Statement by Joe Biden – Russian-American summit – G8

Press review – week from July 6 to 10, 2009

Last week was marked by the international community’s equivocation over how to deal with the Iranian regime.

Statement by Joe Biden (5 / 7)

Past Sunday, Joe Biden said during an interview on the American channel CNN that the United States « can not dictate to a sovereign nation what it can or can not do (…) if it considers that its existence is threatened.  » Interpreted by many as a green light from the United States for a possible Israeli operation on Iran, this statement was followed by many reactions.

The next day, the journalist of Le Figaro, Georges Malbrunot argues on his blog « L’Orient indiscret » that the statement of U.S. Vice-President is “to be taken seriously” and that “Israel is right to see the latest statements by Joe Biden as a « turning point » in U.S. policy on Iran ». He supports his position by explaining that Joe Biden is usually among the « less rigid officials on Iran » and that such a position shows « the exasperation prompted in Washington by the » election rigging « which led to the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President of the Republic. Georges Malbrunot however also reported the statements of Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has also declared that an attack against nuclear facilities in Iran could be « extremely unsettling  » for the entire Middle East.  »

The Russian international news agency Ria Novosti reported Tuesday July 7 the « perplexity » of the Russian officials towards this statement which goes against the words of Barack Obama so far and the « disposition of the United States to engage in dialogue with Tehran and to seek a solution to this problem through political and diplomatic means.»

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has interviewed officials from the White House. Their explanation is that it is not a change in U.S. policy, but just recognition of Israeli sovereignty. Haaretz also emphasizes that Joe Biden enlightened over Obama’s position : he is not against a harder line vis-à-vis Iran if Tehran do not seize the opportunity of dialogue that the United States are putting on the table and that, for their part, the United States would not make concessions to reach a negotiation.

Facing all these reactions, Barack Obama spoke finally Tuesday from Moscow where he was meeting his Russian counterpart. AFP reports that to the question of whether it was a green light to Israel for a possible attack on Iran, Mr. Obama replied: « Absolutely not. It is very important, I am as clear as it is possible to be on this subject.  » The American President then added: « The Vice-President Joe Biden has said categorically that we cannot dictate to other countries the conduct on security matter”. He also reaffirmed the will of the United States to address the Iranian nuclear issue through « diplomatic channels ».

Another article in Haaretz reports the comments of Uzi Arad, a top adviser of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to him, the successive statements of Joe Biden and Barack Obama are a clear message to Iran in favor of a diplomatic process. Joe Biden wanted to show that the  United States are distancing themselves from Israel. The statement Obama was then necessary to put an end to some interpretations and to reaffirm the commitment of the United States in favor of a negotiated process with Iran.

Russian-American summit (6-7/7)

Monday July 6th, President Obama flew to Moscow to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for a two-day summit. This summit allowed to reset the Russian-US relations which had sharply deteriorated under the respective presidencies of George Bush and Vladimir Putin and initiated new collaborates and common views on issues like Afghanistan or Iran.

Wednesday the 8th, the news agency Ria Novosti reported the remarks of the chairman of the Duma committee for international affairs Konstantin Kossatchev who argued that the United States and Russia would eventually come to an agreement on how to react vis-à-vis Iran. Russia advocates an approach of dialogue and negotiation, but refuses to impose deadlines to Tehran. According to Konstantin Kossatchev, Russia will eventually persuade its American partners to follow its position.

According to Le Figaro, « Russia continues to play the Iranian card to put pressure on the United States. » The French daily also stresses that « No haggling has begun on the Iran issue and the missile shield that the United States plan to deploy in Poland and the Czech Republic. »

Regarding nuclear weapons, the AP reports that President Obama proposed an international summit on nuclear security next year and that both Russian and American leaders signed an agreement to negotiate a new Treaty on nuclear arms control to replace the START Treaty that expires in December. Ria Novosti then announced that the G8 endorsed this proposal.

Le Monde reminds us that Barack Obama had launched his program to a world without nuclear weapons in a speech in Prague in past April. The French daily then analyses that the American president now addresses the Iran issue in the larger framework of non-proliferation.

G8 meeting in L’Aquila (8-10/7)

A further meeting of G8 was held from July 8th to 10th in L’Aquila in Italy. The comments of the press are not soft towards the pomp surrounding these meetings and the disproportionate few results coming out. On Iran, the G8 did not provide any new proposals, but the discussions have been tightened to bring out a joint statement.

Le Monde reports that if France and Great Britain favored a statement on Iran aside from the final declaration of the G8, other participants wanted to include it. Reflecting the spirit of compromise which prevailed during the summit, the final solution was to insert it at the top of the political declaration. We can read that the G8 « deplores » the violent suppression of post-election but persists in its desire to “find a diplomatic solution » to the Iranian nuclear issue, and set a new discussion on the subject at the G20 meeting on next 24 and 25 September in Pittsburgh.

This decision remains equal in substance to the position taken by the Foreign Ministers of the G8 in Trieste in past June. Nicolas Sarkozy, who favors sanctions against Iran considering the recent events in Tehran, accompanied it by a more categorical comment: « The G8 has decided to give a chance to the negotiations with an appointment in Pittsburgh . If there is no progress, we will have to take decisions, « he said. He also suggested that Russia agreed on this point.

On the issue of repression in Iran, Le Monde emphasizes the « collective impatience » that showed by the participants towards the current situation and the way to react to it.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz analyzed what happened at the G8 in terms of American-Israeli relations. On Saturday, he already announced that the United States would impede the propositions of sanctions against Iran. They also noted a change in the American policy :  Obama dropped off the strategy of a direct dialogue between Tehran and Washington, and proposed negotiations with the group of P5 +1 (the five permanents of the Security Council and Germany).

Yediot Aharonot underlined emphasis the words of Ali Akbar Velayati, the adviser of the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who said that the West does not want Iran to develop nuclear energy because he wants to keep Iran in a position of weakness.

L’Express reminds that « Despite the demands of the UN to stop, Iran continues at a pace a program of uranium enrichment » and adds further that « In his last report, the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAEA) has established that Iran had accumulated 1.339 tons of low enriched uranium, sufficient volume to produce highly enriched uranium needed to manufacture a nuclear bomb.  »