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   Vol. 69/No. 12           March 28, 2005  
Imperialists close ranks in pressing
Iran to end uranium enrichment
(front page)
Washington and its allies in London, Paris, and Berlin announced a coordinated plan March 11 to pressure the government of Iran to end uranium enrichment—a process necessary to produce fuel for nuclear reactors. The plan represents a closing of ranks among the main imperialist powers in North America and Europe over this issue, and a narrowing of their tactical differences on how to block Iran’s nuclear progress.

While agreeing on the goal of stopping Tehran in its tracks on processing uranium, London, Paris, and Berlin have differed with the U.S. rulers on how to achieve their common objective. They have tried to keep Washington at bay vis-ŕ-vis Iran in order to advance their own competing imperialist interests in the region. The French rulers, in particular, have substantial trade and investments in Iran, including selling components to Tehran for its nuclear plants.

Washington is now making progress in pushing these European Union (EU) governments to adopt its tactical approach toward Tehran. The British, French, and German governments—referred to as the EU Three because of their joint initiative in talks with Tehran over its nuclear program—sent a letter to the EU member countries declaring that unless Iran makes permanent its suspension of all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, “We shall have no choice but to support referring Iran’s nuclear program to the UN Security Council.” Until recently, the three governments had balked at taking that step, which has been Washington’s central demand regarding Tehran’s nuclear program. The letter also objected to the Iranian government’s record on human rights, support for groups the EU powers deem “terrorist,” and its opposition to the state of Israel.

The Iranian government says the program is aimed at increasing energy for industrial development, not for weapons production. But Washington, along with the EU Three, have insisted that enriching uranium will allow the Iranian program to quickly include the production of atom bombs. Under threat of an EU Three recommendation of referral of Iran to the UN Security Council, Tehran announced a temporary suspension of uranium processing in November 2004.

The March 11 EU Three letter followed the trip by U.S. president George Bush to Europe in February, when the campaign to halt Iran’s nuclear program was a key political theme. In return for the EU Three backing of Washington’s threat to bring Tehran before the UN Security Council, U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice announced March 11 that Bush “has decided that the U.S. will drop its objection to Iran’s application to the World Trade Organization and will consider, on a case-by-case basis, the licensing of spare parts for Iranian civilian aircraft, in particular from the European Union to Iran.”

Since shortly after the 1979 revolution in Iran that toppled the U.S.-backed dynasty of the shah, Washington has enforced sanctions that prevent most U.S. trade with Iran and penalize foreign companies that do business with Tehran. On March 10 Bush pointedly renewed sanctions barring U.S. companies and citizens from oil dealings with Iran, claiming its government represents an “unusual and extraordinary threat.”

A day later, a member of Pakistan’s cabinet announced that his country’s top nuclear scientist had sold centrifuges to Iran without his government’s knowledge. Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that Abdul Qadeer Khan “helped Iran in his personal capacity and the Pakistan government had nothing to do with it.”

Khan—who has been under investigation by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on charges of selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, north Korea, and others—has been under virtual house arrest in Pakistan since December 2003. The Iranian government has acknowledged holding discussions with Khan on purchase of the centrifuges, stating the collaboration was only for peaceful purposes, not for weapons.

“The Islamic Republic is determined to use peaceful nuclear technology and no pressure, intimidation, or threat can make Iran give up that right,” said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi March 12. “Lifting [restrictions on spare parts] is no concession and entering the WTO is a clear right of all countries.”

Tehran’s intention to develop its nuclear resources has been no secret for decades. Its nuclear program began in the 1960s, under the U.S.-backed monarchy of the shah. Work on the Bushehr nuclear power project—an object of imperialist scrutiny today—was started in 1974 by the German company Siemens. The reactors were viewed as necessary for industrialization of the country. The project was left unfinished after the 1979 popular insurrection that toppled the shah. Work at Bushehr resumed with Russian aid in the 1990s.

On March 13, the London Sunday Times reported that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and his inner cabinet have given “initial authorization” for a military attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. “If all efforts to persuade Iran to drop its plans to produce nuclear weapons should fail, the U.S. administration will authorize Israel to attack,” the Times quoted an unnamed Israeli security official as saying.

For several months, the paper said, Israeli forces have been simulating an attack on Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant. “Israeli tactics included raids by elite commando units and air strikes by F-15 jets using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities,” the Times said.

Meanwhile, Iranian president Mohammad Khatami ended a three-day visit to Venezuela March 12. The trip was to include inauguration of an Iranian tractor-assembly plant and the signing of accords with Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez on sharing technology in industries such as mining and oil. Iran’s national oil company is already training employees of Venezuela’s state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela.  
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