Archive for September, 2009

“GCC offering Moscow, Beijing incentives to support Iran sanctions”

“GCC offering Moscow, Beijing incentives to support Iran sanctions”
September 24-30, 2009
     Despite Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s comment that sanctions against Iran may be “inevitable”, many US analysts are skeptical that Russia and China will endanger their commercial ties with Iran by supporting additional sanctions (Associated Press). Mark Heinrich points out that Moscow has “backpedaled” from Medvedev’s comments and calls Beijing the “toughest holdout” against sanctions, arguing that additional sanctions will be “watered down” by the two countries (Reuters). Shi Yinhong agrees that Beijing will try to dilute, rather than veto, additional sanctions. Michael Wines outlines China’s energy interests in Iran, which include an estimated $120 billion in Iranian oil and gas projects, and writes that Tehran has skillfully used its resources to maintain Chinese support in the UN (New York Times).
     Julian Borger reports that the GCC states are trying to persuade Moscow and Beijing to support sanctions by offering economic incentives. GCC advisor Sami al-Faraj indicates that the incentives may include establishing free trade arrangements, developing markets for Russian weapons, and providing oil exploration agreements and worker visas for China. However, Borger quotes an unnamed European official who is skeptical of the GCC’s ability to work cohesively (The Guardian). GCC envoys recently met with P5+1 officials to establish a more proactive role in the Iranian nuclear issue (The National, US Department of State).
Associated Press | Reuters | New York Times | The Guardian | The National | US Department of State

“Iran declares revelation of new enrichment site a ‘winning hand’”

“Iran declares revelation of new enrichment site a ‘winning hand’”
September 25-27, 2009
     Last week’s revelation of a second Iranian uranium-enrichment facility in Qom has “changed everybody’s calculations,” according to Gary Sick. Sick writes that this development strengthens the negotiating hand of the P5+1 not only by making the threat of new sanctions credible but also by creating uncertainty on the Iranian side over how much information is known to Western intelligence. However, Sick warns that sanctions alone will not convince Tehran to abandon its nuclear program and argues that the P5+1 will have to offer substantive incentives, such as a conditional removal of sanctions, to avoid further escalation of tensions that could lead to war (Daily Beast). Juan Cole warns analysts to “beware the hype” over the Qom facility, arguing that Iran’s secrecy is neither new nor necessarily illegal in this case, though he shares suspicions that the new site is technically unsuitable for peaceful uranium enrichment (Informed Comment).
     Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other officials have defended the legality of the site, declaring that IAEA inspectors would be allowed access, and are describing the revelations as a victory for Iran as they have taken the West by surprise and foiled military threats by developing multiple nuclear facilities (The National). However, Julian Borger and Patrick Wintour report that Iran disclosed their development of a “pilot-scale enrichment plant” to the IAEA only after learning it had been discovered by Western intelligence (The Guardian), and James Acton argues that Iran has indeed violated its obligations under the IAEA’s modified Code 3.1 (which Iran accepted in 2003 before suspending) to declare new nuclear sites before construction (Carnegie Endowment).
     ISIS has obtained satellite imagery of two possible locations of the newly declared facility (ISIS).
Daily Beast | Informed Comment | The National | The Guardian | Carnegie Endowment | ISIS

“Nuclear-armed Iran, US missile defense could topple Turkey’s balancing act”

“Nuclear-armed Iran, US missile defense could topple Turkey’s balancing act”
September 25-27, 2009
     In a chapter on Turkey in the Stimson Center’s Unblocking the Road to Zero project, Henri J. Barkey argues that a regional arms race triggered by an Iranian nuclear weapon could strengthen nationalist sentiment in Turkey for nuclearization. Barkey writes that despite Ankara’s efforts to strengthen ties with Tehran and establish itself as a “gateway between East and West”, a nuclear-armed Iran would force Ankara to either a) go nuclear despite the technical hurdles and the risk of damaging ties with the US and Europe; or b) strengthen its existing security ties with the US and Europe, perhaps while engaging in regional diplomacy to isolate Tehran (Stimson Center).
     Ankara, which was initially expected to host the upcoming P5+1-Iran talks, recently announced its intention to spend at least $1 billion on a missile defense system, likely from the US (Global Security Newswire). This has sparked debate in Turkey over the negative implications for Turkey’s close ties with Iran and how much control the US would have over such systems (Journal of Turkish Weekly). Although the purchase has not been linked with Washington’s new missile defense system [previously covered here], Yigal Schleifer suggests that participation in a theater missile defense plan could strengthen Turkey’s position in NATO and accelerate EU accession (Eurasianet).
     Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced plans to visit Tehran next month to discuss the nuclear issue. Erdogan voiced his opposition to any military strike against Iran and argued that Israel’s nuclear program should also be scrutinized (Agence France-Presse).
Stimson Center | Global Security Newswire | Journal of Turkish Weekly | Eurasianet | Agence France-Presse

“Pressure on Israel nukes could provide P5+1 leverage against Iran”

“Pressure on Israel nukes could provide P5+1 leverage against Iran”
September 18-23, 2009
     An Arab-sponsored IAEA resolution expressing concern about Israel’s nuclear capabilities and urging Israel to join the NPT was narrowly adopted by a vote of 49-45, with 16 abstentions. This is the first time in 18 years that Israel, the US and other Western states were unable to prevent the passage of such a resolution, which was supported mainly by developing nations as well as China and Russia. Iran’s Ali Asghar Soltanieh called the decision “a glorious moment”, while Israel’s David Danieli argued that singling out Israel was “counterproductive” to regional peace (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Haaretz).
     A separate IAEA resolution calling for a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East was also passed with more support than a similar resolution passed last year. Arab states that boycotted last year’s vote supported this year’s resolution and cooperated in adjusting language objectionable to Israel, but Israel voted against the resolution due to a paragraph calling on all states to join the NPT (Reuters). This year’s resolution is almost identical to last year’s, with one exception being the omission of reference to the importance of “the peace process in the Middle East”.
     Andrew Butters argues that discussions on a Middle East NWFZ should be included in the upcoming P5+1-Iran talks to break the current deadlock. Butters proposes installing permanent IAEA inspectors for all nuclear programs in the region, stating that this will allow Iran “to save face” and maintain a peaceful nuclear program while Israel decommissions its nuclear weapons. Butters suggests Israel could be convinced to cooperate through incentives, such as extra security guarantees from the US, as well as a strategic reassessment in the face of a potential regional nuclear arms race (Time).
Deutsche Presse-Agentur | Haaretz | Reuters | Time

“Two secret reports highlight Iranian nuclear, missile threats ahead of Iran-P5+1 talks”

“Two secret reports highlight Iranian nuclear, missile threats ahead of Iran-P5+1 talks”
September 14-22, 2009
     Iran is displaying its long-range Sejil missiles along with its Shahab and Zelzal missiles at its “Week of Sacred Defense” parades commemorating the Iran-Iraq War (Fars News Agency, Uskowi on Iran). The display comes as reports in the US and Russia highlight advances in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs ahead of next month’s Iran-P5+1 talks.
     The Associated Press reports on a confidential IAEA assessment, titled “Possible Military Dimension of Iran’s Nuclear Program”, that states Iran has “sufficient information” to produce an implosion-type nuclear bomb and has worked on developing and testing technologies commonly used for nuclear warheads. The so-called “secret annex”, the subject of accusations of an IAEA cover-up [previously covered here], also states Iran will likely overcome problems with equipping its Shahab-3 missile with nuclear warheads and claims Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei endorsed the pursuit of a nuclear deterrent in 1984 (Associated Press). The IAEA continues to deny having any “concrete proof” of a nuclear weapons program in Iran (IAEA).
     In an earlier report, Geoffrey Forden describes unverified secret documents on Iran’s missile development program. Based on the documents, Forden concludes that Iran is working to develop long-range missiles, relying on assistance from Russia, China and North Korea to overcome problems and purchase production facilities. Detailing some of the technical issues of Iran’s Shahab, Safir and Sejil missiles, Forden calls for supply-side non-proliferation efforts to be strengthened to deal with the continuing spread of missile technology and ensure that signatory states abide by their commitments (Arms Control Wonk).
Fars News Agency | Uskowi on Iran | Associated Press | IAEA | Arms Control Wonk

“US missile defense decision no guarantee of quid pro quo with Russia on Iran”

“US missile defense decision no guarantee of quid pro quo with Russia on Iran”
September 17-20, 2009
     Russian daily Kommersant reports that the US is pressing Russia to cancel deliveries of S-300 air defense missiles to Iran and support tougher UNSC sanctions “in exchange” for the recent US decision to cancel its European missile defense system in favor of a land- and sea-based system located closer to Iran (Agence France-Presse). While both the US and Russia deny any such “quid pro quo”, Roland Oliphant believes US expectations of Russian reciprocation on the Iran issue will not be met. Oliphant writes that Moscow will likely view the US decision as a “return to common sense” rather than a “concession” requiring reciprocation, especially as Moscow believes the defense system always targeted Russia rather than Iran (RIA Novosti).
     Joseph Cirincione argues that the US decision is an example of a “new defense realism” rather than appeasement of Russia. Cirincione points out that Iran does not have long-range missiles capable of striking Europe and that the defense system was too flawed to work, concluding that Obama’s new plan would better counter Iran’s short- and medium- range missiles while strengthening the NATO alliance (Foreign Policy). James Lindsay and others also praise the US decision, citing support among US military leadership, but point out the need to deflect accusations that the decision was designed to appease Russia (Council on Foreign Relations, Associated Press).
     Kimberly Misher offers a detailed analysis in favor of the new US missile defense plan, arguing that the initial system unnecessarily heightened tensions with Russia and weakened NATO unity while failing to offer adequate defense against an Iranian missile threat. Misher argues that joint missile defenses will help engage Russia in European security and strengthen deterrence measures against Iran (Carnegie Endowment).
Agence France-Presse | RIA Novosti | Foreign Policy | Council on Foreign Relations | Associated Press | Carnegie Endowment

“Iran-Venezuela cooperation covers nuclear development, banking”

“Iran-Venezuela cooperation covers nuclear development, banking”
September 8-15, 2009
     United Press International reports that the unannounced details of Iran-Venezuela security cooperation involve Iranian technical assistance for Venezuela’s military industries. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also indicated bilateral ties could include “nuclear cooperation” in the future (United Press International), calling for the creation of a “nuclear village” in collaboration with Iran. France warned that while Venezuela had a right to peaceful nuclear energy, the use of Iranian technology would violate UNSC Resolution 1737 and other international sanctions (MercoPress). Chavez also announced that Venezuela has established an atomic energy commission with Russia to develop a peaceful nuclear program, although no concrete agreements have been made (Associated Press).
     New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau recently stated that Iran is circumventing international sanctions and acquiring nuclear materials by channeling funds through Venezuelan banks, which are able to freely conduct US dollar transactions with US banks. Morgenthau states that assistance from Venezuelan banks “guarantees” continued nuclear and missile development in Iran and argues that “nobody is focused sufficiently on the threat of the Iran-Venezuela connection” (Global Financial Integrity).
United Press International | MercoPress | Associated Press | Global Financial Integrity