2 dec. 2009

Iran: No uranium stockpile abroad to be processed for peaceful purposes

Outgoing Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, left, talks to U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies prior to the start of the IAEA's 35-nation board meeting at Vienna's International Center, in Vienna, on Friday, Nov. 27, 2009
With a decision on Afghanistan, we will now see whether a reluctant president can persuade a reluctant Congress and inspire a reluctant nation to accept additional wartime sacrifice. But the administration must feel relieved. The mere act of choosing releases accumulated tension like shooting a bow, wherever the arrow lands.

That relief, however, will be short-lived. Coinciding with the Afghan decision, Iran has entered a final stage of irrevocable choices about its nuclear program. It has backed out of a deal that would have sent most of its uranium stockpile abroad to be processed for peaceful purposes. Following a censure of Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced plans to construct 10 additional nuclear enrichment sites. Iran's parliament passed a resolution urging decreased cooperation with the IAEA. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami preached a sermon at Tehran University pledging that Iran would produce its own high-grade uranium for "medical research." This is a regime in total defiance of international demands, moving toward breakout nuclear weapons capability.

So, have President Obama's diplomats failed? Were their honeyed words not sweet enough? Not really, because the current crisis has little to do with their skill, or lack of it. It is being caused by internal dynamics in Iran that seem immune to the rational offers and counteroffers of diplomacy.
In Iran, we are seeing the consolidation of a military dictatorship. Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, the nation's clerical leaders have had a military arm -- the Revolutionary Guard Corps -- that has acted as their ideological enforcers. It polices Tehran, organizes paramilitary forces, effectively runs Iranian elections, dominates large sectors of the economy, operates missile systems, directs Iran's international support for terrorism, controls Iran's chemical and biological weapons, and would be in charge of an Iranian nuclear bomb. Ahmadinejad and many other leaders are former Guard officers.
But in reaction to mass protests after the fraudulent presidential election in June, the Guard's control has expanded comprehensively. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently reorganized Iran's intelligence services to give the Guard the lead role -- clearly fearful that the regular intelligence agencies were unreliable. The Guard has assumed greater power over Iranian media. It is increasing Internet censorship and placing militia instructors in elementary schools. Experts on Iran now debate whether the Guard is fully under Khamenei's control or whether it may be beyond all control.
Iran's theocracy has become a military junta with a veneer of religion. There are fatigues beneath the robes. On the nuclear issue, the main question is: Does this regime believe that nuclear weapons will help ensure its survival? There is every reason to believe that it does. As the disorders since June revealed the regime's vulnerability, it has sped up its nuclear program. Drained of legitimacy and fearing a color revolution, Iran's military government seems to believe that the bomb will confer influence and permanence. It is not an irrational calculation.
In this light, Obama's policy of setting deadlines for cooperation that are violated with impunity, and continually extending the hand of engagement after it is slapped again and again, is both weak and irrelevant. But the alternatives are not easy or obvious. The crippling economic isolation of Iran is worth trying, again. But it would require a number of unreliable nations to sacrifice large economic interests in Iran -- something they have been unwilling to do before. Direct military options are uncertain and opposed by the military itself. It is difficult to imagine Obama, the Great Deliberator, taking actions that George W. Bush concluded were too risky.
But the security implications of a nuclear Iran could be greater than failure in Afghanistan. Iran is an unstable revolutionary power with global ambitions and terrorist ties. Nuclear proliferation does not get more dangerous than this.
There is, however, an untried option. So far, President Obama has seemed to view Iran's ongoing democratic uprising as a pesky obstacle to engagement. The administration has reduced funding for human rights programs in Iran and looked the other way as exiled opponents of the Iranian regime have been attacked within Iraq.
In addition to serious economic and military pressure, Obama could try the strategy the Iranian regime most fears: supporting, overtly and covertly, the democratic resistance against military rule. Not out of idealism, but realism. It would be a source of leverage on the Iranian regime, at a time when American leverage is limited. And it might hasten the return of civilian control in Iran, so that America would actually have a negotiating partner.

SPIEGEL Interview with Pakistan's Prime Minister

'American Drone Attacks Are Counterproductive'

In a SPIEGEL interview, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani talks about the fight against terrorism in his country, the future of Afghanistan and why US drone attacks do more harm than good.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, Pakistan is being shaken by more and more terror attacks. In the past few weeks, the number of assaults has increased noticeably. Moreover, your government is at war with militants in Waziristan. Do you still enjoy being prime minister?

Yousuf Raza Gilani: I have taken a special responsibility in a unique situation of my country. Pakistan is a frontline state in a conflict which will decide the peace, progress and prosperity not only of Pakistan or South Asia, but of the whole world. So you can imagine what my job is about. I personally feel that it is our duty to perform successfully. As far as our military activities in South Waziristan are concerned, I followed the policy of dialogue and development first. But when the country was challenged by the militants, there was no other option left than military action.

SPIEGEL: Many people in Pakistan consider this approach a war against the country's own people.

Gilani: The people we are fighting are militants. They are not from Pakistan, they are Uzbeks, they are from Chechnya, they are Arabs and Afghans. And they cooperate with foreign agents to disturb the peace in Pakistan.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that there are no Pakistani Taliban?

Gilani: Of course there are Pakistani militants, but the insurgencies are driven by foreign elements.

SPIEGEL: Let me guess: You believe that the Indian intelligence service is behind it.

Gilani: In fact, to some extent there is a lot of interference in Afghanistan. This is not only our opinion, but also the belief in the United States.

SPIEGEL: But there has not been any proof of Indian involvement.

Gilani: I am not saying that there is. But the insurgency in Afghanistan has been analyzed by many experts, including from American think tanks, and they have mentioned this.

SPIEGEL: You are talking about Afghanistan, but it is Pakistan that has been repeatedly described as the "most dangerous place in the world." Don't you think it is too easy to say that only foreign elements are responsible?

Gilani: The world is always only focusing on terrorism when it comes to Pakistan. This has, of course, harmed the reputation of our country. We must not forget that there are so many other areas and avenues which are very conducive for Pakistan. Despite all the things that are going on here, there are so many places not affected by terrorism. We are giving a lot of security to the employees here, also to those who have come from other countries. There are many engineers, for example. But, unfortunately, we see many lost opportunities for investment because of this focus on terrorism -- and that harms not only Pakistan, but also the foreign investors. Can't one see that there is a lot of development in Pakistan going on?

SPIEGEL: Are you disappointed about the world's opinion of Pakistan?

Gilani: Pakistan should not be portrayed only as a country at war. When there was a Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, there were many allies fighting the invaders in this war. We were part of this alliance. After this war, the world forgot about this region, and that vacuum was filled by the militants. We are facing those problems even today. They have been thrust upon us.

SPIEGEL: Since you are already letting the US carry out its drone attacks against militants on Pakistani territory along the border with Afghanistan, why don't you let them help you with soldiers on Pakistani territory?

We Need Huge Public Support to Combat Terrorism'

Gilani: We haven't stopped them from helping us. In fact, we have a multi-dimensional cooperation with the United States, including defense and intelligence, but also economics, trade, development, health education and even in cultural affairs. But these drone attacks are counterproductive.

SPIEGEL: Really? The leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed by an American drone. Don't you call this a success?

Gilani: The political and the military leadership have been very successful in isolating the militants from the local tribes. But once there is a drone attack in their home region, they get united again. This is a dangerous trend, and it is my concern and the concern of the army. It is also counterproductive in the sense that it is creating a lot of anti-American sentiment all over the country. But in order to fight the militants in Waziristan, we have to carry the public with us. One cannot go into any war without the support of the masses. We need huge public support to combat terrorism. But we do not get that if there is American interference, which we do not ask for.

SPIEGEL: But no matter what the Americans do, there will always be anti-American sentiment.

Gilani: Right now, the whole nation is supporting our military action because they feel that terrorism is a menace.

SPIEGEL: In the past few weeks, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser James Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta all visited Islamabad. Were the visits an attempt to improve America's reputation here?

Gilani: The war in Waziristan is our own war. Once there is American interference, as with the drones, the public starts thinking that it is a proxy war. At times, the public sentiment is quite anti-American. That is why we are convincing Washington that there should be more cooperation in the fields of defense and intelligence. And cooperation means cooperation, not doing anything without our consent. At the same time, we need a regional balance, too. It should not be seen that the Americans are doing something on behalf of the Indians. If this was the case, then public opinion would totally turn against the Americans.

SPIEGEL: Are you in favor of the US staying in Afghanistan? Once it withdraws, there will be no balance at all in the region.

Gilani: A stable Afghanistan is very much in the interest of Pakistan. We have been coping with millions of refugees in Pakistan, and they have been here for many decades. Now they have merged into our society, they are doing business here and their children have grown up here. There is a lot of cross-border activity going on, too. So that is why we need a stable Afghanistan. There people should be able to go back to their own country with dignity.

SPIEGEL: So you support the new strategy of US President Barack Obama to first increase the number of soldiers and then leave Afghanistan in the near future?

Gilani: We support any policy which is in the interest of the Afghani people. The main goal should be stability in the region.

SPIEGEL: The picture you are drawing is not exactly ideal for attracting more foreign investment to Pakistan. This week you are visiting Germany to try to accomplish just this. What are you going to tell German companies?

Gilani: Again, we should not stick to terrorism. Not the whole country is attacked by terrorists. Only specific areas -- those close to the border to Afghanistan -- are affected and we are very successfully handling the situation. Nowhere else in the world have 2 million refugees, so-called internally displaced persons, been sent back to their homes within only 10 weeks, as happened after our military action in the Swat Valley this summer. This is unprecedented in the history of the world. Therefore we are confident even about South Waziristan. We have already taken over the militants' strongholds, which has never happened before in that region. At the same time there is a lot of investment already coming to Pakistan.

SPIEGEL: That does not seem convincing enough for German companies.

Gilani: We have a special relationship to Germany. Pakistan and Germany were the first countries in the world to sign a bilateral investment treaty, back in 1959. Why shouldn't we continue with this good relationship? Germany is already our fourth biggest investor; the European Union is number one.

SPIEGEL: Can you imagine what the German public would say if German arms manufacturers were to invest in Pakistan?

Gilani: We are looking for investments in all fields. We have a lot of opportunities, for example, in the agricultural sector or in the fields of power generation and infrastructure.

SPIEGEL: There have been a lot of media reports in recent months about Pakistan's plans to buy submarines from Germany, something which is controversial in Germany given the political situation in Pakistan. Do you also plan to talk about buying German submarines during your visit to Berlin? Or has your government already decided to buy French submarines instead?

Gilani: It will take some time. The army chief to whom I talked about this on Thursday told me that we are successfully moving forward. But this is related to all kinds of defense matters, not only about the issue you are talking about. But I can assure you, there is a defense cooperation with Germany, too, and we are already in the process of signing a memorandum with the Germans.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for the interview.

Interview conducted by Hasnain Kazim in Islamabad.