Date:   19971022


Wednesday, 22 October 1997

Early Report 10/22:

EDITORS: Mildred Sola Neely and Kathleen J. Brahney


The foreign press focused on a series of controversies brewing around Iran and U.S. attempts to isolate the Tehran regime: reports that China may be halting cruise missile sales to Iran and U.S. displeasure with the French company Total and Russia's Gazprom and their $2 billion deal to pump natural gas off Iran's coast. Writers from London to Moscow rebuked Washington for what they saw as U.S. attempts to act as "the world's economic policeman" and to foist its sanctions legislation on sovereign governments.

A handful of journalists believed that a compromise might be in the offing for the U.S.-EU dispute over Total. They were not as confident, however, about the U.S.-Russia wrangle, fearing that it might turn into a "serious confrontation." Stressing that "it seemed doubtful" that the U.S. would resort to sanctions against Gazprom, Moscow's reformist Izvestia declared, "But if it does, it will be the only one to suffer." The pro-pragmatists Tehran Times adopted a similarly defiant tone. Recalling the number of countries defying the U.S. over its sanctions policy, the paper, while calling on China to resist U.S. pressure, insisted: "Washington must learn a lesson from its past fiascos." An editorial in London's independent Financial Times suggested that it was time for the U.S. to establish a more "more constructive" relationship with Iran.



"China Will Say 'No' To U.S. Interference"

Tehran's official news agency, IRNA, reported that the pro-pragmatists, English-language Tehran Times' editorial (10/22) criticized Washington for "putting pressure on Beijing to stop its nuclear cooperation with Iran on conditions for transfer of nuclear technology to China. Several reasons indicate that China will not accept this and would say 'no' to Washington's interference.... China, being a sovereign, independent state, is not going to take orders from the United States on what to do and what not to. It is also well aware that Iran's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes (and) is supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency. China is also a reliable partner of most Third World countries.... Knowing that it has been snubbed and rebuffed by France, Russia, Germany and several other countries, Washington must learn a lesson from its past fiascos."


"Iran And The EU: Ambassadors Crisis"

Mouna Naim wrote in left-of-center Le Monde (10/21): "From the outside, it looks as though the diplomatic situation between Iran and the EU is at a standstill. But in reality, both parties are trying to find a solution to a situation which neither Iran nor the EU anticipated.... Iran was sure that Europe would be the first to give in, because it was convinced that the EU needs Iran more than Iran needs Europe.... Although this stalemate has not hampered business deals--i.e the Total contract--the Iranian regime is eager to maintain good relations with Europe to counterbalance the ostracism it is facing from the United States.... As for Europe, it is well aware that this crisis is an anachronism, since it is taking place just when the Iranian regime is moving toward moderation."

RUSSIA: "Total Defies U.S. Laws"

Under this headline, reformist writers' weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta (# 43, 10/22) ran a comment by Arkady Vaksberg in Paris: "It is exactly the conviction that sanctions are not forever which made the French company start acting in order to beat to the draw those who will inevitably rush to the vast and promising market when 'the time comes.' Total is confident that its time has come already. Camouflaged as big-time politics, this battle among oil monopolies is clearly economic."

"Europe Makes U.S. Listen"

Vladimir Mekhontsev said in reformist weekly Novaya Gazeta (# 42, 10/21): "The Total story has made a pretty big dent in Washington's reputation as the world's economic policeman by questioning one of its basic principles whereby it feels free to do anything in international economic relations. Gaining in confidence, Europe makes the Americans listen. The precedent set by the French company is remarkable also in that it has started a process to de-block not only Iran but Libya."

"U.S. Will Be The One To Suffer"

Referring to the Gazprom-Iran issue, Denis Kirillov maintained in the Finansoviye Izvestia supplement to reformist Izvestia (10/21): "Since the 1996 d'Amato act, the United States has not taken action against its potential violators. Washington does not seem concerned a bit that Turkmenistan will supply gas to Europe via Iran. So far, the Americans have got away with their double-standard policy....

"It seems doubtful that the United States will use sanctions. But if it does, it will be the only one to suffer."

TURKEY: "What Is Happening Inside Iran?"

Gulden Ayman commented in intellectual Radikal (10/22): "Turkey should closely follow not only foreign policy events in Iran, but also domestic events there, as they shape Iranian foreign policy. It looks like Iranians have begun to think about the developments which brought Khatemi to power. And there seems to be no common agreement about the gist of these developments. A poll conducted via the Internet showed that 80 percent want the protection of individual freedoms, but only one of four identified political and religious freedoms as part of individual liberty.... The importance of privacy is also another issue about which Iranians seem to have no clear-cut vision. Poll results indicate that Iranians are confused. And some of them dare to ask themselves, 'If we are such hypocrites on the issue of freedoms, how can we expect President Khatami to change the political system overnight?' The Internet poll, in which the vast majority of participants were men, raises another question: What do Iranians think about Turkey and Turkish-Iranian relations? If only the poll had asked this question, as well."

BRITAIN: "U.S. Should Establish Constructive Relationship With Tehran"

The independent Financial Times' columnist Edward Mortimer opined (10/22): "Next week's state visit to Washington by President Jiang Zemin of China is a delicate affair.... China is not popular on Capitol Hill for reasons ranging from disgust at its human rights record to fear of its competitive skills. So Mr. Clinton needs Mr. Jiang to do something that will go down well on the Hill. He may have found it. If there is one country U.S. legislators love to hate even more than China it is Iran. And it seems Beijing has agreed to stop selling nuclear technology and anti-ship cruise missiles to Tehran....

"Iran is not a Western-style democracy. But it still enjoys far greater pluralism and freedom of expression than most other states in the region.

Mr. Khatami's election was achieved by massive popular support, against the wishes of the religious establishment.... Finally, U.S. policy in the region has been hamstrung by its tendency to treat Iran and Iraq as equally evil. In fact, Iran was the first victim of Saddam Hussein's aggressive policies.... If Mr. Rubin can sell a 'soft-on-China' policy as being hard on Iran, perhaps it would not be beyond him to sell a 'new-deal-with-Iran' policy as 'let's finally get serious with Saddam.'"


"U.S.-Russia: Serious Confrontation"

Foreign affairs writer Freddy De Pauw observed in independent Catholic De Standaard (10/22), "Moscow and Washington are bearing down on a serious confrontation over Iran. The powerful Russian company of participating in a major gas project in Iran. Washington wants to punish Gazprom for that.... Aside from Gazprom, France's Total and Malaysian Petronas are also participating in the $2 billion project--which caused Washington to fling thunderbolts at Total. The State Department is examining ways to deny Gazprom access to U.S. financial markets....

"For Moscow, the issue is very sensitive. Iran and Russia are virtually on the same wavelength for the exploitation of the energy riches in the Caspian Sea. The United States and Turkey were the winners in oil state of Azerbaijan, which brought Tehran and Moscow closer to each other. However, now that Gazprom is directly involved, the issue is even more sensitive.... The natural gas project is tightening the bonds between Moscow and Tehran. However, Iran is not an unconditional ally of Russia. It has emphasized to the Western leaders for years that it is in their interest to make Central Asia's energy riches flow to the world markets via Iran."

"Is A Compromise In The Offing Over Total?"

Independent Catholic De Standaard judged (10/22) regarding the Total contract, "The agreements shows that the trade relations between Europe and Iran are becoming increasingly important. On the diplomatic level, too, both parties are getting closer to each other but, a row over the European ambassadors continues to be an obstacle for a genuine thaw.... The agreement concluded by Total and its partners shows that European companies are not waiting for normal political relations to do business with Tehran. The French oil giant is thus defying an American law which prohibits all investments in Iran of more than $20 million and which links sanctions to infringements.... A diplomatic row is in the offing but, perhaps, the soup will not be eaten as hot as it is served. The EU and the United States are negotiating a compromise over these 'extra-territorial' laws."

BURKINA FASO: "World Will Challenge U.S. Laws"

According to independent Le Pays (10/20), "The United States should understand that, more and more, the rest of the world will challenge their laws, if these laws are iniquitous. Europe complaining at the World Trade Organization, Total investing in Iran, Nelson Mandela going through the embargo against is the sign that things are moving.... The United States should be careful, through its attitude, not to awaken the demons of revolt."