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Viewing cable 09BEIJING2438, PRC/IRAN: SCHOLAR SUGGESTS U.S. NEGOTIATE SE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BEIJING2438 2009-08-25 09:09 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
VZCZCXRO0374
OO RUEHBC RUEHCN RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHGH RUEHKUK RUEHTRO RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #2438/01 2370941
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 250941Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5775
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 002438 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2029 
TAGS: PREL PARM ENRG PTER MNUC IR CH
SUBJECT: PRC/IRAN: SCHOLAR SUGGESTS U.S. NEGOTIATE SE 
CRETLY WITH IRAN 
 
REF: BEIJING 1803 
 
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Aubrey Carlson.  Reasons 1. 
4 (b/d). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  The unstable post-election political climate 
in Iran likely precludes the initiation of formal 
negotiations with Iran on ceasing its uranium enrichment 
program, according to a PRC scholar.  Though Iran is sincere 
in wishing to reach out to the United States on broader 
bilateral issues, it remains wary of "falling into a trap" in 
bilateral negotiations.  Under these circumstances, the 
scholar suggests, the United States should undertake "se 
cret" talks with Iran that would entail a U.S. concession 
allowing Iran some nuclear enrichment activities in return 
for Iran's adherence to a strict IAEA safeguard agreement, 
its cessation of support for Hamas and Hizbollah, and 
cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  China has encouraged 
Iran to enter into negotiations with the United States, 
according to our contact, while the United States is involved 
in regional conflicts where Iran could play a positive role. 
However, the scholar stressed, pressing for additional 
sanctions through the P5-plus-1 mechanism would be 
counterproductive and put China in a "difficult position" of 
having to side with either the United States or Iran.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
2. (C) Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the 
MFA-affiliated China Institute for International Studies 
(CIIS) and frequent media commentator on Middle East issues 
XXXXXXXXXXXX told PolOff August 24 that though the unexpected 
turmoil surrounding the June 12 Iranian election had 
politically weakened both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and 
supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, both they and 
opposition candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi were "one side of a 
coin" in that none of them supported the suspension of Iran's 
uranium enrichment activities. 
 
Post-Election Atmosphere Not Right for Negotiations 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
3. (C) Li argued that Ahmadinejad's congratulatory letter 
sent to President Obama following the 2008 U.S. elections had 
been a sincere indication of the Iranian leadership's 
willingness to talk.  Li said he had learned that former 
Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati had discreetly 
contacted USG officials prior to the June 12 presidential 
election in Iran, agreeing to resume bilateral contacts after 
the election concluded, but that the turmoil and the 
lingering instability in Iran had prevented movement on that 
initiative.  Li reported that his contacts in Iran had 
recently said that the Iranian political climate 
post-election was still not stable enough for the leadership 
to engage in public negotiations on the nuclear issue. 
 
"Obama Factor" 
-------------- 
 
4. (C) Li said an additional factor adding to the Iranian 
leadership's reticence to reach out to the United States was 
President Obama's positive image among the Iranian public. 
("Obama is with us," was an example of public sentiment 
reported to him by his Iranian contacts.)  Despite the fact 
that the leadership was satisfied with President Obama's 
statements after the June election, Iranian leaders were wary 
of "falling into a trap" in negotiations with United States. 
Li suggested that Khamenei remained suspicious of the United 
Kingdom, France and Germany based on the Iranian leadership's 
perception that these countries had played a role in stirring 
post-election turmoil. 
 
Grand Bargain in the Works? 
--------------------------- 
 
5. (C) Li stated that Iran agreeing to suspend uranium 
enrichment unilaterally or completely was a "non-starter." 
Li cited unnamed contacts in the United States "with close 
access to policy-makers on Iran" to support his belief that 
the United States would be willing to accept some 
internationally-supervised uranium enrichment by Iran.  This 
would be a concession, Li said, that "the Europeans would 
have great difficulty accepting."  To make such a concession 
diplomatically palatable, Li continued, the United States in 
return would expect Iran's cessation of support for Hamas and 
Hizbollah, among other terrorist groups in the region, and 
its cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In addition, Li 
suggested, the United States would expect Iran to agree to a 
stricter IAEA safeguard agreement that would control Iran's 
nuclear activities and include terms that would be integrated 
into the NPT as a basis for further safeguards governing all 
 
BEIJING 00002438  002 OF 002 
 
 
NPT signatory countries (reftel).  He stated that before 
agreeing to a low level of Iranian enrichment activity, the 
United States would insist Iran implement a 
six-to-twelve-month freeze on nuclear enrichment activities. 
 
6. (C) Li stressed that any Iranian nuclear program 
negotiations, which he believed would be lengthy, should be 
"se cret" and seek to produce a "win/win" scenario for both 
countries.  Li stated that Iran had doubts about the USG's 
ability to enter such a bargain, given U.S. political 
pressures, and that to the Iranians, a signal of U.S. 
sincerity to move forward might come through an unofficial 
visit along the lines of Henry Kissinger's late June trip to 
China to discuss North Korea sanctions or former President 
Clinton's early August visit to Pyongyang to effect the 
release of the two American journalists, which in his view 
had allowed the atmosphere for negotiations with the DPRK to 
improve.  Li suggested that former President Clinton could 
perhaps secure the release of the American hikers detained by 
Iranian authorities.  Li stated that the key element of a 
Kissinger visit would be the former Secretary of State's 
ability to have discreet, private and informal discussions. 
 
China Urges Iran to Reach Out to the United States 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
7. (C) Despite U.S.-Iranian tensions, the PRC had encouraged 
Iran to take advantage of current circumstances to mend ties 
with the United States, according to Li, arguing that the 
United States would be more open to making concessions now 
because it was in a relatively weaker position tending to a 
number of trouble spots around the world, including the 
Middle East and South Asia, and needed Iran's help in Iraq 
and Afghanistan.  However, as the United States regained its 
position of strength, according to Li, its willingness to 
make concessions would disappear.  Li reported that MFA West 
Asian and North African Affairs Department Director General 
Song Aiguo had affirmed to him recently that China "would do 
whatever it could" to assist communication between the United 
States and Iran.  Asked whether Iran viewed China as a fair 
broker, Li said, "Iran trusts nobody."  While Iran understood 
China's interests in Iran, the Iranian leadership believed 
that when pushed to make a choice, China would side with the 
United States over Iran. 
 
P5 plus 1: A Show for Public Consumption 
---------------------------------------- 
 
8. (C) Li stated that the P5-plus-1 process "was for public 
consumption" and that expectations of its success should be 
minimal.  Acknowledging the increasing pressure for 
additional sanctions given Iran's current unresponsiveness to 
offers of engagement, Li stated that pushing for additional 
sanctions would play to the hard-liners' advantage in Iran 
and not bring any change in Iranian behavior.  In addition, 
the prospect of imposing additional sanctions would put China 
in a "difficult position" of choosing between its interests 
vis-a-vis the United States and Iran, a choice it hoped to 
avoid. 
HUNTSMAN