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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

IAEA offer to Iran STILL on the table, refined petroleum sanctions OFF the table?

US State Department Spokesman PJ Crowley said on Monday night that the IAEA offer to Iran to have its uranium enriched outside the country - which Iran rejected in October - is still on the table. But the possibility of implementing sanctions affecting the delivery of refined petroleum products (i.e. gasoline, or petrol as you Brits call it) to Iran is apparently OFF the table, because it would unduly impact the Iranian people.

You don't believe me?

Let's go to the videotape. The part that's relevant to Iran starts around 7:35 and ends around 19:00. The fireworks start around the 13:30 mark. Comments after the transcript.

Here's a transcript:
QUESTION: On Iran, Iran seems to be going out of its way to say that this nuclear swap deal might still be alive and how they’re becoming more flexible. And is it possible this deal is still alive? Is it possible that they’re offering something that anybody would accept?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we looked at the deal offered last September as being a confidence-building step. Iran has now taken seven months and has really not been willing to respond meaningfully to that offer. I think we are still interested in taking that step, but at the heart of it, there was the proposal that Iran would ship out a significant amount of its stock of enriched fuel and there would be an exchange for a corresponding amount of fuel suitable to the Tehran research reactor.

Fundamentally, Iran has never agreed to that core element in the offer, which would be a step in restoring confidence by the international community in Iran’s nuclear intentions. I think we are still interested in pursuing that offer if Iran is interested. It would need to be updated, because over the course of the last seven months, Iran has had its centrifuges operating and one would presume has increased the amount of fuel that it has at its disposal. We are certainly not interested in having an arrangement that actually can be used to facilitate Iran’s noncompliance with its international obligations. So if Iran wants to pursue this, what it needs to do is actually indicate that formally to the IAEA. That is something that Iran has never done. We’ve heard press statements and other things, but what Iran has yet to do is come to the IAEA, sit down, and provide a meaningful response to what was put on the table last fall.

QUESTION: But just to follow up, I mean, the foreign minister of Turkey was here and he was telling reporters that the sticking point was the timing and that Iran wanted this to be simultaneous rather than have the stuff ship out, then it gets enriched and then returned, and that he was claiming that if, in fact, there was enough of this material to trade, then it would happen. And so I’m just – this is something I’ve never heard from Western diplomats. So I’m curious whether –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I want to say – I mean the details matter. This was at one point a fairly simple proposition. Provide enriched fuel and it will be reprocessed, which will then allow you to continue operations at the TRR and not interrupt what is a important humanitarian operation for the benefit of the Iranian people. And Iran, over the course of months, has offered a number of variations, none of which address the core international concern about the trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program. So if Iran is willing to have an exchange that not only meets legitimate Iranian needs, but also addresses core international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, we can have that discussion. But unfortunately, Iran has not come forward and with any kind of meaningful follow-up to what was discussed in Geneva.

QUESTION: Also on Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called for sanctions on gasoline exports to Iran. Will the U.S. support that?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to go into a play-by-play. We have ongoing discussions in New York on particulars of a sanctions resolution. Our goal is to have it be strong, meaningful, credible. But as to particular ingredients at this point, not willing to talk about them.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the reports that a senior Iranian official has said that the country is taking steps to try to decrease its imports of gasoline so as to protect itself or to mitigate the effects of any sanctions on its gas imports?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of that. I mean it is – it indicates Iran’s disregard for the welfare of its people. If it reduces gas imports, that will only increase the hardship on the Iranian people. Iran has a clear course in front of it. It can answer the questions that we have on its nuclear program, and in doing so in a constructive way, potentially end its isolation and allow for the kind of relationship and benefits of that relationship that come with the countries that are integrated into the global trading system. But the fact that they are now even pulling back even further tells us they’re not really interested in the welfare of their people. But I’m not aware of the --

QUESTION: Well, wait a minute. I mean, as you’re well aware, legislation has passed in the Congress looking to crack down on refined petroleum product imports into Iran. Does that indicate a view on the part of – in your view, that means that Chairman Berman is indifferent to the welfare of the Iranian people?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are in discussions about particular legislation with the Hill. I think let’s wait and see what emerges. We want to make sure, as the Secretary has said, and others, that what ultimately emerges on the sanctions front is directed at those entities within the Iranian Government that are directly related to and support their nuclear program while trying to spare hardship on the Iranian people. And in terms of whatever prospective legislation that might move forward that provides the foundation for national actions that could be taken, we want to make sure that there is enough flexibility in that legislation so that it can – we think it can be most effective in sending a strong, credible message to the Iranian people. But I’m not going to get ahead of either front. We’re working on a sanctions resolution in New York and we’re working constructively with Congress in terms of domestic legislation.

QUESTION: But P.J., what – I think what I just heard you say was that you’re taking that off the table.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not taking – I’m not putting anything on the table or off the table.

QUESTION: Well, but if you say that if Iran reduces its imports of refined petroleum, that’s going to hurt the Iranian people, and at the same time you also say that you don’t want to hurt the Iranian people. I mean, it’s --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, and --

QUESTION: -- it’s a syllogism here.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me take it a step further.

QUESTION: That would mean – that would then mean that you don’t – you, the U.S., don’t want to go after refined petroleum products.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to specify at this point precisely what step is going to be in a sanctions resolution and I don’t want to predict what particular actions may be incorporated in domestic legislation. Neither of those have advanced that far at this point.

QUESTION: This is not the question. The question is, what about the – does the Administration think that putting – that --

QUESTION: Taking action --

QUESTION: -- taking action against – on – in the refined petroleum sector is a good thing or is a bad thing?

MR. CROWLEY: It’s neither. What we want to see happen here is whatever does emerge, one, should be credible; two, should be aimed specifically at what we think the heart of the problem is; and three, can actually be enforceable. And there’s a great deal of debate and there are lots of potential targets, but the things that we ultimately choose and move forward, we have to make sure that we actually can have the desired impact on the Iranian Government. I’m just not going to predict precisely what steps we’re going to take at this point. We’re interested in strong, credible sanctions.

QUESTION: Right. But I’m not really asking what steps you’re going to take. I’m trying to figure out if it’s still – if the Administration believes that going after refined petroleum products would hurt the Iranian people and thus go against what --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again --

QUESTION: -- what the Secretary and the President have been saying, that sanctions should target the elite.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, clearly the energy sector writ large is one of the areas that we’re studying. As to what particular action that would have, if we could find a way to have an impact on the IRGC, the government, the ruling elite, and – we don’t want to see sanctions that have a disproportionate impact on the Iranian people. That involves a balancing act, and that’s the kind of analysis and discussions that we’re having within the Security Council and the P-5+1 right now.

Go ahead. All right. Sure.

QUESTION: Could I have just one more follow up question, please? My impression was that the Administration thought it was useful that the Congress was proceeding with this kind of legislation, which I realize has not yet been conferenced, and therefore, you don’t actually have, you know, a passed bill from both houses, and that it was useful to have that somewhere as a potential tool to be used against Iran. And I’d like to follow up on Matt’s question on whether you are effectively suggesting that it’s not on the table anymore.

MR. CROWLEY: What’s not on the table anymore?

QUESTION: The possibility of reducing Iran’s refined petroleum off the table --

MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t taken anything off the table. I haven’t put anything on the table. We are in the midst of this discussion. To your earlier point, clearly, whatever sanctions resolution emerges from the UN can be supplemented by national actions. And we are working with the Congress on what the particulars of that legislation might be. We want to have the ability to incorporate sufficient flexibility into what legislation emerges so that we can have the impact that we want, not only on Iran but also to make sure that we have concerted international action as we apply pressure on Iran.

QUESTION: Same issue.


QUESTION: Mr. Erdogan said that he’s not going to support the sanctions at the Security Council. Any comment on this?

MR. CROWLEY: He – pardon me?

QUESTION: He’s not going to support sanctions against Iran at the Security Council. What is your comment?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we will continue the same kind of close consultation that we had with Turkey and other key countries as we did last week. And we expect that at the end of the day, we’ll get the support that we need to pass an important resolution.
Note: Strong, meaningful, credible - but not necessarily effective - sanctions. What does 'credible' mean? Enough that we make it look like we tried to use sanctions to stop Iran, even though we know from the beginning that they won't work?

PJ looked a little uncomfortable around the 15:00 mark, didn't he? But it seems pretty clear that this administration does not want to go after refined petroleum products, which may be the only possibility for effective sanctions against Iran.

Note also that this administration has NO idea how to use stronger action as a threat to get Iran to comply. Not sanctions and not military force (which doesn't even come up in this briefing).

What could go wrong?


At 8:46 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

This Administration wants to avoid conflict at all costs. Its not going to take serious steps against Iran... and that the steps that would work, its not going to adopt.

What could go wrong indeed


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