Thursday, July 30, 2009

"We should be working with Arabs to strengthen their defenses & intelligence, ..and don't say a word about it. ... "

In the CABLE, here

" ... Later in the interview, Clinton said something else that, though unremarkable to many observers, pricked up the ears of some international nonproliferation experts and one hawk-eyed journalist, World Politics Review's Judah Grunstein. Addressing Iran, Clinton said, "You have a right to pursue the peaceful use of civil nuclear power. You do not have a right to obtain a nuclear weapon. You do not have the right to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control."

Whether Iran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has a right to enrich depends on whom you ask. (Iran insists it does under the NPT, as do many international nonproliferation experts. Others believe the Islamic Republic has essentially forfeited that right for being found by the U.N. Security Council to have violated its obligations under the same NPT treaty.) But the explicit assertion that Iran does not have the right to enrich has not been previously publicly expressed by the Obama administration, some nonproliferation experts asserted.

"That statement [by Clinton on Meet the Press] also perked up my ears," one U.S. government expert said on condition of anonymity.

"The NPT does give members states the right to enrich uranium, as long as they comply with their other obligations," he continued. "The Bush administration position, which was supported by the U.N. Security Council, was that Iran forfeited this right by concealing many of its nuclear activities for 18 years, but Iran asserts that the right is still inherent there. ...."

"I think she was being telegraphic," said the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's George Perkovich, who thought her remarks merited attention.

"The argument on which the Security Council resolutions rest is that Iran violated its safeguard obligations ... and its violations suspended its rights," he continued. "But that battle was lost politically in the broader international community. Most people say Iran has a right to enrich, and they don't acknowledge the conditionality of that right."

Regarding Clinton's "defense umbrella" comment, Perkovich thinks it also would have been better left unsaid. "'Defense umbrella' invokes nuclear weapons. That's trying to convince a country they don't need nuclear weapons by implicitly saying we'll nuke them. ... That kind of thing helps the Iranians who like it when Americans say aggressive things. They are very good at a shouting match. What they really respect, however, is the secret stuff."

"We should be working with Arabs on how to strengthen their defenses and intelligence," Perkovich continued, "and don't say a word about it. ... That will get to the Iranians."

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