discreet, the perfect diplomat. Presently he is on sabbatical from the Foreign Service and teaches at the University of Frankfurt/Main.

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