There's a rather interesting Associated Press piece published in the Washington Post today that has several interesting points. The article is about the comments of Joseph Macmanus, the chief U.S. delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, accusing Iran of various things, but that's not the main interest to me.
First, the article is uncharacteristically fair, albeit based on my standards which have been worn down quite low due to the otherwise lamentable and pathetic standards of journalism (and ethics) displayed by most of the media when it comes to their Iran coverage.
For example, the author (whose name I was not able to find in the piece as published right now) writes:
"Macmanus concentrated on expressing the U.S. view of Iran’s alleged failure to meet its international obligations and diminish concerns that it wants nuclear weapons."
Yes, he actually said that the Iranian violations are merely "alleged." Based on my very, very, very lowered expectations of the media, that's a victory. He or she also writes that the main source of the allegations about Iran's alleged past nuclear activities are from the US and Israel, which is nice to see acknowledged.
Of course, the article is not accurate when it claims that Iran "hid its enrichment program for years" as I've demonstrated before. And why not mention that Iran had allowed the IAEA to visit "Parcin" (sic) twice already, and furthermore that legally Iran isn't required to allow any inspections of "Parcin" (sic) at all? Or why not mention what Iran's actual objections to another visit to Parchin which are actually quite reasonable?
And I am pretty sure the article is downright wrong at the end, when it characterizes the previous offer made to Iran thusly:
"Diplomats say the proposal made to Iran late last month... would obligate Iran to decommission its centrifuge plant at Fordo...and ship out the approximately 165 kilograms... as well as allowing increased U.N. oversight....In return, the six are offering to help supply and run Iran’s research reactor which is fueled by plates made from higher enriched uranium, coupled with what Iran wants most — relief from sanctions meant to penalize Iran for refusing to heed U.N. Security Council demands"
No, sorry, this is contrary to other reports of what was actually offered to Iran. Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor wrote about what was offered Iran back then thus:
"On the P5+1 side, the "offer" put on the table earlier this year – which US and European diplomats say privately they would never accept for themselves, if they were in Iran's position – was widely deemed to have been a necessity of the White House before the Nov. 6, presidential election, so that Obama would not be open to accusations that he was "soft" on Iran by offering concessions"
And Barbara Slavin wrote in Al-Monitor:
"The “refreshed” proposal includes spare parts for Iran’s aging Western jetliners — a perennial carrot — and assistance with Iran’s civilian nuclear infrastructure but no specific promise of sanctions relief, Al-Monitor has learned...Iran will be expected to agree to concessions before knowing exactly what it would get in return."
This is altogether a very different version of what was offered Iran than what the unnamed diplomats told the reporter.
There are other issues of fairness and accuracy too but I won't go into all of them now. (For example, when citing Iran's representative who said that Amano had politicized the issue, why not mention the Wikileaks exposure of Amano swearing loyalty to the US on the Iran issue?)
Second, the article mentions the issue of "special inspections" at Parchin. This is the first time that I've seen the media mention Special Inspections. Basically, if there's enough evidence that a country has not declared all of the nuclear material/work it should have declared to the IAEA so the sites can be inspected, the IAEA Board can require "special inspections" of the sites in that country. These inspections are conducted on an ad hoc basis, and are separate from the "normal" and routine IAEA inspections. "Special Inspections" are supposed to be conducted only on "rare occasions", and there's supposed to be a very high evidentiary bar imposed on requests for Special Inspections.
The IAEA Board has approved of requests for Special Inspections twice before: Once for North Korea (but the NKoreans withdrew from the NonProliferation Treaty before the inspections could be carried out, and reached a separate agreement with the US) and in Romania, after the fall of the Soviet Union (the inspections were requested by the Romanians themselves because they wanted to see what the Soviets had been up to, nuclear-wise, in their newly-independent state.)
But this bit is rather ominous-sounding:
"Asked about possible requests for a special inspection or an IAEA board resolution in the future, [Joseph Macmanus, US representative to the IAEA] later told reporters that “some adjustment might have to be made” in ways to address concerns about Iran, adding that will be taken up by the board “over the next several months.”
Hmm...what sorts of "adjustments" have to be made, I wonder? I think it is obvious that they're going to try to get special inspections without having to come up with the necessary evidence, and IAEA boardmember votes. Lets remember that thus far, the US has failed to actually release the full "Laptop of Death" documentation of the "Alleged Studies" and "Possible Military Dimensions" claims asserted against Iran. Of the documentation that was provided, the US has prevented the IAEA from sharing them with Iran (requiring Iran to disprove allegations that it is not allowed to see) and in some instances the US has refused to even share the documentation with the IAEA itself. Other leaked documents that supposedly incriminated Iran turned out to be laughably obvious fakes -- such as the infamous "AP graph" or the "neutron initiator" document promoted by Oliver Kamm in Rupert Murdoch's London Times. So how will the US provide the necessary evidence to get Special Inspections on Iran to the IAEA Board -- or will it instead just politicize the issue to get what it wants out of the IAEA as before?
As for what Joseph Macmanus actually had to say in this article: who cares? He accused Iran of engaging in deceit etc etc. The usual blah blah blah. But this, as the article points out, is contrary to the noises we've been hearing thus far about the last Iran/P5+1 meeting which supposedly ended in a hopeful note. Add to that, the recent assertions by Kerry, Biden and General Mattis and other sabre-rattling which followed the end of the last round of negotiations a few days ago.
I attribute this inconsistency to several factors:
First, there was an exaggeration of the "success" of the last Iran/P5+1 meeting. I personally don't think the US side is willing to compromise over the issue so naturally they're now pouring cold water on the happy reporting about the meeting.
Second, since Obama is scheduled to visit Israel and AIPAC is holding its conference in DC, the politicians are keen to burnish their pro-Israeli credentials. Oh and Kerry is visiting Saudi Arabia, and the Saudis are just as keen as the Israelis to prevent a US-Iran rapprochement of any sort.
However a third possibility -- however unlikely it seems to me -- exists and that is the US is taking a tough stance in public because it is actually interested in making compromises with Iran in the talks. So this is just posturing and a cover. I seriously discount this explanation and think it is actually more wishful thinking than analysis based on facts.