Iran nuclear issue: Is there a road ahead?


The world in the beginning of the new year is not at peace. The United States and the European Union (EU) are in a diplomatic fight with Iran that sees no smoke of gunpowder.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors adopted a resolution tabled by the EU with 27 votes in favor, three against and five abstaining to report the Iranian nuclear issue to the United Nations (UN) Security Council.

Iran responded to IAEA's decision by announcing stop of implementation of the additional protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and full resumption of uranium-enrichment. Almost immediately Israel threatened by saying that Iran would pay 'dearly' for this.

With the adoption of the EU resolution, Iran was isolated. However, all the agreements reached since 2003 by Britain, France and Germany with Iran were thrown into the water and the EU might lose its place to conduct dialogue with Iran while Iran may now feel free to develop its nuclear technology. Although the U.S. and EU may rejoice in gaining an overwhelming vote this time, there is actually no winner in this diplomatic fight.

Iran's tough position and less-than-favorable international image in 2005 were the main reasons behind the overwhelming vote in the IAEA Council on Feb. 4. Nevertheless, it doesn't mean that all those voting in favor of the resolution are willing to pressure Iran together with the U.S. and EU and that these countries support sanction of Iran. For example, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said after the adoption that Russia still believes as far as possible this question should be solved within the framework of IAEA and Russia is not sure sanction would have effect.

Indian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that India's voted in favor of the resolution should by no means be construed as deviation from its traditional and close friendly relations with Iran.

Chief of the Chinese Delegation Wu Hailong said that China encourages Iran to continue to cooperate with IAEA and boost the trust of the international society in its peaceful nuclear activities.

For now, the U.S. and Iran have fundamental conflict of interests, which constitutes the key obstacle for solving the Iranian nuclear issue as well as the fundamental cause of the diplomatic hassle in Vienna.

The international community is very concerned with the possible disastrous prospects. The Iranian nuclear issue seems to reach a point where question arises as to whether there is even a road ahead.

Yet, analysts are not entirely pessimistic about the outlook of the issue. This is because first, the U.S. is not yet ready to fight another battle regarding the issue the end of which it cannot see for itself.

Second, Iran has not shut the door entirely. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran would continue to cooperate with IAEA under NPT and relevant IAEA rules, and stick to addressing the issue through dialogue. He also said Iran would continue to consult with Russia on a compromise.

Third, the U.S. and Europe have different ideas on the Iranian nuclear issue and diverging interests. Once Iran softens its position, the U.S. and Europe would have difference.

Fourth, the resolution of the IAEA Board of Governors only requires Director General Mohamed M. El Baradei to 'report' the Iranian nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council, rather than 'refer' it. The wording shows most IAEA members' leniency and room reserved for Iran to show flexibility.

Chinese delegation chief Wu Hailong said after the adoption of the resolution that although there are obstacles for the issue to be solved through negotiation, the parties concerned should not give up diplomatic effort. As long as a glimmer of hope exists it deserves the maximum effort. This is perhaps the common wish of the international society. Is there a turn ahead of the Iranian nuclear issue when a road is in question? Let's wait and see.

The article, written by Hua Liming, former Chinese Ambassador to Iran, is carried on the front page of People's Daily Overseas Edition, Feb. 7, and translated by People's Daily Online