Archive for June, 2009

“Developing nations remain suspicious of fuel bank, non-proliferation efforts”

“Developing nations remain suspicious of fuel bank, non-proliferation efforts”
June 18 & 19, 2009
     The G77 and Non-Aligned Movement have rejected an IAEA initiative for an international nuclear fuel bank, which would supply nations with uranium and limit the need for indigeneous enrichment programs. In a joint statement, the two groups stressed their view that assurance of supply should not discourage states from pursuing the nuclear fuel cycle (Agence France-Presse). Efforts toward a fuel bank have been spurred by Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Discussions will continue on two proposals, including an IAEA plan to purchase 60-80 tons of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to sell to member states as well a proposal to host a 120-ton LEU reserve in Russia (Reuters). NAM also released a statement calling for the Iranian nuclear issue to be resolved within the legal frameworks of the IAEA (Tehran Times).
     In a 2008 report, Deepti Choubey argues that non-nuclear weapon states, particularly developing nations and members of NAM, are frustrated with the lack of progress in disarmament and suspicious of non-proliferation initiatives. There is strong opposition to fuel-cycle initiatives that would require non-nuclear states to forego enrichment and reprocessing capabilities. Choubey argues that nuclear weapon states, particularly the US, must first make strong efforts toward disarmament in order to neutralize the perception that non-proliferation is being pursued at the expense of disarmament (Carnegie Endowment).
Agence France-Presse | Reuters | Tehran Times | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


“Analysts consider whether Ahmadinejad presidency could help resolve nuclear issue”

“Analysts consider whether Ahmadinejad presidency could help resolve nuclear issue”
June 16 & 17, 2009
     Aluf Benn criticizes Israelis who prefer President Ahmadinejad to Mir-Hossein Mousavi, pointing out that over the past 4 years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Israel has failed to prevent Iran from enriching uranium and providing support to Hezbollah and Hamas. Benn argues that Israelis should hope for Iranian leadership that can engage the US and “calm things down in the region” (Haaretz). Meir Dagan, head of Israel’s Mossad, stated that a win by Mousavi in last week’s election would have caused Israel “a more serious problem” for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. Dagan argued that Mousavi’s reformist image would have complicated Israeli efforts to “explain to the world the danger of the Iranian threat”, adding that Iran will have its first nuclear bomb ready in 2014 under present conditions (Haaretz (2)).
     Daniel Flitton echoes a recent International Crisis Group analysis [previously covered here] and suggests that Ahmadinejad’s conservative credentials could actually allow him to negotiate with the US while sidestepping domestic criticism. However, Flitton adds that in the absence of a democratic mandate, Ahmadinejad may maintain his anti-US strategy to counter support for Mousavi (The Age).
Haaretz | Haaretz (2) | The Age

“ElBaradei: IAEA lacks sufficient funding, legal authority to combat proliferation”

“ElBaradei: IAEA lacks sufficient funding, legal authority to combat proliferation”
June 11-17, 2009
     Mark Heinrich reports that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei scolded the agency’s board of governors for failing to agree on a budget, saying a lack of sufficient funds has led to the “bastardization” of the agency. In a closed-door meeting, ElBaradei said that tight funding has hampered the agency’s work in areas including the prevention of clandestine nuclear programs. The governing body is requesting an 11% budget hike (Reuters).
     In an interview, ElBaradei blames failures in the area of nuclear disarmament for the proliferation of “virtual” nuclear weapons programs that allow states to develop weapons quickly. He also cites Israel’s nuclear program and status outside the NPT for costing the non-proliferation regime its legitimacy in the Middle East, arguing that this prevents states like Iran from implementing the Additional Protocol to provide the IAEA with sufficient legal authority.
     ElBaradei strongly criticizes efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear technology and praises recent changes in US policy. He urges Tehran to respond to the US, apply the Additional Protocol, and freeze expansion of enrichment in exchange for a freeze on sanctions. ElBaradei expresses hope for negotiations but believes they will take time, calling Iran’s nuclear program a “symptom of lack of security…[and] of competition of power and ideology between Iran and the US” (Der Standard).
     In another interview, ElBaradei restates his belief that Iran is seeking a nuclear-weapons capability in order to be recognized as a regional power and deter foreign threats, adding that the contrasting cases of North Korea and Iraq demonstrate the current advantages of obtaining nuclear weapons (BBC). Alan Cowell points out that ElBaradei’s remarks are “more dramatic and less hedged with diplomatic caveats than previously” (New York Times).
Reuters | Der Standard | BBC | New York Times

“Russia, China congratulate Ahmadinejad, discuss new economic order”

“Russia, China congratulate Ahmadinejad, discuss new economic order”
June 16 & 17, 2009
     At a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held in Russia, the leaders of Russia and China congratulated President Ahmadinejad on his reelection. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov declined to criticize the ongoing election controversy, instead expressing hope for future bilateral relations (Reuters). Chinese President Hu Jintao said Beijing was satisfied with its growing economic and trade relations with Tehran and called for continued progress, particularly in the energy sector (Xinhua).
     According to the Associated Press, Beijing and Moscow are seeking “greater international clout,” with the former promising a $10-billion loan to SCO members and the latter proposing alternative global reserve currencies to the dominant US dollar (Associated Press). Addressing the summit, Ahmadinejad declared that the US was “overwhelmed by economic and political crises” and stated that Iran, which is an observer member of the SCO, is willing to cooperate with the organization to supplant the current economic order (Daily Times). The Russian and Chinese presidents also met with the leaders of India and Brazil at the first formal summit of the BRIC group, where they called for a “more diversified” global monetary system. Andrew E. Kramer cites predictions that the BRIC group may eventually overtake the West in economic productivity and power (New York Times).
     Uwe Klussmann writes that Moscow views Iran as a potentially stabilizing factor in Central Asia, citing the possibilities of reconstruction aid to Iraq and Afghanistan and negotiations with Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran is also an important customer for arms and nuclear technology, and Klussmann writes that unlike the US and the EU, Moscow views current protests in Tehran as a threat rather than an opportunity (Spiegel).
Reuters | Xinhua | Associated Press | Daily Times | New York Times | Spiegel

“EU criticism could signal tougher approach on Iran nuclear issue”

“EU criticism could signal tougher approach on Iran nuclear issue”
June 15 & 16, 2009
     While the US has been relatively cautious in its response to Iran’s disputed election and subsequent protests, France, Germany and Britain are leading the EU in criticizing Tehran for its repression of demonstrators and are calling for the election results to be reexamined. Daniel Rackowski is quoted as saying that because the US is expected to take charge of future multilateral talks with Iran, the EU now has more leeway to be critical of Tehran (Reuters). UK Foreign Minister David Miliband expressed concern over the effects of the election controversy on nuclear talks and urged Tehran to respond to calls for negotiations (Financial Times).
     Adam Cohen calls the response “stronger than usual” relative to the EU’s traditional role of mediating between Iran and the US. An unnamed EU official speculates that the EU may take a tougher approach against Iran on the nuclear issue, adding that while sanctions are not yet on the table, possible policy responses could be discussed if Tehran continues its crackdown on protestors (Wall Street Journal). Iranian officials have criticized the US and the EU for questioning Iran’s elections (ISNA, Fars News Agency).
Reuters | Financial Times | Wall Street Journal | ISNA | Fars News Agency

“Sustained protests threaten Khamenei, Ahmadinejad”

“Sustained protests threaten Khamenei, Ahmadinejad”
June 14-16, 2009
     Jim Muir writes that unlike similar disturbances that were repressed in 1999 and 2003, protests continuing in Tehran are much larger and “bring together grassroots sentiment and the political [elite] in a way that the earlier protests did not.” Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of both the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts, has been grouped with the reformists, and Muir writes that he and other officials must decide whether to overthrow Iran’s current political system or “trim their sails and accept a reduced status” (BBC).
     On Tuesday, seven deaths were reported after the largest demonstrations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Immediately after the election, analysts in the US and Israel had argued that the results signaled the emergence of a stronger and bolder Iran, writing that Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad could claim an absolute mandate (Haaretz, New York Times). However, Neil MacFarquhar believes Khamenei has now been backed into a corner, writing that while the demonstrations threaten the current political system, violent oppression would cost the regime its legitimacy (New York Times (2)). Michael Theodoulou points out that the protests include not only students but also older people and the middle classes, adding that the demonstrators are echoing protest chants used in the 1979 revolution (The National).
BBC | Haaretz | New York Times | New York Times (2) | The National

“Controversial election results a setback for US engagement”

“Controversial election results a setback for US engagement”
June 13 & 14, 2009
     President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory in last Friday’s election has sparked violent protests in Tehran amid widespread allegations of fraud (Agence France-Presse). Paul Richter writes that the reelection of Ahmadinejad and the perceived illegitimacy of the current government will make it difficult for the US to engage Iran diplomatically. Richter believes the US Congress and pro-Israeli officials will pressure the Obama administration to set a tight deadline for engagement (Los Angeles Times). US Vice President Joseph Biden acknowledged the controversy but stated that the US would maintain its policy of engagement (New York Times).
     Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff describe Ahmadinejad’s win as “preferable” for Israeli efforts to pressure Tehran over its nuclear program (Haaretz). Christopher Dickey agrees, pointing out that while reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi supports the nuclear program, his image as a moderate would have made it harder for Israel to maintain a military option (Newsweek).
Agence France-Presse | Los Angeles Times | New York Times | Haaretz| Newsweek