Monday, June 11, 2007

Confusion Over Cancelled Iran/IAEA Meeting

By Cernig

The AP is reporting that a planned meeting between Iranian negotiators and the IAEA's head has been cancelled at the last moment - but even the AP's reporters can't agree on why.

First came the people on the spot, AP's Vienna bureau, with this:
A meeting between a senior Iranian envoy and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency was abruptly canceled Monday and diplomats blamed Iran's refusal to make good on a promise to provide answers about past atomic activities.

The meeting between Javeed Vaidi of Iran and IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei had been billed as a test of Iran's readiness to end years of stonewalling and provide answers on aspects of its nuclear program that could be used to develop weapons.

But the talks were canceled on short notice because of perceptions that Vaidi would bring "nothing substantial" to that meeting and another with deputy IAEA director general Olli Heinonen, a diplomat told The Associated Press.
I've re-read that last paragraph a dozen times, and I can't read it other than saying the talks were cancelled by the IAEA on account of IAEA perceptions that they were pointless. Which is sad - both because Iran is being recalcitrant but also because the watchdog body didn't go ahead with them anyway, if only to preserve the momentum of having talks at all.

(And having said that, I think I would be recalcitrant too if I was being told that a pre-requisite to meaningful talks was that I abandon what is my right under the terms of the very international treaty I'm being bashed for breaking by exercising that right.)

However, by the time AP's central staff writer, George Jahn, has rewritten the report, it takes on a very different caste:
A senior Iranian envoy abruptly canceled talks Monday with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, dashing hopes that the country is ready to end its secrecy about past nuclear activities that could be part of a weapons program.

Diplomats familiar with the issue said the change in plans was dictated by hardliners associated with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and opposed to concessions in the nuclear dispute that has led to two sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions.

The meeting, between Javeed Vaidi and IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei, had been billed as a test of Iran's readiness to end years of stonewalling on past suspicious nuclear activities.

But the talks were canceled on short notice because of perceptions that Vaidi would bring ''nothing substantial'' to that meeting, a diplomat told The Associated Press.

Another diplomat said the Iranians pulled out on orders of the camp linked to Ahmadinejad. The diplomat, who demanded anonymity because his information was confidential, said Vaidi had been apparently prepared to offer concrete proposals to ElBaradei and his aides before being told to opt out.
This one clearly reads as saying the cancellation was at Iran's instigation, not the IAEA's. Moreover, it says that hardliners in Iran nixed it because their negotiators were about to make a major concession.

What's going on there then? Which version is true - who cancelled the meeting and why? I'm inclined to think the locals know what is happening on their watch - but guess which version will get picked up by most of AP's media outlets.

One other thing - this shows the idiocy of quoting "diplomats at the IAEA" as authoritative sources. The common misconception, never debunked by the corporate media who love them as talkative sources, is that these diplomats are intimate with the doings at the IAEA. They aren't. Not one of them is on the Agency's payroll or involved in the day-to-day technical workings there. They don't go on inspections and they aren't generally present at negotiations. Rather, they are political parasites of the administration side of the Agency, appointed by their respective governments to look out for that government's interests and to spin any news coming out of the agency in their favor. Accepting their word is gospel is always dangerous - and the US delegation in particular has been known to be downright untruthful in the past.

I'd bet the bank that claim that Iranian hardliners stopped the meeting to stop their own people making concessions came from one of the American diplomats.

Which brings me to my last question. Which department controls who gets appointed as a US diplomat to the IAEA? I assume State but then again the agency is quasi-related to the UN so maybe it's in the hands of the US Ambassador to the UN. Both the current incumbent of that position and the last one are neocons to the core, original signatories to the Project For The New American Century. Can anyone enlighten me on the process?

Update Commenter Artemis confirms that the boss-guy for diplomats assigned to the IAEA is indeed US ambassador to the UN and PNAC signator Zalmay Khalilzhad (who isn't the moderate the media likes to make him out as). Before that, the boss would have been drum-banging John "bomb Iran now" Bolton.

The Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations Office in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and other international organizations in Vienna is Greg Schulte. From 1999 to 2000, Mr. Schulte served as Principal Director for Requirements, Plans and Counterproliferation Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon. His duties included review of U.S. war plans. From 2003 to 2005 he was Executive Secretary to Condi Rice in her role as National Security Advisor. In other words, he's hands-on with all the belligerent misadventures of the Bush years.

Talk about stacking the decks in favor of the warmongers. When I'm reading any media reports attributed to anonymous diplomatic sources at the IAEA in future, I will bear this in mind.

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