Archive for May, 2009

“US analysts debate path to Iran ‘grand bargain’”

US analysts debate path to Iran ‘grand bargain’”
May 23-27
     Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett argue that US President Obama’s efforts to engage Iran have “already failed” due to the continuation of covert efforts to destabilize Iran. The Leveretts criticize Hillary Clinton and Dennis Ross for pursuing negotiations primarily to gain international support for additional sanctions and even military action, adding that heeding Israel’s calls for deadlines for engagement will further undermine US credibility among Iran’s leaders. The writers state that Israel and Arab states cannot be united against Iran without resolving underlying regional conflicts, and they argue that the US will have to displease some applies by providing Iran security guarantees, accepting Iran’s uranium enrichment, and working with Iran to engage Hamas and Hezbollah (New York Times).
     Michael Singh counters that the Israel and Arab states are already working toward an “ad hoc coalition” based on complementary policies against Iran. Singh also argues that security guarantees will not be enough to dissuade Iran from pursuing a nuclear deterrent, concluding that an Iranian nuclear capability remains unacceptable due to the potential consequences, such as the emboldening of Hamas and Hezbollah, a regional nuclear arms race, and threats to Israel (Foreign Policy).
     Gary Sick writes that the Leveretts’ hopes for a “grand bargain”—in which, in exchange for reductions in US sanctions and security guarantees, Iran would cooperate on regional issues while adjusting its nuclear and regional policies—link together too many issues to constitute a negotiating strategy. Sick also writes that Clinton’s tough stance can provide leverage during talks, adding that the extent of Ross’ influence on Iran policy is questionable. Finally, Sick points out that Obama deliberately avoided setting a “deadline” and cautions against dismissing Iran-US negotiations before they begin (Gary’s Choices).
New York Times | Foreign Policy | Gary’s Choices


“Candidates weigh in on nuclear issue, foreign policy”

“Candidates weigh in on nuclear issue, foreign policy”
May 29, 2009, Simons Centre Report
     With Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the latter’s nuclear policies this week, Iran’s nuclear program continues to be a heated part of the presidential campaign debates. Rowhani told reporters on Wednesday that he was ready to hold a live television debate with Ahmadinejad in order to[…]
Click here to read the rest of this original Simons Centre report

“Finding space for US in Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan bloc”

“Finding space for US in Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan bloc”
May 25-27, 2009
     Saudi Arabian daily Al-Watan reports that at the recent trilateral summit between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Pakistani President Zardari passed a US message to Iran seeking cooperation against terrorism, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Tehran promised to consider the proposal (MEMRI). Kaveh L. Afrasiabi writes that the trilateral summit, which resulted in the Tehran Declaration, will have positive effects for future Iran-US talks (Asia Times), and the Khaleej Times urges the US and NATO to engage the new regional bloc to work toward stabilizing Afghanistan (Khaleej Times).
     However, the summit also featured criticisms of US and foreign military troops in the region by both Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Khamenei (Payvand, Tehran Times) Michael Slackman writes that the summit was an attempt to prove that the 3 states could resolve their problems without relying on the West, adding that regional concerns have trumped Western efforts to isolate Iran over its nuclear program (New York Times).
MEMRI | Asia Times | Khaleej Times | Payvand | Tehran Times | New York Times

“Iran criticizes French base in UAE, warns of arms race”

“Iran criticizes French base in UAE, warns of arms race”
May 26 & 27, 2009
     Angelique Chrisafis writes that France’s new permanent military base in Abu Dhabi indicates France’s aims to work against Iran and develop military and commercial influence in the Middle East. Chrisafis argues the 500-troop base will “primarily send a warning message to Iran” (Guardian). Philippe Alfroy quotes an aide to President Sarkozy as saying that France is “deliberately taking a deterrent stance” against Iran. France also hopes to sell $8-11 billion of fighter jets to the UAE and develop two civil nuclear reactors (Agence France-Presse).
     Iran criticized the new base as being inconducive to regional security and warned that regional instability caused by militarism and foreign powers could lead to an arms race (Press TV). However, editorials in several Arab news sources have praised France-UAE cooperation for promoting regional stability (Gulf News). Emile Hokayem writes that France’s presence adds “a layer of international protection” in the face of a growing Iranian threat and a weakened US security umbrella (The National).
Guardian | Agence France-Presse | Press TV | Gulf News| The National

“NY district attorney details Iran’s nuclear shopping list”

“NY district attorney details Iran’s nuclear shopping list”
May 19-24, 2009
     New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau testified to US senators that Iran’s nuclear program is more technologically advanced than previously believed (Digital Journal). According to Morgenthau’s investigations (which led to an indictment in April of a Chinese executive for smuggling nuclear weapons materials to Iran through New York banks), Iran has channelled funds for banned dual-use materials through Western financial institutions (Telegraph). Some of the materials being procured may aid in missile accuracy, and Morgenthau stated that “top experts” were “shocked by the sophistication of the equipment [Iran is] buying” (Wall Street Journal).
     (Morgenthau’s testimony can be read here).
Digital Journal | Telegraph | Wall Street Journal

“Sejil-2 reveals technical advancements, fuels Western fears”

“Sejil-2 reveals technical advancements, fuels Western fears”
May 21-25, 2009
     Many Western analysts believe Iran’s Sejil-2 missile test was a response to recent US-Israel security discussions and US-Russia arms control talks (Deutsche Welle, Time), although others see it as part of President Ahmadinejad’s campaign strategy ahead of next month’s presidential elections (New Europe, Guardian). Regarding the test’s technical significance, two-stage solid-fuel rockets such as the Sejil-2 are more mobile and easier to fuel than Iran’s previous liquid-fuel rockets and have increased flight range (Washington Post). Geoffrey Forden also points out that the test confirms there are development groups for both liquid-fuel and solid-fuel missiles, adding that unlike Iran’s Safir rocket, the Sejil-2 is almost entirely indigenously produced (Arms Control Wonk).
     Jeremy R. Hammond accuses Western media sources, including the Washington Post (see above) and the Times, of printing misleading articles suggesting Ahmadinejad explicitly stated the missiles could reach Israel and linked the tests to Iran’s nuclear program (Foreign Policy Journal). The Washington Post has corrected its report that Ahmadinejad made such links (see above), while the Times article is unavailable as of 0520 PST, May 25 (Times Online).
Deutsche Welle | Time | New Europe | Guardian | Washington Post | Arms Control Wonk | Foreign Policy Journal | Times Online

“Dangerous but not omnipotent”

“Dangerous but not omnipotent”
May 19, 2009, Report by the RAND Corporation
     A report by the RAND Corporation argues that Iran’s expansionist rhetoric should not be taken at face value. According to the report, Iran’s regional strategy is based on: deterrence and national defense; developing retaliatory capability by supporting Islamist militant groups; and hedging against hostility from regional governments by gaining support from Arab populations.
     The report then outlines vulnerabilities in each area of this strategy, including the weakness of Iran’s conventional forces. Moreover, the report states that in the event of an attack on Iran, groups such as Hezbollah will prioritize their own self-interest over retaliating on Iran’s behalf. The report also points out that while Iran’s nuclear program in particular maintains widespread Arab support, Iran also continues to face strong criticism in Arab media.
     The report recommends that the US rely on increased multilateral pressure against Iran while improving bilateral ties in areas of common interest, such as stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report also calls for long-term efforts toward a multilateral regional security framework that includes Iran, Arab allies of the US, the EU, Russia and China.
RAND Corporation