Archive for June, 2009

“EU states lack coherent strategy for nuclear talks, increased sanctions”

“EU states lack coherent strategy for nuclear talks, increased sanctions”
June 26-29, 2009
     Although the EU has criticized the Iranian government for its repression of protestors, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana stated that the EU would “like very much” to restart multilateral talks on the nuclear issue (Associated Press). Timothy Heritage believes the EU and US will withhold any threats of sanctions until direct discussions and may avoid implementing any new strategies for the nuclear issue until Tehran achieves more domestic stability. Heritage adds that the EU’s limited options for sanctions, which could target Iran’s oil and gas sectors, face reluctance from European exporters and would not provide a strong starting point for engagement with Iran (Reuters).
     However, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi indicated to reporters that G8 leaders would work toward adopting new sanctions at a summit next week (Reuters (2)). Bronwen Maddox suggests that efforts by Germany, Iran’s largest EU trading partner, to decrease economic ties with Iran may eventually allow Britain and France to implement harsher EU sanctions (The Australian). John Vinocur counters that French officials have refused to endorse sanctions, with Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner stating that sanctions unfairly affect the poor, and that business interests in Germany are strongly opposing any decrease in trade with Iran (New York Times).
Associated Press | Reuters | Reuters (2) | The Australian | New York Times

“Berlin divided over Iran policy, may pursue tougher line”

“Berlin divided over Iran policy, may pursue tougher line”
June 26-29, 2009
     Ralf Beste writes that German policymakers are divided over criticizing Tehran’s suppression of protestors due to the risks of undermining planned nuclear negotiations. While Foreign Ministry officials, particularly members of the Social Democratic Party, hope to move forward with negotiations, Chancellor Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union have become strongly critical of Tehran. With some members of the CDU openly supporting an overthrow of the Iranian regime, Beste suggests Berlin’s approach to Tehran may shift toward more sanctions and isolation (Der Spiegel).
     Benjamin Weinthal argues that Germany, Iran’s “most important” Western trading partner, has failed to enforce existing sanctions against Iran, noting that annual trade increased to over 4 billion Euros (around US$5.5 billion) in 2008. According to Weinthal, German engineering products support around 2/3 of Iranian industry, and in 2008, 39 contracts for dual-use items were approved. Weinthal also urges Berlin to improve border control and suggests that the protests in Iran may provide an opportunity for strengthening joint US-German efforts against Iran’s nuclear program (Washington Institute for Near East Policy).
Der Spigel | Washington Institute for Near East Policy

“Potential Saudi-Syrian-Lebanese grand bargain could isolate Iran”

“Potential Saudi-Syrian-Lebanese grand bargain could isolate Iran”
June 24 & 25, 2009
     The US will dispatch an ambassador to Syria for the first time since 2005 in a move widely viewed as an effort to isolate Iran. Michael Collins Dunn writes that the move may be part of a “Saudi-Syrian-Lebanese grand bargain” in which Damascus would recognize US- and Saudi-backed Saad al-Hariri’s nomination as Prime Minister of Lebanon and Riyadh would mend relations with Damascus, thereby further decreasing Tehran’s influence in Damascus. Hariri is also working to mend relations with opposition group Hezbollah, which is allied with Damascus and Tehran (Middle East Institute). Tariq Alhomayed writes that Damascus may have already decided to move away from Tehran, citing comments by officials that Syria would welcome Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah while also pursuing both cooperation with the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon and indirect peace talks with Israel (Asharq Alawsat).
Middle East Institute | Asharq Alawsat

“Report: Iran officials observed North Korean nuclear and missile tests”

“Report: Iran officials observed North Korean nuclear and missile tests”
June 25, 2009
     Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun reports that 7 Iranian officials from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and the Revolutionary Guards were observers during North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests conducted in April and May, respectively. According to an unnamed source, the Iranian officials also watched a North Korean patrol ship enter South Korean waters in early June, possibly to explore methods of infiltrating enemy ships, and met with senior North Korean officials to discuss strategies for negotiating with the US and other foreign powers. The Iranian embassy in Tokyo denies any technical cooperation on missile or nuclear technologies between Iran and North Korea.
Sankei Shimbun (Japanese source)

“Tehran’s targeting of UK may indicate willingness to engage US”

“Tehran’s targeting of UK may indicate willingness to engage US”
June 23 & 24, 2009
     Gregory Katz declares that Britain has replaced the US as Iran’s “great Satan” as Tehran considers downgrading relations with its former colonial ruler. Both nations have recently expelled one another’s diplomats, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called Britain the “most evil” of foreign powers in a recent speech. According to Katz’s report, efforts by the BBC Persian Service to circumvent Iranian censorship and the British embassy’s decision to treat injured demonstrators have raised suspicions in Iran that Britain is actively supporting the protests (Associated Press).
     David Roberts believes that the targeting of Britain is Iran’s “first gesture” toward possible détente with the US should the election controversy subside and the US remain willing to engage diplomatically (Gulf Blog). Scott Peterson cites an unnamed analyst who argues that while President Ahmadinejad is “enthusiastic” about renewing ties with the US, recent remarks by President Obama condemning violence against protestors may affect Khamenei’s decision to pursue rapprochement. Analysts disagree whether Khamenei’s endorsement of Ahmadinejad signals an intention to engage the US with a strong negotiator or a sharp rejection of US overtures (Christian Science Monitor).
     Patrick Clawson argues that the protests have strengthened Khamenei’s view that the West is determined to overthrow the current regime and that the nuclear issue is only another pretext for such efforts. Michael Singh adds that Tehran’s handling of the election controversy and “reselection” of Ahmadinejad indicates the regime’s insecurity and unwillingness to engage with the US. Singh believes Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship and states that the growing power of the Revolutionary Guards may further insulate Tehran from international pressure (Washington Institute for Near East Policy).
Associated Press | Gulf Blog | Christian Science Monitor | Washington Institute for Near East Policy

“Coverage of protests largely subdued among Iran’s Arab allies and enemies”

“Coverage of protests largely subdued among Iran’s Arab allies and enemies”
June 22 & 23, 2009
     In an overview of Arab media coverage of the protests in Iran, Josie Delap and Robert Lane Greene speculate that state media in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both of which strongly oppose Iran’s nuclear program, have been “eerily quiet” on the protests due to government fears of similar domestic discontent. Controversy over the election results has also been downplayed in Syria, an ally of Iran, as well as in media owned by Lebanon’s Hezbollah. However, media outlets in Lebanon and the Gulf emirates (with the exception of Bahrain) are offering more extensive coverage and have been supportive of the Iranian opposition, and pan-Arab publications based in London have portrayed the current developments as a serious threat to the Iranian government (The New Republic).
     Other analysts add that Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are afraid of angering Tehran and continue to hope the US and European states will address the election issue and the overall Iranian threat (Associated Press). Ronen Berman writes that debate in Palestinian online media has been minimal due to the view that regardless of the outcome of the controversy, Iran will continue to provide support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad and seek to destroy Israel. Nicholas Blanford says that while Hezbollah prefers President Ahmadinejad to Mir-Hossein Mousavi, they are more concerned about the power struggle between Iran’s clerical rulers and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as Khamenei has provided the group with funds, arms and military training (New York Times).
The New Republic | Associated Press | New York Times

“Despite missile cooperation, Iran and North Korea a study in contrasts”

“Despite missile cooperation, Iran and North Korea a study in contrasts”
June 12-16, 2009
     David Sanger describes the contrast between the US strategies of “overwhelming pressure” against North Korea, which is cornered and concerned primarily with survival, and diplomatic outreach toward Iran, which seeks a role as a regional power. Regarding the latter, Sanger warns that applying US strategist Dennis Ross’ “hybrid option”, which would combine diplomacy with economic pressure on Iran’s oil sector, could create more anti-US sentiment among Iranians protesting the recent election results (New York Times). US Missile Defense Agency head Patrick O’Reilly recently said that technical cooperation between Iran and North Korea has led to significant progress in the missile programs of both states (Reuters).
     In a May report on the effects of economic sanctions in combating nuclear proliferation, Matthew Levitt and Michael Jacobson write that while North Korea was successfully pressure by sanctions in 2005, Iran has circumvented “smart sanctions” targeting specific entities and the financial sector. The writers cite Iran’s use of re-export markets in the UAE and Malaysia to access Western technologies, its growing economic ties with China, and the inability of the EU and the UN to enforce and monitor the implementation of sanctions. The writers suggest that while the threat of sanctions may be effective in applying pressure on state such as Iran, the implementation of sanctions may simply lead states to develop countermeasures and alternative economic relationships rather than work toward a diplomatic solution (Jane’s).
New York Times | Reuters | Jane’s