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Bloomberg: US Ready to Release Iran’s Assets

13920721000215_PhotoIThe US administration reportedly plans to release tens of billions of dollars of Iran’s frozen assets in return for the latter’s concrete actions in removing the US concerns.
Jeffrey Goldberg in an article in Bloomberg said he has heard several US administration officials saying Washington does not intend to ease the sanctions on Iran, and rather plans to release Tehran’s frozen assets if the latter country removes US concerns about its nuclear program.

He said one of the biggest challenges of Obama’s Administration regarding nuclear talks with Iran is the way they want to respond to any concrete action by Iran.

“And here lies a problem – many of the Americans involved in these negotiations believe that any sanctions relief at all would lead to the quick crumbling of the entire sanctions program. Pull one brick out of the sanctions wall, I’ve heard it said repeatedly, and the entire edifice crumbles,” Goldberg said.

“Many countries, and many companies, are eager to see the sanctions disintegrate, and they would take any American move to provide even the tiniest bit of relief to Iran as a sign that the crisis is over, and that they can go back to business as usual,” he added.

Goldberg cautioned that if the US fails to give a proper response to Iran’s concessions, then the whole process of the nuclear talks will be ruined.

Consequently some experts in US administration have decided to choose a third solution: releasing Iran’s frozen money in world banks as a kind of sanction relief.

“More than $50 billion of Iranian money is frozen, or semi-frozen, in banks around the world, thanks to the Herculean efforts of the White House and the Treasury Department,” he underlined.

“Several administration officials told me that US negotiators currently in Geneva for the Iran negotiations are prepared to offer Iran access to at least some of this money in exchange for verifiable concessions.”

He said that this idea was for the first time introduced by Mark Dubowitz, an Iran sanctions expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, last week and then penetrated into the Congress and the White House.

“In an e-mail, Dubowitz explained to me how this concept might work. “If Iran agrees to meaningful nuclear concessions, it can get paid out of semi-accessible … escrow accounts where it has about $50 billion that it currently can only use for barter trade in China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey. Instead of being limited to these countries, where it currently cannot find enough non-sanctionable goods to spend down about half of its $3.4 billion in new monthly oil revenue — never mind its existing funds — it can get hard currency released from these accounts commensurate with the value of each nuclear concession,” Goldberg said.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative evidence to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismissed West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.

Iran insists that it should continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it has built in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Iran currently suffers from an electricity shortage that has forced the country into adopting a rationing program by scheduling power outages – of up to two hours a day – across both urban and rural areas.

Iran plans to construct additional nuclear power plants to provide for the electricity needs of its growing population.

The Islamic Republic says that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA’s questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.

Iran has also enriched uranium to 20-percent-grade to fuel its research reactor in Tehran after the world powers refrained from supplying the needed nuclear fuel for the reactor which produces radioisotopes for medical purposes, including treatment of cancer.

Political observers believe that the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran mainly over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for the other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for increasing penalties ever since the start of the nuclear standoff between the two sides over 10 years ago contradicts the report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the former IAEA head – including a report in November 2007 and the other one in February 2008 – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, the sanctions on Iran seem to lack a rationale.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

The UN nuclear watchdog has so far carried out frequent surprise inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites, but found nothing to support West’s allegations.

Also in several reports to the 35-nation Board of Governors, former and present IAEA chiefs Mohamed ElBaradei and Yukio Amano have both confirmed “the non-diversion” of nuclear material in Iran and added that the agency had found no “components of a nuclear weapon” or “related nuclear physics studies” in the country.

The IAEA reports confirmed that Iran has managed to enrich uranium-235 to “less than 5 percent” and “20 percent” grades. Such rates are consistent with civilian needs to enriched uranium. Nuclear arms production, meanwhile, requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog has carried out snap inspections of Iranian nuclear sites and has reported that all “declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of the said IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.

Yet, the UN Security Council ratified a sanctions resolution against Iran, the United States and the European Union started approving their own unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, mostly targeting the country’s energy and banking sectors.

Tehran has always dismissed West’s pressures, and stressed that sanctions and embargos merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path of progress.

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